Rotary gives $80,000 to local charities

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It must have felt a little like Christmas for local charities at the Belle Haven Country Club June 13 when Alexandria Rotary Club members gave a bit over $80,000 to 30 needy charities in the city, in an annual ritual attended by many of the citys top civic leaders.

The 80-year-old club, populated with many of the citys movers, shakers and other luminaries, bestowed the largest chunks of cash upon the Alexandria Day Nursery and Childrens Home, a foundation overseen by the club. 

According to newly-inducted President James Aldige III, the original funding for the Old Town nursery back in the 1940s came from the Rotary Club of America in answer to the need for day nursery services, mostly for the Ford Motor plant and the Torpedo Factory. It was needed as women first entered the work force in large numbers, an unintended wartime consequence, Aldige said. Later, a childrens home was needed. Rotary funded these originally with prize fight proceeds. Prize fighting was illegal so they were scheduled when the Chief of Police and Commonwealths Attorney, both Rotarians, conveniently were out of town.

Later as regulations became stricter and these services became more available, the building was sold and a foundation was set up with similar goals in the charter. Funding today is mostly by investments and bequests, Wharton said.

Rotary Club donations are less restrictive and now cover a wide range of charities, with most being education-or health-related. 

Speaking at the event was Katherine L. Morrison, the former director of the Campagna Center.

Introducing the charities were Charles Lanman of Burke & Herbert Bank and Gordon Peyton for the Alexandria Day Nursery and Childrens Home.

A history of Rotary giving
The official charter of the Rotary Club of Alexandria was awarded in 1928 with C. S. Taylor Burke serving as the groups first president.

As they endured a historic crash of the economy and the onset of the Great Depression of the 1930s, members of the club realized there was a critical need in the community for day nursery services to ease the burden of working mothers. A house in the 300 block of Prince Street was rented, a matron was hired, and so the Day Nursery was born.

Within a year, the original quarters were outgrown, and the purchase of a larger house at 411 Prince Street was underwritten by several members. To raise funds for the eventual purchase of the building by the entire club, The Alexandria Athletic Association was incorporated and for about two years, leased and staged boxing bouts in the old bottling plant of the Portner Brewery. Enough money was raised not only to purchase the Prince Street building, but also for an endowment fund.

A corporation, whose members were the members of the Rotary Club of Alexandria, was formed to take title to the property. The members of this Sec.501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, known as the Alexandria Day Nursery and Childrens Home, continue to be members in good standing of the club. Shortly thereafter the courts of the city filled a pressing need to provide housing for its young wards when the Day Nursery agreed to do so at the Prince Street site. It was the final step in the development of what continues to be familiarly known as the Day Nursery.

When the citys need ended in the mid-1940s, the building was maintained for a time and used as a Rotary Club office, also providing rent-free space to the Alexandria Visiting Nurses Association. Some years later, the Day Nursery found a purchaser for the building, using the proceeds plus accrued monies from several endowments to form the capital for the current Day Nursery fund.

Throughout its existence, the Rotary Club of Alexandria has focused its interest on the welfare of the children of Alexandria. This interest has been expressed tangibly in another project, the Little League of Alexandria, which the club sponsored for several years. In addition, the club has participated in the usual fund drives, and in conjunction with the Salvation Army, supplied Christmas baskets and hosted a Christmas party for underprivileged children.

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