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Rotary Club celebrates 100 years in El Dorado

Posted on May 13, 2019

The Rotary Club of El Dorado will celebrate their 100th year in El Dorado today, with an anniversary celebration bringing Rotarians from around the state to hear about El Dorado in 1919, when the local Rotary Club was founded.

Rotary International started in 1905 as a professional networking organization for men. The organization got its name from the circuit the men took, rotating their meetings from one man’s office to the next.

The first Rotary Club in Arkansas began meeting in 1919, followed quickly by El Dorado’s chapter, which starting in May of the same year as the state’s seventh Rotary. There were 24 charter members.

“During the oil boom of the 1920’s, kind of when you think things would be kicking in town and it would get going, the club almost folded,” said Alexis Alexander, Rotary secretary/treasurer. “But they kept meeting.”

The local Rotary met at the Garrett Hotel through the 1970’s. Women were first allowed to join in 1989. Now, Rotary has 60 active members from different businesses and professions.

Alexander said Rotary now serves as a way to connect people to their local communities.

“We provide an opportunity for members to become connected in the community and to work with others and network and sometimes address community needs,” she said. “We meet twice a month and always have a guest speaker that can provide interesting information for the club members that they might not have known.”

Rotary meets twice each month, bringing a different guest speaker to each meeting, where they discuss a variety of topics affecting Union County. Sometimes the topic will center around economic development, while at other times, they may discuss a local nonprofit’s mission or new developments in health care.

“It’s really informative and a chance for them to get together and learn about the community,” Alexander said. “It’s an opportunity to meet and learn about the community and then hopefully take some of those ideas to help the community through service.”

Rotary also participates in community service, which Alexander said was part of the organization’s original mission. She said the local Rotary has provided help to the Boys and Girls Club of El Dorado, HOPE Landing, the Union County Master Gardeners, the Union County Animal Protection Society and Salvation Army, among other organizations.

“We do some service projects and just kind of network to see what we can do to meet those needs,” Alexander said. “Really, the Rotary Club was based in service.”

Membership has decreased in civic organizations like Rotary in recent years. Alexander said that can be attributed to the changing world, where a person’s day is typically full; organizations like Rotary must fight for people’s time in a busy world.

“We’re just another one that is trying to get in an hour or so of their time a couple of meetings a month,” she said. “But you know, it’s just harder and harder, as the world changes, to prioritize and share that time.”

However, she maintained that joining a civic organization, like Rotary, can be useful, both for business people and those who are service-minded.

“Professionally, it’s good. Personally, it’s good, for the community service. There’s a lot of awareness, personal growth, entertainment and fellowship,” she said. “It’s a good way to step away from the computer for a few minutes and maybe talk about something that you had no idea was happening in our community.”

Those interested in joining Rotary are welcome to attend any of their monthly meetings, Alexander said. Rotary meets the second and fourth Mondays of each month at noon at Buffet Palace, at 2740 N. West Ave.

Today’s centennial celebration will take place at noon at the El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce. All are welcome to attend. Dr. Ken Bridges, professor of history and geography at South Arkansas Community College, will give a presentation on El Dorado in 1919, when Rotary began here.

“Not only are we wanting to celebrate 100 years in El Dorado, let the community know that we’re still here, but also kind of open the celebration up Monday as a membership drive,” Alexander said. “So they can come learn more about Rotary and what we do and why we think it’s important for more people to get involved in it.”

To learn more about El Dorado Rotary Club, visit

Caitlan Butler can be reached at 870-862-6611 or