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The Camden Rotary Club is a volunteer service organization. We are ordinary business and professional people with a simple motto - "Service above Self." Our members donate their time and resources to help others and improve the quality of life, both in our local community and abroad. We also work with some wonderful young people, and offer a very interesting and diverse schedule of speakers. Last but not least, we enjoy the friendship and satisfaction of good people working together to make a positive difference in the world.

We would be delighted to have you join us at one of our weekly meetings and experience the fellowship of Rotary.

Club history

On April 3, 1925, twenty-two businessmen of Camden met at the Green Gables Inn with seven members of the new Rockland club, which began the process of sponsoring the Camden Rotary Club. Also attending was Ivan Lang from Waterville, who was designated by then District Governor Harold Libby to speak to the group about Rotary and its aims and ideals. This date became Camden's charter date, althrough the club was not officially admitted to Rotary International until April 21, 1925.

Camden's first regular meeting was held at the Camden YMCA on April 7th. The twenty-two charter members of the club and their classifications were:

 George Allen   general insurance   Fred Elwell  dry goods
 Col. E.A. Robbins       newspaper publisher             R.W. Jamieson  garage
 Luie Chandler  drugs  Joseph Emery  trust company
 John Taylor  YMCA secretary  Charles Lord  supt. of schools
 Z.M. Dwinal  lawyer  Dr. A.F. Green  M.D.
 P.G. Willey  coal & fuel dealer  F.E. Morrow  jeweler
 A.V. Elmore  hotels  Dr. M.B. Long  dentist
 C.W. Babb  woolen mills  Herbert Rankin  optometrist
 P.O. Good  mortician  Harold Nash  farmer
 Harold Corthell  men's clothing  J. Hugh Montgomery       mail order
 C.K. Hopkins  general contractor  Rev. R.H. Hayden  clergy

"Charter Night" was held on May 5th at the Masonic Hall. Records show that over 125 members, ladies (it was men-only back then), and guests attended, including District Governor Libby and Mr. Lang from Waterville. An article in the Camden Herald noted, "...a sign of progress, not only in civic affairs, but also in the business world, took place last Friday night when a Rotary club was formed, and the town took its place in an organization that is not only National but International." The international connection soon became apparent when a letter of congratulations was received from the Rotary Club of Naples, Italy.

Much of the preceeding was taken from writings in 1962 by A.B. "Bert" Stevenson, a former president of Camden Rotary. He continued with the following words, which still merit reflection many decades later:

Such was the beginning of your Rotary Club, and this brief review was primarily for the newer members in the form of a wee bit of history and reflection.

Yet, the real purpose and hope was to possibly stimulate additional interest in the club and in recognition of all its many potential values to the individual, as well as to the community. So often we are prone to take things too much for granted, and we slip into a rut, to the extent that sometimes we wonder if we really appreciate Rotary and all it stands for, or are we content to become just a luncheon club with little or no concern in putting our own shoulders to the wheel and truly helping our president and other officers of this club and the organization in general move forward with the years?

....we are all over twenty-one and at various times we have come into this club as a new member with, I am sure, enthusiasm and anticipation....we have all accepted the privileges and honors and enjoyed the title of being a fellow Rotarian, but as the newness wears off and the years creep by and age moves along ever with us, apathy for the program may likewise lull our thinking into a false feeling of not being needed.

It is well for us to pause and appraise our own Rotary ship of State, take count of stock, if you will, and see if in our own minds we really measure up to all that we hoped to be when we first became a member....

The effectiveness of Rotary is not institutional, and it is not given form through corporate expressions. It is achieved only in the measure that each member of each Rotary club takes personal, vigorous, and constructive action to promote the principles necessary for the existence of Rotary....

Since Mr. Stevenson's writings in 1962, there have been two major events in Camden's club history. In 1986, the original Camden club had become a bit too large to meet all its members' needs. Some of the members decided to create a breakfast club, and formed West Bay Rotary. This was sponsored by the Camden club, and today West Bay is a thriving partner on the MidCoast of Maine.

Another significant milestone occurred when Rotary first allowed women into membership, following a 1987 Supreme Court ruling. In Camden, the first woman nominated was Sue Lewis, who worked for one of the local banks. One member recalled, "It created quite the brouhaha, especially with some of the old coots in the club at that time. She was more than qualified, and was elected to the Club by an almost unanimous vote after the naysayers finished venting. It really was something out of an old movie."

Special thanks to John Sanford and Kim Graffam for much of the information provided here