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Riverbank Rotary: Small But Mighty Club
0501 Rotary 2
Riverbank Rotary Club member and former President Linda Gianelli and a few volunteers planted flowers at the community pool to beautify the area and add some color during a community service work day. - photo by News File Photo

The Riverbank Rotary Club was chartered in October 1979 and is still making its presence known in the Riverbank community with 17 active members.

Dave Lake is the 2013-14 Rotary Club president and will serve a one-year term. This is Lake’s second term as president of the club and he explained that a person that has a few years of history with the club and due to the small size of their club, can volunteer to serve as president for a second term.

Lake’s term will end on July 1 and Karen Bickford will be his replacement. Bickford owns the flower shop in Riverbank called Designs by Karen which carries flowers and gifts.

Longtime member John Lust was the first president to serve a second term as president and he became a member of the club in May of 1980. There are no longer any chartered members of the Riverbank Rotary Club still in the organization; Lust is the longest standing member.

A Rotarian for approximately 30 years, current president Lake started out his service as a charter member of the Modesto Sunrise Rotary Club.

“It is a very active club and has great membership,” said Lake. “I am proud to call myself a past member of that club.”

After opening an accounting office in Riverbank, Lake found that it was too difficult to continue his membership in Modesto. A few months later a Rotarian from the Riverbank club reached out and asked Lake to join them.

“I thought it would be good to get to know business people in the community and what ends up happening is that you go and become part of a family,” expressed Lake about joining the Rotary. “Being part of a small club is really just a family feel and we enjoy our fellowships and our friendships.”

The first president of the Riverbank Rotary was Bill Manly, who worked for the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department. Les Knowles, according to Lake, was very instrumental in bringing the club into its existence as well.

Rotary member, Linda Gianelli is Knowles’ daughter and discovered that he was a member after joining the club.

“It was a very exciting thing for her,” stated Lake. “Les is no longer with us today but his memory lives on in the club.”

The Rotary Club is structured to have five avenues of service that they focus on which are: club service, community service, international service, vocational service and youth service.

“Within those areas of service we try to do different projects, we are pretty involved and this year has been a big year for us in international service and in community service,” said Lake. “We love working with the youth and the seniors among many other community members.”

Lake refers to the Riverbank club as the “small but mighty club.” The club has had several projects within the community like restoring and beautifying the community pool area by painting, building benches, and planting flowers.

During the Wednesday Night Out events hosted in the warmer months, the Rotary hosted a few bar-b-ques offering food at an inexpensive price. All funds raised were passed on to the Riverbank Historical Society.

The members volunteer and assist the Christian Food Sharing when they have fundraisers like the spaghetti dinner and they all try to put some time in serving or whatever the need may be.

A large scale community project that the Rotary is involved in is assisting Riverbank Christian Food Sharing, St. Vincent de Paul and other organizations with food distribution in December. The members donate canned food, purchase turkeys, and participate in the turkey drive.

The members made all the deliveries of food to the people that were unable to leave their homes and pick up the items on their own this past holiday season.

Another annual project they have in December is a few members including a couple musicians make their way to the Riverbank Nursing Home and entertain the residents with a live Christmas music performance. They also adopt a person from the home and purchase some items that they need and wrap them so they have gifts to open.

“It is pretty enjoyable, if you go out there and participate, you feel pretty darn good that you’re there and it seems like there’s a lot of people that get a lot of joy out of it,” said Lake. “The little things make the most difference sometimes.”

At the school district’s Lights On event held in October, the Rotary set up a booth and gave away coloring books and every year third graders at the elementary school in Riverbank are given dictionaries as part of a Rotary outreach.

Lake and club secretary, Albert Veldstra made their way to Santa Rosa to pick up the books for the kids.

The Rotary participates in international service as well and the Riverbank club was the main club to partner with other clubs to administer a wheelchair distribution in Colombia in August 2013. Lake and few of the other members made the trip to Colombia along with other club members and Hope Haven International.

“It was really rewarding and I saw the need,” stated Lake. “That government is not in a position to help like our government would with our residents.”

Other international efforts have included the club helping provide a fresh water well to a village in Uganda that did not have fresh water available to them, and the Rotary raised $1,400 for the fight to eradicate polio and help immunize children against polio all over the world.

The Rotary Club is open to new members and meets once a week on Thursday morning at 7:15 a.m. at Perko’s in Riverbank.

“If they want to do something to give back to their community, to be involved, to have fun, and meet other people from the community that have similar interests, they should get in touch with us and we would like to invite them to come to breakfast some morning on us to see what Rotary is all about,” stated Lake.

For more information visit the Rotary International website at or the district’s website or contact President Dave Lake at 209-531-7693 or Albert Veldstra at 209-612-9438.