At the time the Rotary Wheel rolled into Hardin County , the population of Elizabethtown was approximately 2850. On February 1, 1935 , fifteen or so business and professional men of Elizabethtown , spearheaded by Professor Henry C. Taylor, met at the Joplin Hotel, Elizabethtown . Rotarians Rev. G.B. Rich and Abell Wade of the Lebanon Rotary Club (chartered November 18, 1923 ) were kind enough to assist in the organization.
Of the 57 Rotary Clubs now comprising District 6710, the Elizabethtown Rotary Club was the 29th club to be chartered (February 23, 1935). Our District at that time was District 18 and Bart Peak of Lexington was District Governor. The Honorable J. Murray Hill, Director, Rotary International presented our club charter to our first president, Judge J.R. Layman.
During its infancy Elizabethtown Rotary served the community as civic club, welfare organization, and as yet a non-existent Chamber of Commerce. Many Rotarians were leaders in the Elizabethtown Businessmen's Club.
During the 1950-51 Rotary year, the club sponsored and helped to finance a public swimming pool in Elizabethtown . This was a first for the youngsters of Elizabethtown .
In August, 1952, Talton K. Stone, our new District Governor from Carrollton, made his official visit. T.K. was destined to become Superintendent of the Elizabethtown Schools in August, 1953. T.K. became very active in the Elizabethtown Rotary Club and one of our Rotary scholarships shares his name along with H.C. Taylor.
Over the past seventy years, the Club has spearheaded many community projects such as street lights downtown, advancing the need to make 31-W a four-lane highway between Elizabethtown and Louisville, providing rescue work and care for flood refugees during the 1937 flood, collecting toys for distribution to underprivileged children at Christmastime, and paving Dixie Avenue through Elizabethtown. Rotarians spearheaded a drive to build a local hospital with construction on the community based hospital beginning in 1953. The Hardin Memorial Hospital opened its doors in 1955.
On January 31, 1938, the Leitchfield Rotary Club was chartered under the sponsorship of the Elizabethtown Rotary Club.
On February 24, 1941 the Elizabethtown Chamber of Commerce came into existence. Although not formerly organized by the Rotary Club, many Rotarians served on the Chambers first Board of Directors and the first Chamber President was Rotarian Marvin L. Underwood. In 1979, after a little research, it was determined that 29 of the 36 Presidents of our Chamber of Commerce were also serving as Rotarians.
Rotarians were interested in furthering relations with Hardin County 's farmers, leading to a "Farmers' Nite" meeting at the Elizabethtown Country Club during the 1942-43 club year. Variations of this theme have been continued to the present day and is now dubbed "Rural/Urban Day" when leaders of the local agricultural community are invited to a Rotary Club meeting in the spring each year.
In April, 1943, Henry C. Taylor, our second club President, was elected District Governor of District 161 at the district conference in Glasgow , KY. H.C. was the first Elizabethtown Club member to serve as District Governor.
In 1957, the Elizabethtown Rotary Scholarship Fund was begun to help worthy high school students continue their education. The first scholarship was awarded in 1959 in the amount of $500. Our scholarship program has grown over the years until today the Club gives five scholarships with a total of $6000 to local students.
In August 1960, the club hosted the first American Field Service (AFS) exchange student in Elizabethtown . The program was a "study" in international relations and our program was the only ongoing AFS program in Kentucky . This Rotary International sponsored program continues today and is known simply as the "Rotary Youth Exchange Program." During the 2002-03 school year, the Elizabethtown Club hosted "Dean Jones" from Australia as an exchange student and while in Elizabethtown he attended John Hardin High School .
On February 20, 1975, during Rotary Ann Night at the Holiday Inn North, District Governor R. Owsley presented a charter to the newly formed Radcliff Rotary Club. This club was the second in the area that the Elizabethtown Club had sponsored.
In 1976, as a special project marking the nation's Bicentennial year, the club constructed a mini-shelter at Freeman Lake Park . The Rotary Pavilion is still in use today.
An exemplary project in international service was culminated during the 1976-77 Rotary year. In 1974, Dr. Paul Carnes was told by his brother, Dr. William Carnes, there was need for dental and medical treatment for a group of Mexican families in San Rafael Canyon, Baja Peninsula . He flew there in March 1975 with a friend, Dr. David Lewis. They provided some medical and dental care, but they realized that there was a need for a "total community help project". A slide presentation of their findings to the Elizabethtown Rotary Club created a lot of interest. Donations of clothing, horse-drawn farm equipment, canning supplies, household goods plus other items were collected with the help of Club members and Dr. Carnes returned the following year, November, 1976, to San Rafael Canyon.
His report on returning to Elizabethtown stimulated further interest, this time by our Club and District 671. The next year's trip by Dr. Carnes, Lawrence Hall, Bill Lee, and Bill Walters along with men not affiliated with Rotary, brought to San Rafael two surplus trucks, one twelve -passenger van, a diesel farm tractor, one tobacco setter, water piping, and numerous other supplies.
In 1977, for the second time in our Club's history, a member became District Governor. James Owen was elected Governor of District 671.
The Elizabethtown Club became the first "Banner" club in District 671(and in the state of Kentucky ) in 1979. The Club was listed in the May 1979 issue of The Rotarian. One of Rotary International's
75th anniversary programs was the Health, Hunger, and Humanity Program, known as the 3-H Program. Our Club received the "Banner" distinction by presenting District Governor Owen Pillans a check for $1500 for this program.
The Elizabethtown Rotary Club recently celebrated 70 years of active service in the Elizabethtown area and at the same time Rotary International celebrated 100 years of existence. The Elizabethtown Rotary Club joined with the Hardin County Rotary Club in a celebration evening at the Historic State Theater on February 28, 2005.
Additionally, in 2008, the Club establishment of a sustainable international mission the Living Waters Guatemala Project, which has installed water purification systems in nine Guatemalan villages and brings clean water to over 14,000 inhabitants. Through the efforts of Rotarians in Elizabethtown and the surrounding areas, these families are supported and will become the basis of their communities for years to come.
In 2009, Rotary Smiles, a program that provides dental screening for over 1,300 third grade students in Hardin County was chartered by the Club. Over $50,000 of in-kind services were donated to provide dental care for those in need.
On March 22, 2010, the Elizabethtown Rotary Club met at its original club meeting site at the Masonic Temple on North Mulberry Street to celebrate the Club's 75 Anniversary. The Club was chartered in 1935. The original menu from the chartering dinner was served and the Club was visited by many of its founding members (by way of impersonations).
In 2014, under the leadership of Club President James Jeffries, the Club had its first Art Auction, a very successful fundraiser showcasing the very talented art community in Elizabethtown. The auction augmented the Club budget and allowed the Club to focus on a threefold initiative:
Rotary Cares - An international project providing clean water to communities in Guatemala
Rotary Smiles - A local project providing dental screening and treatment to 3rd grade students
Rotary Shares - A local backpack program providing weekend meals for Hardin County students