Arlington HotelThe first meeting of the Rotary Club of Cobourg was held in 1921 at the Arlington Hotel on King Street, an old hotel no longer standing.  The club began with 23 members; today it has grown into one of the largest clubs in the country, with over 150 members, and it raises well over $250,000 a year.  It is amazing that a small community like Cobourg, with only 18,000 people, can maintain such a large and active club.

The club has three major fundraisers.  

The main winter event is Sportsman's Night, a Gourmet Dinner and Auction.  Now entering its twenty fourth year, the event was originally conceived as a way to beat the winter blahs, a better fundraiser than selling peanuts and a good excuse for members to go hunting.  So the dinner consisted of venison, moose or salmon, and anything else members could shoot or catch.  Now, tastes have evolved towards haute cuisine with the dinner prepared by Gord Ley and two other master chefs and an auction that includes over six hundred items.  

Gord Ley and HelpersThe big summer event is the Waterfront Festival, located at Cobourg's historic harbour every Canada Day weekend.  This began in Canada's centennial year as a small local craft show and each year it expanded by adding artists, music and entertainment until 1992 when the organizers asked Rotary to take it on.   It is now the leading outdoor arts and craft festival in Ontario with over 200 exhibitors include sculptors, glass artists, weavers, painters, photographers, potters, wrought iron artists, wood carvers, clothing designers, folk artists, and jewellery designers.  

The newest fundraiser is the Rotary RibFest, now in its third year.  Held in mid August in Victoria Park, it has a midway and a music and food festival, with the food provided by travelling Rib Teams from Canada and the United States.

Member Bob Scott is the Past Chair of the Rotary Foundation and since 2006 has served as Chair of the International Polio Committee.  Every year he circles the globe lobbying heads of state and meeting officials at the United Nations.  Bob also does the grunt work, once spending the day out in the Sahara desert by an oasis under the hot sun, giving hundreds of children their oral polio vaccine.  

The Cobourg club is very supportive of Bob's efforts and has donated nearly three hundred thousand dollars to the polio fund.  

These fundraising events and the project work require a huge commitment from all the members.  There are so many people in the club who do amazing things that it is difficult to decide who or what to single out.  

The strength of the club lies in its committees (nearly forty), who are inspired by past achievements to meet or beat previous targets, either by donating funds, providing sweat equity or donating their professional skills.  A good example of this is the World Community Service Committee.  Members of this committee have been involved in a number of sweat equity projects, including helping to build the Hospital of Hope in the Dominion Republic (now a well respected teaching hospital) and a project in Burkina Faso to build Bob ScottThe Village of Hope, an orphanage to provide HIV/AIDS orphans with living quarters and schooling.  The committee has also supported the provision of water tanks and toilets in South Africa, and several water wells and eye clinics in many parts of the Third World.  

Bill MoebusDentist Bill Moebus goes to the Honduras for a few weeks every year to provide dental care as part of a medical team, and for many years Doug Cunningham has traveled to East Asia to deliver Sleeping Bed Kits to homeless children.  

The work of one committee often inspires another.  A sweat equity project to help build an HIV/AIDS clinic and upgrade schools in Kilema, Tanzania inspired several local Interact Clubs to raise over twenty thousand dollars to pay the school fees for children to attend the school.Sleeping Children's Kits

Locally, the club was one of the main sponsors for the new Northumberland Hills Hospital, contributing half a million dollars to the project.  Bob MacCoubrey spear headed the community fund raising campaign that raised nearly ten million dollars for the new hospital and many other Rotary members are active on the hospital foundation or on the board.  

Gael Moore, the club's first woman President, takes a strong interest in local youth organizations.  For half a century the club has been the primary sponsor of 598 Sabre Squadron Royal Canadian Air Cadets, whose graduates have achieved impressive careers in the Canadian Armed Forces, including the Snowbirds, and in civilian aviation.  And the Interact Club of Cobourg District Collegiate Institute West supports community based programs like the local food bank and Habitat for Humanity, and works to support international projects in Africa such as drilling of water wells, building schools and providing school supplies, and the well known organization 'Kids Can Free The Children'.  This year a group of students interviewed club members and wrote a series of articles for the Cobourg Star.

The Habitat GroupThe club works with other local clubs to organize Camp Enterprise each year to provide young people an opportunity to learn about the world of business and develop their communication, planning and creative skills.  

The club has sponsored and hosted exchange students for many years through the Rotary Youth Exchange program.  This has enriched the lives of members and their overseas guests and created many lifelong friendships.  And the club provides volunteers to staff Northumberland County's household hazardous waste collection days and has worked on several local Habitat for Humanity projects.  

An important aspect of the club is the willingness to go out into the community to recruit people who have specialised skills needed on their projects.  The members work hard and, of course, they have fun at the same time.  

The club meets at the Best Western Cobourg Inn and Convention Centre each Friday at 12.15 p.m.  Visitors are warmly welcomed and a great lunch is provided for $14.  The club's website is

Submitted by Mike Hick to the District Newsletter