Since its formation several decades ago, the Rotary Club of Cape Coral has been heavily involved in the community, giving back to the area's residents through service projects and local programs.
On Wednesday, the club marked its 50th anniversary.
"It's absolutely amazing," Nancy Kratt, the club's president, said.
Founded by 25 charter members, the club currently has a membership totaling over 70.
"I'm sure the city was so brand new they felt it was important to bring the Rotary Club in," she said about the formation. "It was all about fellowship and promoting good in the community."
In the early days, the club set up collection boxes on street corners in the Cape for book donations, installed bicycle racks at the school bus stops and built a welcome sign at the foot of the bridge.
"They sponsored a petting zoo for handicapped children," Kratt said.
It contributed to the construction of Cape Coral Hospital and joined forces with the Cape Coral Kiwanis Club to purchase the county's first Bloodmobile for approximately $70,000.
"We partnered with another organization to bring the Bloodmobile to Lee County," she said. "Which was a big deal because we were still growing and there was a need for that."
The club assisted in the construction of the stadium at Cape Coral High School in 1979 and with the purchase of additional land for athletic fields. In the mid-1980s, it took to building Rotary Park with a $600,000 grant. It opened in 2001, and the club has since donated more than $1 million toward its upkeep.
"A lot of things the club did helped form the city as it is today," Kratt said.
In more recent years, it helped to build a playground and donated $14,000 to the Cape Coral Special Populations for needed equipment. The club also kickstarted an urban forestry program in the city.
"We planted the trees along Veterans Parkway," she said. "That's a very noticeable one."
A big supporter of education and getting the youth involved, it oversees an Interact program at Cape Coral High School. Open to ages 12 to 18, it gets young people involved in community service.
"They come out and volunteer their time," Kratt said of the youth.
The club offers scholarships to Edison State College and Florida Gulf Coast University, as well as partners with other Rotarians to hand out dictionaries once a year to every third-grader in the county.
It has been involved with the American Cancer Society and initiated a program called Lighthouse, where members take individuals with visual impairment out on boats for a day on the water.
"They just love that, and it's a good project for us, too," she said.
As part of a worldwide service organization that has more than 1.2 million members in over 200 countries, the Cape club also looks beyond its own borders to identify where it can have an impact.
It delivered ultrasound equipment to Ukraine and hosted water projects in Haiti and Mexico.
"We bring together the kind of people who want to step forward and take care of important issues," Kratt said.
Within the last 10 years, the club has raised more than $1 million through its various fundraisers. The proceeds go back into the community through the service projects and local programs. Some of the bigger ones include the Cape Coral Festival of the Arts and Cape Coral Cardboard Boat Regatta.
She noted that the festival will turn 30 next year, and that the regatta is a growing success.
"We almost doubled the money we normally bring in," Kratt said of the boat races.
The club also holds a golf tournament, which takes place in October, and a new 5K run.
"This is a brand new project. It's in its second year," she said.
In honor of its 50th anniversary, the Rotary Club of Cape Coral will host a celebration tonight at the Cape Coral Yacht Club. Kratt pointed out that the venue is the original meeting spot for the club. The last living charter member, Paul Sanborn, will be given an award for 15 years of perfect attendance.
"We're really a strong and vibrant club," she said. "And the best is yet to come."
Those interested in becoming a Rotarian can visit online: www.capecoralrotary.com.
"They're welcome to come (to a meeting)," Kratt said. "We love to have new members."
The club meets on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. at La Venezia, located in Club Square.
For those with a schedule conflict, there are two other groups based out of the Cape. The Rotary Club of Cape Coral North meets on Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Palmetto Pine Country Club, while the Rotary Club of Cape Coral Goldcoast meets on Fridays at 11:45 a.m. at Gulf Coast Village.
For more information, visit: capecoralnorthrotary.wordpress.com or www.goldcoastrotary.org.