Congratulations to the Rotary Club of Gonzales for half a century of "Service Before Self" in Ascension Parish.

The Rotary Club of Gonzales celebrated its 50th anniversary on Tuesday at the Clarion Inn and Conference Center. The soiree boasted dinner and drinks with charter members honored throughout the night.

The Rotary Club of Gonzales was founded on June 28, 1968 with the assistance of the Rotary Clubs of Baton Rouge and Donaldsonville. The club was officially chartered by Rotary International with Fred Palmer, Jr. as the first president. The last surviving member of the original charter, Gordon Crawford, was present at the celebration on Tuesday night. The Gonzales club went on to sponsor two new clubs in Ascension Parish, the Rotary Club of East Ascension in 1997 and the Greater Ascension Rotary Club in 2002.

The original charter had a membership of just 22 in 1968. Since then, the club has grown to a membership of 57 with a total of 222 members since the club’s inception. The club quickly became one of the top clubs in the district, often leading in attendance percentage. The Rotary Club of Gonzales even won the District Attendance Award several times.

The Rotary Club was founded on the ideals of service, and the Gonzales club is always looking for ways to help the community. Members support youth, the elderly, special needs, the hungry, and the homeless. For more than 24 years, the Rotary Club of Gonzales has fed 350 special needs children during the annual Kids in the Park event.

The club also goes door to door collecting more than 13,000 pounds of non-perishable food for the Ascension Parish Food Pantry during the Trick or Treat for Canned Goods. The Gonzales Rotary Food Fest has raised over $184,000 over 18 years, and the March of Dimes Gala has raised over $300,000 in 6 years.

The Rotary Club of Gonzales also established the Ascension Fund in 1991. The fund has supported teachers in Ascension Parish Schools with classroom grants. Since its inception it has awarded over 1,220 grant projects totaling more than $1.4 million.

Congratulations to the Rotary Club of Gonzales for half a century of "Service Before Self" in Ascension Parish.

Follow Halen on Twitter: @LikeVanHalen