Community gathered to honor Rotarians and celebrate 100 years with food, drinks, and camaraderie
PASO ROBLES — On Saturday night, Jan. 27, the Rotary Club of Paso Robles celebrated a century of service to our community at the Paso Robles Event Center.
The full Frontier Building offered live music, drinks, food, and plenty of camaraderie. A history of the local Rotary Club was given, and long-standing and important members of the club were honored.
Since its inception in 1924, this esteemed service club has been an unwavering force for positive change in the community.
The roots of the Paso Robles Rotary Club trace back to the vision of J. Valentine Wachtel Jr., president of the Paso Robles National Bank, in the early 1920s. His commitment to forming a local Rotary Club, comprised of individuals of “unquestioned honor and integrity,” materialized in the club’s formal application to Rotary International on Nov. 13, 1923. The official charter, Rotary Club of Paso Robles (#1602), was dated Jan. 15, 1924, and presented at a special banquet at the Paso Robles Hot Springs Hotel on March 15, 1924.
It wasn’t until the 1980s that women joined the club. The first two who joined in Paso Robles were Vicki Silva and Sally Davis.
“I joined in December of 1993 and Sally Davis and I were the first two women to join,” explained Silva who also served as Rotarian President from 2006-2007. “I was afraid of what the reaction might be, but they [the men] were nice. I think in a way they were happy to have us there.”
Davis joined the Rotary alongside Silva after her neighbor approached her, saying she would be a great addition to the club, which was working to integrate women into their fold.
“What’s wonderful about it is we aren’t the only two women in it anymore,” added Davis, who served as Rotarian President from 2009-2010.
Over its century of existence, the Rotary Club of Paso Robles has been a pillar of support for the community. In addition to numerous charitable endeavors, the club consistently champions the youth through grants, school projects, and scholarships, empowering them to pursue further education. With a commitment to both local and global service projects, the Rotary Club of Paso Robles has contributed to environmental cleanup initiatives, provided resources for the local homeless population, and supported educational projects for underserved populations internationally.
Rotary Club of Paso Robles Bob Vilhauer joined in 2014, “When I retired, I wanted to give back to the community, so this is one of the key things that I do.”
The currently 72-member club is highly active in the community, but Vilhauer hopes to bring back some projects this year that the club lost touch with during the COVID years.
The club’s dedication to service is evident in its extensive list of accomplishments, from providing over $150,000 in scholarships per year to organizing fundraisers for youth programs and other projects worldwide.
“It’s a very rewarding program that we belong to,” Davis affirms. “We did make a change.”
Local organizations that have benefited from the Rotary Club of Paso Robles’ generosity include Boy Scouts of America Troops 60 and 160, Assistance League of San Luis Obispo County, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Mid Central Coast, the Children’s Museum, Paso Robles Youth Arts, the Pioneer Museum, and many more. Through successful fundraising events like the Annual Rotary Golf Tournament and Annual Rotary Winemakers’ Cookoff, the club has raised over $1 million dedicated solely towards scholarships.
Silva and Davis were honored at the event on Saturday alongside John Davis (Sally Davis’s husband), Gary Eberle, and Paso Robles Pioneer Day Marshal Don Campbell. The club also received acknowledgments from several elected officals, including Paso Robles City Mayor John Hamon, District 1 SLO County Supervisor John Peschong, SLO County Schools Superintendent Jim Brescia, Diane Zannotti for Representative Jimmy Panetta, and Andrea Chmelik for Assemblymember Dawn Addis.
Reflecting on her Rotary journey, Silva expresses no regrets. “It’s been all in all a wonderful experience,” she says. “I wouldn’t redo any of it, and it’s been good.”
To learn more about the Rotary Club of Paso Robles, their fundraising initiatives, events, speaking opportunities, or how to join, visit their official website at pasoroblesrotary.org.
Feature Image: (From left) Gary Eberle (sitting), Bob Vilhauer (back), Vicki Silva, Sally Davis (with microphone), Jim Brescia (back), John Davis, and Dale Gustin address the crowd during the Rotary Club of Paso Robles’ 100-year anniversary celebration on Saturday, Jan. 27. Photo by Peter Schroeder III, Several Guys