Rotary Club of Malibu Celebrates 50 Years

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Rotarian Margo Neal during the Rotary Club of Malibu’s 50th anniversary celebration, held last week via Zoom

It was an unexpected pleasure to hear live music while logging into a Rotary Club of Malibu Zoom meeting last Wednesday afternoon. The live piano stylings of Jeremy Weinglass greeted visitors who tuned in to attend the 50th anniversary celebration of Malibu Rotary Club, so appropriately Weinglass started out with the upbeat celebratory tune “Celebration” by Kool & The Gang.

Without an in-person event to mark the momentous occasion, the virtual meeting served as lovely fanfare to note a half-century of Rotary Club in Malibu and to look back at all the charitable works local Rotarians have accomplished.

Rotary is an international service organization whose stated purpose is “to bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian service and to advance goodwill and peace around the world. It is a nonpolitical and nonreligious organization open to all,” according to its mission statement. It was founded in 1905.

In 1971, the Malibu group grew from another chapter in Pacific Palisades. Those in attendance tried to recall the various meeting places (many restaurants no longer in business) where the club would gather for early morning get-togethers.

There was a lot of looking back by longtime members including Bill Wishard, who is also known as “Mr. Rotary.” He thanked the late Jack Corrodi, a founding member, for introducing him to the service club. 

“The day I first walked in to Malibu Rotary was total immersion, thanks to Jack,” Wishard said. “He’s the reason I came. I tried to bring peace and harmony to the world with a show called ‘Up With People.’ Then I learned of Rotary’s program to eradicate polio all over the world. That was impressive because it was unheard of.” 

Past President Rex Levi recalled the most emotional meeting he attended. In 1993, six members lost homes in a brush fire. 

“The following week, everybody attended,” Levi said. “We took all those six members and went through Sav-On and the market and bought them whatever they needed because they lost everything.” 

Currently, Rotaract, a branch of the club at Pepperdine University, is writing support letters to front line hospital workers. 

“We know they’ve [hospital staff] been laboring particularly hard,” a student representative said. “We want to show our appreciation.” When the pandemic is over, the rep added, the club will be back doing more “hands on” projects. 

Suigen Constanza of the Boys and Girls Club of Malibu, a newer Rotarian, praised the club for “supporting more than 308 seniors and families through services provided by BGCM to the Malibu community and local laborers through its food pantry and social and mental services.”

The Wellness Center operated by BGCM started in 2015 to support social and emotional needs of students in local public schools. 

“It spiraled into a much greater need and understanding that our students needed access to affordable-as in free-and accessible mental health services,” BGCM Executive Director Kasey Earnest explained. 

More praise for the Rotary Club came from John Cross of the Malibu Surf Team, who thanked the club for funding scholarships for some kids “who need that help.”

“Especially since Woolsey, we’ve seen a lot of families in need even in our little enclave of Malibu,” Cross said, adding that, during the pandemic, the surf team has “been one of the only sports programs able to operate in the city. As a result, attendance went up from 80 to 115.”

The Malibu Times’ publisher and past president of the Rotary Club Karen York concluded the celebration, adding, “Rotary gave me a much more national and international perspective in ways to serve. The polio program was very important to my heart. I’m delighted to see that Rotary still survives and thrives.”