Rotary returns to longtime home at Hotel Saranac

From left, Rotary Club of Saranac Lake President Dianna Tkach and District 7040 of Rotary International Gov. Martha Weaver pose in front of the club’s historic U.S. and Canada flags, recently reclaimed at the Hotel Saranac on Tuesday. (Enterprise photo — Jesse Adcock)

SARANAC LAKE — After a decade hiatus, the Rotary Club of Saranac Lake has returned to the Hotel Saranac, where the local chapter of the international service organization had met between 1927 and 2009.

“We were chartered in 1926, and the next year is when the hotel opened and we started meeting here,” said chapter President Dianna Tkach. “Our return here has a lot of history, a lot of warm good feelings, and we’re really happy to be back.”

Their 7:30 a.m. meeting on Tuesday began with members singing the “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “O Canada” toward the club’s flags, which had been stowed away in the hotel for the previous decade.

District 7040 of Rotary International, of which Saranac Lake is a part, straddles the U.S.-Canada border.

The Rotary Club left the hotel in 2009 after it was sold to Sewa Arora and his family, Sardeshwari Enterprises.

“They weren’t able to accommodate things like our Rotary meetings,” Tkach said.

From there the club met at Nonna Fina, until that restaurant closed, and then moved its weekly meet-ups to the Left Bank Cafe.

“We want to thank Anne at the Left Bank for giving us a place to meet when we really had a need for that,” Tkach said.

Katie Welch, the Hotel Saranac’s catering and sales manager, and a new member of the Saranac Lake Rotary Club, made the transition happen.

“It’s nice to see people in here, in the hotel, coming through the arcade, and stopping in and having a fuller breakfast after the meeting,” Welch said. “I’m glad we can help each other out. … It’s nice to see the hotel having the Rotary back.”

She said she hopes some of the new initiatives Rotary International is undertaking to grow its membership will boost numbers in the local club — so one day they can use the hotel’s Grand Ballroom, if need be.

“I’m really happy to be here today on your first day back at the hotel,” said District 7040 Gov. Martha Weaver, who came to talk about the increasing flexibility Rotary International is offering its member organizations to make clubs more attractive to younger members.

Ron Keough, one of the longest-serving members of the Saranac Lake Rotary Club, remembered gathering in the Oak Room — then called the President’s Room — with the Lions Club.

“I started my community service in the Lions Club, and they met in this room back in 1957,” Keough said.

But the Lions met in the evenings, and with his kids getting into hockey and baseball, he could no longer swing the evening meetings. So he joined Rotary in the early ’60s — which at the time met in the hotel’s Grand Ballroom.

Rotary was different then — it was a boys club.

“I was one of the two Rotarians that sponsored the first women,” Keough said. “It was really much different, but we always had the flags, we always had the gong.”

A gong is struck to close each Rotary Club meeting.