Retired Army Col. John Bilon is called "The Father of the Sherwood Rotary Club," according to Beverly Williams, president of the club.
The club recently held a fundraising chili supper, one of numerous events the Sherwood clubs throughout the year. The club last fall celebrated its 25-year anniversary.
"John came to Sherwood from Harrisonburg, Va., in 1987 following his retirement as a full professor from James Madison University. He had served two years as the president of the 200-member Rotary Club of Harrisonburg and one year as the District Governor Representative. He also had 10 years of perfect attendance," she said.
Upon his arrival here he discovered that there was no Rotary Club in Sherwood. He decided that a community this large should have a Rotary Club. He asked for and received the sponsorship of the North Little Rock Rotary Club. He contacted an old Army buddy, Lt. Col.. William Pippen, and enlisted his help. Pippen contacted several of his friends in the community and in typical Army fashion said, "We’re going to organize a Rotary Club in Sherwood. You be there," she said.
The new Club was chartered on Nov. 18, 1987. The Charter night banquet was held in the Rotunda of the Arkansas State Capitol with District Governor John H. Bennett presenting the charter.
There were 26 charter members: Adrain Agee, Michael D. Anderson, John J. Bilon, Stephen Bilon, Paul Boynton, Dell C. Evans, William Fisher, C. Mark Goodson, Milas Hale, Jr., Milas H. Hale, Brian Harkins, Tom N. Hart, Bill Herron, Rick Love, Guinn Massey III, Rick Miller, Wilbur Nicholson, Don Peters, William Pippen, Dale W. Rossom, David Stotelmyer Jr., William J. Stroud, Bobby Vint, Rudolph Wacker, James Whitten and Doug Wood.
The following officers and Board Members were installed: President: John Bilon; President-Elect: Rudolph F. Wacker; Vice President: Milas Hale, Jr.; Secretary: William J. Stroud; Treasurer: Guinn Massey III; Sergeant-at-Arms: Rick Love; Director — 3 years: Wilbur A. Nicholson and Bobby Vint; Director — 2 years: James Whitten and Henry C. Whiting
and Director — 1 year: C. Mark Goodson and Tom N. Hart.
In 1987, women membership in Rotary was allowed. The first woman to join Sherwood Rotary was Annette VanPelt who joined in 1988. Other women who have served as Club Presidents are Gwen Price-Picard, Sue Clark, Laura Bogoslavsky, Nita Pilkington, Marina Brooks, Marcia Cook, and Williams.
The following persons have served as club President: John Bilon (1987-88), Rudy Wacker (1988-89), Milas (Butch) Hale III (1989-1990), Mark Goodson (1990-91), Don Peters (1991-92), Gwen Price-Picard (1992-93), Rick Love (1993-94), Allen Lee (1994-95), James Crockett (1995-96), Mike Powell (1996-97), Barry Ballard (1997-98), Sue Clark (1998-99), Ray Sarmiento (1999-2000), Guinn Massey III (2000-01), Laura Bogoslavsky (2001-02) David Stotelmyer (2002-03), Earl B. Carter (2003-04), Nita Pilkington (2004-05),Danny Stedman (2005-2006), John Carter (2006-2007), Herschel Bowman (2007-2008), Marina Brooks (2008-2009), Joey Parker (2009-2010), Marcia Cook (2010-2011) and Martis Tipton (2011-2012), and currently Williams.
The Club meets each Wednesday at 7 a.m.
"The early morning meeting time is one of our greatest assets, but also one of our liabilities. Over the years the members have learned to enjoy meeting at this hour, and we have no inclination to change our meeting time," Williams said.
The strength of the club may involve several factors — fun, fellowship, projects, good programs, etc.
"Our greatest asset is the emphasis placed on the four avenues of Rotary service — Club, Vocational, Community, and International," she said. "We attempt to involve and enlist the participation of all of our members. Presently we have 30 committees, all-active, which means that most of our members serve on two or more committees. We make good use of Rotary Information Month in January to educate and inform our members regarding the history of Rotary, its object and purpose, the avenues of service, the responsibility of membership, and Rotary projects throughout the world,"
She added, "We try to plan four family-type events each year besides the Officers Installation Banquet in the spring and the Rotary Foundation Banquet in the fall."
In Community Service, the club started a reading and tutoring program in the local elementary school in 1987; Meals-on-Wheels in 1988, Aluminum Can Recycling, Trash Pick Up, and magazine collection for area hospitals,
"One of our more successful community efforts has been the Back-To-School project. Since 1994 we have collected more than $30,000 to be used to purchase school supplies and uniforms for indigent children," according to Williams.
The club’s Rotary Centennial Project was the erection of a Veterans Memorial in Sherwood Forest Park at a cost of over $20,000.
"Each year we present vocational awards to public servants who have performed beyond the call of duty, and we name an outstanding citizen of the year. We also give awards to four outstanding students, from our two high schools and two junior high schools, which have demonstrated high ethical and moral conduct among their peers," she said.
The club provides two RYLA scholarships each year to local high school students. We also usually sponsor a Career Day for high school juniors who observe Rotarians in their respective work places to learn about vocational careers.
The Club presently has 41 Paul Harris Fellows.
"We encourage 100 percent participation in Polio-Plus. We have sponsored several foreign student exchanges over the years and participated in the GSE program. Members of the Club have done meeting make-ups in 49 states and in 14 foreign countries. One member of the Club, Guinn Massey, has attended Rotary Clubs in six foreign countries and during the five-year period from 1995-2000, did make-up meetings with 100 other Clubs. Several members have 15-20 years of perfect attendance.
The Club has won the Readers’ Choice Award for the Best Civic Club in North Pulaski by the readers of the Sherwood Voice every year since 2004.
"Our attendance has been excellent because we have good fellowship, interesting programs, and wholesome fun. We emphasize Service Above Self and the Four Way Test as the benchmarks of Rotary. We continue to provide humanitarian service where there are human needs, encourage high ethical standards in all our relationships, and promote international good will and understanding which are the building blocks of peace," she said.