The first Rotary Club started in Chicago in 1905. On June 1, 1915, the Ithaca Rotary Club became the 166th club granted a charter by the national organization. It was the first Rotary Club approved for a city with a population of less than 25,000. The Ithaca Rotary Club had 123 charter members. Today there are more than 200 members.
The international Rotary movement includes more than 27,400 clubs in 154 countries with about 1.2 million members. The motto of Rotary is "Service About Self".
The Ithaca Rotary Club sponsored new Rotary groups in Trumansburg (1926), Groton (1937), Aurora (1946), Ithaca-Cayuga (1971), Ithaca Sunrise (1986), and Dryden (1995). The Aurora Club sponsored a Club in Moravia in 1955. In 1987, the three Ithaca clubs joined to create for students the Cornell University Rotaract Club.
The Ithaca Club was among the first to extend invitations to women to become members. The first five women joined the Club in 1987.
The Ithaca Rotary Club continues to be a leader in per-capita contributions to the educational programs of the International Rotary Foundation. Club members gave generously to the Foundations PolioPlus campaign to help eradicate polio and other childhood diseases on a worldwide basis.
The local D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program receives support from Rotary. The program involves local elementary school children and members of the Ithaca Police Department. In 1994, the Ithaca Club held its first annual chicken barbecue to raise additional money for D.A.R.E.
Pancake Days are a popular fixture of community life. Rotary members serve hundreds of loyal customers on election days. Proceeds enable the club to make substantial contributions to the Rotary Student Exchange program.
Over the years, many community organizations have benefited from Rotary support. Providing service to others and making the community a better place in which to live are major goals of Rotarians.