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Welcome to the Rotary Club of Naperville.

The Rotary Club of Naperville is a group of business and professional women and men who meet weekly, at a luncheon, where we share the knowledge and experience of a guest speaker and discuss matters of interest to Rotary and our Club.

The purpose of  our fellowship is to provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations and to help build goodwill and peace in the

This is the Rotary Club of Naperville - Founded March 31, 1941

The Rotary Club of Naperville is a member of Rotary International, one of the first humanitarian organizations, and is part of over 34,000 Rotary Clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas with 1.2 million members worldwide.


Our club was founded in March 31, 1941 with 15 members. Membership of the Rotary Club of Naperville includes local men and women who are leaders in the fields of business, education, religion, and government. Members have included Naperville Mayors, school district superintendents, city councilmen, park district commissioners, owners of retail and wholesale businesses, corporate executives, bank presidents, ministers, health care professionals, insurance agents, attorneys, consultants, writers and other vocations. The original founding spirit of Rotary is open to all professions and promotes the highest ethical standards, service to others, and to help build goodwill and peace throughout the world.


Today, the Rotary Club of Naperville has 134 members and meets from 12:15 - 1:30 p.m. every Thursday at Meson Sabika, 1025 Aurora Ave, except on holidays and special events). Our Rotary Board meetings are scheduled for the 3rd Wednesday of each month at 4:30pm at the Naperville Bank and Trust - Fort Hill and Aurora Avenue. We meet in the second floor community room.

Regular attendance is encouraged to build a a strong and active Rotary club. Rotary stresses regular attendance because each member represents his/her own business or profession and thus the absence of any member deprives the club of the value of its diversified membership and the personal fellowship of each member. Members who cannot make it to meetings often "make up" by attending a meeting at another of the nearly 34,000 Rotary Clubs throughout the world. Make-ups also provide ideal opportunities to develop friendships with other Rotarians, particularly in other nations. 

Each year, there is a district conference where Rotarians from 63 local Chicago area meet to plan and coordinate. Once a year, an international convention is held for Rotarians to gather, celebrate, and coordinate humanitarian projects worldwide. 

The Rotary Club of Naperville maintains a website and a Facebook page, the Nairator provides members with information about club projects, details of past and future meetings, accomplishments of members and other general information.

Club History

Early Beginnings

In the beginning, there was the Knife and Fork Club. In those years of the 1930s, local merchants and professionals closed their businesses and offices at noon on Wednesdays. An outgrowth of this tradition was a loosely organized "club" that met for lunch on Wednesdays. It was an open organization with few rules and regulations. A good lunch, some fellowship, a little gossip and a break from the demands of business were the goals of the Knife and Fork Club. A speaker or program was a regular feature of the meetings. The meeting place was Lindholm's Restaurant, on Washington Street, which was later known as Washington Square Restaurant and whose space now houses Board and Barrel and Eggs,Inc.

Several miles to the west lay the metropolis of Aurora. There, a Rotary Club existed. Dr John Dreyer, co founder of the Dreyer-Denny Clinic, Ed Kaser, President of Durabuilt Manufacturing Company of Aurora, and Wendell Gesler, concluded that their country neighbor to the east would benefit from a Rotary Club. During the late 1930's, these gentlemen began putting out feelers to their acquaintances in Naperville.  Many of those contacted  were members of the Knife and Fork Club and were not very receptive to an organization with membership restrictions and rules for attendance. It was feared that a Rotary Club might destroy the democracy of the Knife and Fork Club.

Milt Stauffer, who was the last remaining charter member of the Rotary Club of Naperville, recalled that "a few of us who were not quite so closely associated with the downtown business and professional men persisted in our opinion that there was room in Naperville for both groups." Among those who were originally contacted were Rollo Givler (newspaper), Bernie Boecker (haberdashery), Harvey Williams (bag manufacturing), Howard Esser Sr. (insurance), Herb Matter Sr. (real estate), Jim Nichols (publishing), and Ben Piper (attorney). Although none of these men are on the charter list, they all later became Rotarians.

Rotary Club of Naperville Is Chartered Club #5363 March 31, 1941

For a long time the list of Rotarians in waiting stayed at 14. A minimum of 15 was required for a charter. Finally in 1941 a fifteenth member was recruited. The group met to elect officers and in Milt Satauffer's words, found that they were "a group of 'shrinking violets'. None wished to be president, so finally, after a rather lengthy discussion, Stanley Law reluctantly agreed to become the first president of the Rotary Club of Naperville was unanimously elected to the position. Following this action, we rather quickly completed the organization, naming Walter Fredenhagen as Vice President, and Maurice Haelen as Secretary-Treasurer. Elected to the Board were Stauffer, Schwartz, and Abrahamson." Charter night was March 31, 1941. On this date Rotary became the first chartered service club in Naperville. 
When the Rotary Club of Naperville was chartered in 1941, it was Rotary International's 5363rd club. 

walter fredenhagen Walter Fredenhagen, Founding Member, President 1942-43

The 40's 

The first decade of Naperville Rotary remains clouded in mystery as few formal records survive. However, we do know that, as Rotarians, the group remained a knife and fork club. This is a pejorative term in Rotary parlance for a club that does no more than eat lunch together. Community service projects were not seen as a club activity. These members performed community service on an individual basis.

The early meetings were held in the social rooms on the 2nd floor of the YMCA. Deliciious home cooked meals were served and the club flourished. We do know that the 19944-45 Rotary Club programs included "Kicked Upstairs" by Herb Matter, "They Who Walk with Aimless Feet" by Wilmert Wolf and " A Home Town Boy Stays Home Town" by Bernie Boecker. Community involvement included appointing a committee to work with the school authorities in solving their post war problems. At the February 22, 1945 meeting, Truman Meyers, Tom White, George Lenert, and Milt Stauffer spoke about the history and background of the Rotary movement in honor of Rotary International's 40th birthday. There were 33 members on the club roster.

The 50's 

In the fifties, our club ventured into international service by corresponding with clubs in Italy and Malaya. Locally, the club sponsored a Little League team. But in a letter dated October 29, 1959, Club Secretary, Fred Hunt rejected a request by the Boy Scouts Finance Committee saying "...that in accordance with long established Rotary Board policy, the Club does not make any donations to groups. However, Rotarians as individuals do and are approached in that manner."

By 1959, the Club's total investment in The Rotary Foundation had reached $565. Of the 43 members listed on the roster as of July 1, 1959 only Dutch Beidelman, Harold Kester, Milt Stauffer, and Walter Schall remained as members when the club celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1991.

The 60's 

Walter Schall, who was president in 1960-61, boasted of three meetings with 100% attendance. In 1961 a donation of $150 was sent to Tyre Hospital in Sidon, Lebanon for its work on behalf of Palestinian refugees. That year the 200% level of giving to Rotary International was reached, based on 48 members and an accumulated total of $960.During 1963, foreign students attending North Central College were invited as guests for lunch. Each was asked to speak for fivr minutes about themselves and why they came to North Central.

In 1966, the Club made donations totaling $750 to Naperville Little League, Naperville YMCA, Family Service Association of DuPage, the Naperville Elderly Housing Study and the Rotary International Convention.

The 70's 

By 1972, the cost of printing 51 issues of the Nairator ("Rotarian spelled backwards for those who have wondered where this strange name originated) including stencils, 4500 sheets of paper, and labels was $46.54. Postage for 3,806 copies was $304.48. In a letter dated October 2, 1974, Gerry Rogers and Walter Schall proclaimed "We have a goal! The goal is to have 12 new members for Rotary Year 1974-75." At about that time, due to growth in the club, meetings were moved from the YMCA to Cress Creek Country Club. During Tom Eganhouse's presidency (1978-79) club membership grew to 57. Involvement in District activities was added to the club's goals and a new era of Rotary activity began.

The 80's 

Rotary shed its all-male mantle in 1987 when women were welcomed into full membership and Rotary Club of Naperville inducted its first two women. Today many women serve the community as members of the Rotary Club of Naperville.

The first two women to join the Rotary Club of Naperville were Rita Harvard and Peg Price. Rita Harvard also held the distinction as being the first woman president (1994-95) of the Rotary Club of Naperville. Rita Harvard's father, Walter Fredenhagen was a founding member of the club and its second president (1942-43).

 Rita Harvard, President 1994-95

Financial Support of Community 

The Rotary Club of Naperville has been a major benefactor for charitable and community causes since its founding. Today, Naperville Rotary continues to be a generous contributor to humanitarian and other worthwhile causes in and around Naperville, as well as internationally.

Two Major Rotary Club of Naperville Fundraisers: House of Dreams Raffle & Soups On!

The club annually conducts two major fundraisers: the House of Dreams Raffle and Soups On! The success of these two ventures, in which members invest countless volunteer hours, has been phenomenal.

Rotary's reputation as a generous benefactor generated many additional requests for funds, so in 1995, Naperville Rotary Charities, Inc. (NRC) was organized to receive and distribute proceeds of the House of Dreams Raffle. By charter, NRC distributes in May of every year an amount equal to 5% of the net asset of its portfolio as of December 31 of the prior year. Grants are made to needy organizations with humanitarian purposes and registered with the Internal Revenue Service under IRS Code Section 501 © 3. Each year, net proceeds of the House of Dreams Raffle, and investment income have swollen NRCs net assets to more than $4.5 million. Over the past five years, NRC has made increasingly larger annual grants aggregating more than $300,000 to some 40 qualified organizations that serve humanitarian needs. NRC grants are not made for building or construction projects or to other foundations, to endowment funds or to individuals, including Rotarians.

Soups On! Is a community fundraiser to help address hunger and homelessness in our community. It involves local charitable organizations, school districts, businesses, restaurants, children and adults. It is truly a full community fundraiser. What is Soup’s On!, and where is it? Soup’s On! is Rotary Club’s casual family afternoon charitable fundraiser which features entertainment, food and friendship. Over 30 area restaurants will be serving soups, stews, chili, chowders, BBQ entrees and sandwiches, as well as artisan cheeses, specialty breads, and delectable desserts. A children’s menu and soft drinks are also available. There’s no shortage of entertainment: guests will be entertained by wonderfully-talented students from Districts 203 and 204. Soup’s On! will also house a children’s activity area sponsored by the DuPage Children’s Museum, and a silent auction. The event will take place in mid-October at Naperville Central High School.

Annual giving by the Rotary Club now exceeds $300,000. When doubled and tripled by a matching grant process provided by Rotary International, the club is able to increase its contributions to worldwide projects.

Every week the sergeant-at-arms "fines" Rotarians for silly and ridiculous reasons. Fines from $1 to $20 go into the scholarship fund. Typically over the course of the Rotary year from July 1 to June 30, the fund amounts to $18,000 for college scholarships awarded every spring to graduating seniors from local high schools.

Rotary Club of Naperville Impact 

Some of the notable examples of giving include:

  • In 1981, Naperville's Sesquicentennial year, the Rotary Club of Naperville contributed $60,000 for construction of Rotary Hill, an all-season recreation area, on the then new Naperville Riverwalk, widely recognized as the City's "crown jewel."
  • In 1987, Naperville Rotary accepted a quota of $33,000 from Rotary International for a new international initiative, Polio Plus, a program to eradicate polio throughout the world. Our Rotarians dug deeply into their own pockets and contributed $55,000 --- 67% more than was asked. For the last 27 years, our continuing contributions and those of other Rotarians around the worldhave provided in excess of $1.2 Billion million to inoculate more than 2.5 BILLION children worldwide. Polio is now endemic in just three remaining countries.
  • $110,000 for 10 solar ovens in Honduras (including Rotary International matching funds)
  • $50,000 to Naper Settlement toward the Pre-Emption House Capital Campaign.
  • $50,000 to the Naperville YMCA for the 95th Street YMCA Capital Campaign.
  • $40,000 to the Naperville Riverwalk for Rotary Plaza.
  • $40,000 to purchase a commemorative carillon bell in the name of Rotary "Service Above Self" for the Naperville Millennium Carillon.
  • $25,000 to the Naperville Century Walk.
  • $15,000 to equip an eye clinic in St. Kitts, British West Indies (RI match)
  • $4,500 for a non-emergency vehicle for Naperville's Sister City, Nitra, Slovakia
  • Since 1990, the Rotary Club of Naperville has made significant grants to organizations such as the United Way, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Little Friends, Loaves and Fishes, Bethlehem Food Bank, NCO Youth and Family Services, Samaritan Interfaith Counseling Center, Community Career Center, Ecumenical Adult Care, Adults Helping Adults, Edward Hospital Foundation, Citizens Against Substance Abuse, College of DuPage Foundation, Naperville Educational Foundation, Sister Cities Commission, Celebration 2000, NCTV, Safety Town and the Naperville Heritage Society.
  • Funds have been granted for additional solar ovens in Honduras, a fresh water well in India, solar ovens in the Dominican Republic as well as a blood bank in India.
  • Three shipping containers of medical equipment, worth over $4 million were sent to the Bishop Shannahan hospital in Nsukka Nigeria.  
  • Since it's inception in 2008 by then President William Garlough, our Soup's On! Fundraiser has raised over $800,000 to help end hunger and homelessness in our community, as well as funds for other humanitarian causes.

Support of worthwhile causes by the Rotary Club of Naperville is not just expressed in terms of money. Rotarians are involved in leadership roles in many of the above-named organizations as well as community boards and commissions, such as Plan Commission, Police and Fire Board, Naperville Public Library Board, Riverwalk Commission, Sister Cities Commission and Transportation Advisory Board and NCTV Board, Riverwalk Foundation, Naperville Chamber of Commerce, YMCA, and much more.

Rotary Oktoberfest of Naperville was a community event that ran for 17 years, ending in 2007, and was replaced by Soups On! Proceeds  were granted for community causes (including bricks and mortar) as well as for charitable causes. Some past contributions include: During the 1998-1999 Rotary year, the Club allocated $57,500 to both charitable and community causes. In addition, Naperville Rotary has donated more than $120,000 in college scholarships during the past 24 years. In 2006-2007, Our club donated $95,000 in community service grants, joined with the two other Naperville Rotary Clubs - Naperville Sunrise and Naperville Downtown to provide $104,000 in scholarships, raised $32,500 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, partnered with the Rotary Club of Tiko Cameroon to donate a Villager Solar oven to a King college, participated in Naperville Responds, and much more.

Sister Clubs

In 1991, the Rotary Club of Naperville sponsored a second club, the Rotary Club of Naperville/Sunrise. It meets for breakfast at 7 a.m., every Friday, at the Naperville Country Club.

In 2007, a third Rotary club was formed in Naperville, the Rotary Club of Naperville Downtown, that meets at 4:44 pm on Wednesdays, at Hugo's Frog Pond.

Contributing Authors: Past Presidents Robert Estvander, Frank Slocumb, Sun Kwok.
Updated: July 2014