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On 16th March, 1922, a preliminary meeting was held in the Jacobean Room at the Grand Hotel in Sunderland which was attended by prominent business and professional men of the town.
The first steps towards the founding of a Rotary Club in Sunderland was taken. Invitations to attend the meeting had been extended by the Mayor of Sunderland, Councillor Walter Raine, JP, and Messrs. Charles Bagnall. George Brown, William Cochrane and Arthur Moore.

The meeting, presided by the Mayor, was also attended by Rotarian John C. Innes, Chairman of the First District Council of the British Association of Rotary Clubs (this was later known as RIBI) and Rotarians Dr. J. Dunn, Walter Rolls, W. Price, J. Steel and John Leadbitter, members from Rotary Club of Newcastle.
John Leadbitter commenced by giving a brief outline of the history of Rotary; Dr. Dunn spoke on the ethics and ideals of Rotary; J. Steel spoke on Rotary in general; and John Innes gave a talk on 'The Formation of a Club'.

Following these addresses, Chairman Walter Raine, JP, put the following resolution: "That this meeting hereby resolves to found a Rotary Club for Sunderland and that such Club is hereby constituted."

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Our Founder President, Sir Walter Raine

And so, a business and service club was born, with its heart firmly rooted in serving the community locally and helping those who needed help globally.

The international aspect of Rotary was evident from the first year onward. We welcomed our first foreign visitor from Rotary Club of Galveston, Texas. One of our members, transferred from Liverpool, gave a talk on Rotary in Canada and United States. Our President, whilst in Norway, attended the Rotary Club of Chistiania. One of our luncheon meetings had the Belgian Consul for Sunderland as a guest speaker. We also had the Dean of Durham gives us an address on India. In 1936, we had the pleasure of entertaining to luncheon, six internationally known Hungarian table tennis players who were visiting the town.

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A luncheon meeting 1945
Holland Trip 1934

The club had the community at heart and contributed in different ways for its benefit. Through the initial years of its formation, many projects were launched to help support the people of Sunderland. Procceds from the Rotary Charity Box were allocated towards causes such as The Havelock Poor Children's Fund, The Christmas Meat Fund, The Guild of Help, The Rotary Rovers, The Durham Boys Scout Association, the Ministry of Pensions Hospital Comforts Fund, purchase of footballs for unemployed youths, sums provided for Christmas parcels, the Crippled Children's outings, to name a few.

The Club launched a 'Get you home' scheme, designed to provided transport for returning soldiers. 17 Rotarians, 16 Round Tablers and 4 others offered their cars, with subscriptions requested from those who were not able to provide cars. Between 600-700 soldiers were transported in the first few weeks.

The Club made grants to Polish Refugees, adopted the crew of HMS Fentonian, a mine-sweeper stationed at Sunderland and contributed towards a YWCA Mobile Canteen. The Club also donated towards a RIBI scheme for the provision of a fleet of ambulances. Donations were made towards the founding of a hospital in Stalingrad and a scheme was introduced for providing ships of the Merchant Navy with bookcases and books. Celebrating the end of the war, ice-cream, sweets and fireworks were supplied to children in the Cherry Knowle Hospital by members of the Club!


100 years into the making, we've been continuing our commitment to serving the society and our communities, here and around the world.

Centenary Year 2023
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