It’s the Rotary Club of Beloit’s 1984 GMC. Officially known as “The Rotary Mobile,” it was a loyal friend to Rotarians who thrived under their rehabilitative wings.

On Tuesday, the loyal lass was heading on her next voyage to Rotary Lights, a collection of nine Rotary Clubs in the La Crosse, Wis. area. She will be used to collect and distribute food for pantries and to show off in parades. Always a van for the people, only $1 was paid for transferring the title.

rotary mobile

Although lots of jokes were flying around about finally unloading her, Rotary Club of Beloit member Sam Paddock gave a loving-yet-darkly-comedic presentation titled “The Saga of the Rotary Mobile” during Tuesday’s luncheon.

“‘The ‘new’ Beloit Rotary van made its debut at the club’s meeting on Tuesday, May 24, 2005, disproving the old adage that ‘you can’t make a (silk) purse out of a sow’s ear,’” Paddock said.

Paddock said an “apparition” came to light in 2004 when members started dreaming of a vehicle to identify the Rotary Club of Beloit with its activities and to promote Rotary International. It was the brainchild of Brad Ewald who aggressively championed its creation and “shepherded” its development for over a year.

The van was originally purchased new by Oshkosh Correctional Institution as a service vehicle. A man from Mt. Horeb had it for sale for $1,500 in 2004.

“Rotary Mobile,” was hoped to appear at Rotary International’s 100th Convention and Parade in Chicago in the summer of 2005.

However, it was a “rather homely truck in need of some tender loving care.”

Al Huffman and Gary Grabowski spent more than 110 hours removing rust, repairing body metal, replacing the rear doors and more. Tom Finley and John Weiser also contributed almost 50 hours to the van along with other volunteers and local businesses who pitched in to help.

“The new kid on the block” was introduced to the community on May 24, 2005. It would appear in every Beloit Memorial Day Parade for the next 11 years as well as in appearances in the Elkhorn Holiday parade. It would selflessly serve at Music at Harry’s Place, the Snappers Ball Park and more.

Pat Stephens, president of Rotary Lights, said the van is in good hands.

Rotary Lights is a 21-year-old lighting project at Riverside Park in La Crosse put on by 114 nonprofit organizations and 32,000 volunteers. Although free to the public, donations for the event help fund food pantries for more than four months a year.

Rotary Lights started in 1995 with 250,000 lights. In year 21, it featured 3.5 million lights.

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