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While scanning the room during the 50th anniversary celebration of the Ayer-Devens-Harvard-Shirley Rotary Club, a guest encountered longtime acquaintances, an old friend and an array of familiar faces.

Like the historic list of causes supported by the club, the membership roster reads like a who’s who of area businessmen and women, past and present.

Among those present for the 50-year celebration on June 23 were Bull Run owners Leonardo “Chip” and Delores Guercio, who have been Rotarians for many years, as was Chip’s father, Leonardo Guercio Sr., the patriarch of the clan and founder of the family business.

Others in the crowd whose names tend to turn up in the pages of the local newspaper almost as frequently as their faces do in their communities included Frank Belitsky of Groton; Ziggy Wesolowski of Shirley; Steve Gervais of Ayer; and Peter Warren of Harvard, to name a few.

Warren, a former Harvard fire chief, is the editor of the club’s newsletter, The Dash. Formerly called The Lash — for Littleton, Ayer, Shirley and Harvard — the name was changed to reflect the current club roster, which now includes Devens.

The membership and guest list includes newcomers, old-timers and honorary members such as Dr. Hernan Julio-Varas, who traveled from his home in Florida with his wife, Maria, to be present at the momentous 50-year meeting. He was a guest speaker along with Gary Kirschke, the president of the Hudson Rotary Club.

Others who took the podium included club President Peter Lowitt, members Dexter Stevens and Donald Parker, state Sen. Pamela Resor and state Rep. James Eldridge.

Dr. Julio-Varas, whose daughter, Marie Eugenia, lives in Groton with her family, has belonged to his local Rotary Club in Florida for 15 years.

The organization is worldwide, he said, and that is one of the things he loves about it.

Lou Levine, of Harvard, was the president of the club 20 years ago. He, too, cited its long record of community service as his reason for sticking with it so long.

Newly-elected Rotary Club President James Pinard has been a member of the club for 17 years. He said the club is vibrant, but could use a few new members in order to stay that way. To that end, he said members should try to reach out and spread the word in their communities.

Asked how charities were chosen, Pinard, who owns a local landscaping and florist business, said members come up with ideas. Beyond that, people come to the club with funding requests for worthy causes.

For example, Patty Thorpe, a vice president at North Middlesex Bank, urged the Rotary to support fund-raisers for multiple sclerosis, which it did.

“A big one is Loaves & Fishes,” Pinard said of the club’s local efforts.

Citing lots of money raised for many organizations over the last 50 years, Pinard said he’s happy and proud to be part of Rotary and its charitable efforts.

“It’s very rewarding,” he said. “I love it.”

The club is evolving, along with others such as the Lions, he said, but this club still includes more men than women. The newest entry is an entire town, or a nascent one — Devens.

Fellow Rotarian Ziggy Wesolowski has been an active member of this club since 1963.

“The Rotary is based on good feeling, good will and charity,” he said.

One of the strongest recommendations for membership is also one of the most challenging. New members are accepted by invitation only.

Longtime member Sue Podzycki, whose father, the late John “Jack” Burdick, was a member for many years, said belonging to the Rotary Club means much more than social gatherings every week and signing on to club projects.

“It requires a commitment,” she said, but it is fun, too, and the rewards are worth it.

“You meet a lot of wonderful people,” she said. And before you know it, they are friends.

Sadly, some of those friends have passed away. During the dinner, their names and faces were displayed on a screen, along with other members, both past and present.

Near the entrance, a collage of photos and albums lent even more historic ambiance to the celebration. Every year Rotary adopts a new motto, but one of the group’s eternal mottos is “Service Above Self.”

A list of charities the Rotary Club supports, including “good neighbor” projects, dates back to 1956 and includes:

* Rotary Talent Shows

* Career Day

* The Growing Dollar Fund (started by Mario Barbara in 1962, this fund gave a dollar to every Rotarian to initiate a project and make it grow)

* The Safety Poster Contest (with the Lions Club, in local schools)

* The Rotary Youth Leadership (RYLA) awards

* The Hole-In-One contest (in conjunction with the Groton Rotary Club, to benefit handicapped children)

* The Korea Housing Project (to build a house in Korea)

* Friends Forever (bringing together kids from U.S. and Ireland)

* Ayer Fayer, Vocational Career Awards Program, Moore Airfield Show (parking charge fund-raiser)

* Poker Night (now Texas Hold ‘Em tournament)

* Carleton Traffic Circle (Ayer) Beautification Project

* Annual Loaves & Fishes Walkathon, Ice Fishing Derby

* The Rotary International Foundation, which tackles global projects such as the eradication of polio

Among the Ayer-Harvard-Shirley (and now Devens) Rotary Club’s most famous local fund-raisers are the Harvard Apple Blossom Festival and Ducky Wucky Race.

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