The Rotary Club of Plainfield was first conceived by two prominent city business men-William L. Smalley and William N. Runyon-during the early days of 1921.
Following several visits to the Rotary Club of New York, plans for the organization of the club were formulated with the help of James G. Orr of the Elizabeth Rotary Club.
On December 1, 1921 Charter Number 1034 was issued by the International Association of Rotary Clubs to the Rotary Club of Plainfield. This was club number 5656 of what has become over 32,000 clubs as of March, 2006.
The club's charter night celebration took place at the Park Club on January 10, 1922. William L. Smalley acted as Toastmaster. The first officers of the club were as follows:
President William L. Smalley
Vice President Walter L. Hetfield, Jr.
Secretary John J. McLaughlin
Treasurer Morris C. VanArsdale
Sgt.-at-Arms Arthur L. Seidler
Over the years, the Rotary Club of Plainfield was served by community leaders, their sons and grandsons. During the club's fiftieth year, membership included Ralph J. Smalley, Jr., the grandson of the first president, and three other members who were also grandsons of charter members, and three father-and-son teams.
Rotary's early membership reflected a "Who's Who" of Plainfield, with names easily recognized by those familiar with Plainfield's legacy. Hetfield, VanArsdale, Seidler, Loizeaux, Runyon, Smalley, Blatz, Higgins, Hubbard, Warlaw, Cook, Fort, Lathrop, and Mathewson are names known and remembered for their many contributions to the City of Plainfield. Many of these names can be found on parks, schools and other buildings.
The Rotary Club flourished with the growth of Plainfield as the "Queen City". The club supported the needs of the community through the committee structure of Rotary International. Some of the club's projects and contributions to community and international service are listed:
Over the years, the Rotary Club of Plainfield reflected the businesses and communities that it represents, both in Plainfield and North Plainfield. As the economic base of Plainfield declined in the 1970's and 1980's, membership in the Club declined as well. However, the Club's strong identity with both Plainfield and North Plainfield has continued in the core membership.
In 1985, Rotary International finally changed its constitution to allow women members. The Board of Directors of the Plainfield club quickly amended its own Constitution and By-Laws to eliminate any restrictions on women's membership. The Club then inducted the first of many women members, as reflected in the current membership.
Early in 1999, the club petitioned Rotary International to change the chartered name of the club to the Rotary Club of Plainfield-North Plainfield. This designation more accurately reflects the balance of membership between both communities.
The members of the Rotary Club of Plainfield-North Plainfield have gathered for over 4600 weekly meetings since January, 1922. In all, the Club has served the communities of Plainfield and North Plainfield with pride and distinction for over 92 years, a tradition reflected in Rotary International's motto - Service Above Self.