32 years of Rotary in Sun Lakes

Gary Whiting

The Sun Lakes Rotary Club was chartered on April 22, 1986. On July 1, 2018, we started our 32nd year. The club was conceived in 1985 when Chandler Rotarian Andre Felix put an advertisement on the Sun Lakes clubhouse bulletin board to see if anyone was interested in attending Rotary at the Palo Verde clubhouse. Rotarian Wayne Johnson who had just moved to Sun Lakes from Moline, Illinois, to enjoy retirement noted the advertisement and responded. The next week, Wayne and seven Sun Lakes retirees met around a lunch table and decided there was a need for a Rotary Club in this fast-growing Sun Lakes active adult community.

After working with the Arizona Rotary District 5510 and Rotary International, final approval was granted, and the Sun Lakes Rotary Club was chartered as a Tuesday morning club with 15 members, not the required 25. Allan Gustafson was elected the charter club president. Over the succeeding years, the club has become known as the “Education Club” because of all the youth projects and programs provided for K-12 education, vocational education and higher education.

The club grew to 140 members in 2000-2001 and then helped charter the Sun Lakes Crown Thursday noon club with some members transferring to the new club. From a start of 15 members to a high of 140 members, the club now has almost 100 women and men members. In Rotary year 2000-2001, the club was recognized by Rotary International as one of the top 50 largest clubs in the Rotary world with the 21st Century Challenge Award at the International Convention. Rotary celebrated its 100th year in 2004-2005, and Sun Lakes past club President Gary Whiting was selected as Arizona District 5510 Centennial Governor, overseeing 46 Rotary clubs and 1,648 club members in the northeastern part of Arizona, USA.

Wayne Johnson is still an active member of the club and the only charter member remaining. As a Rotarian, he has served as club president, a member of the board of directors, several committee chairmanships and is a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow in support of the Rotary Foundation. Wayne just turned 90, and in total has been a Rotarian for 62 years. Unless illness or a family situation interfered, he hasn’t missed a meeting in all these many years. As Wayne says, if you want to stay young, get involved with your passion, and for him, that’s about contributing to his own community through Rotary. So, don’t let age get in your way of staying young!

Come for a visit to our club and see what we are all about, have some fun, meet some new friends and maybe you will be surprised and meet someone you know who is a Rotarian. And, yes, our club has both men and women as members. We meet at the Oakwood Country Club every first and third Tuesday morning from 6:30 to 8:00 a.m. and every second and fourth Tuesday evening from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. Visit our website, www.sunlakesrotary.com, and Facebook page or email Jon Lyons at [email protected] for a meeting visitation.