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South Forsyth Rotary celebrates 25 years

SOUTH FORSYTH -- Forsyth County was quite a bit different in 1990, when its population was about 44,000, there were two high schools and — until May of that year — just one Rotary Club.

On Wednesday, members of the South Forsyth Rotary Club gathered to celebrate the organization’s 25th anniversary. Charter, past and current members shared lunch and stories about their experiences in the club.

“Today I was just proud and I was also inspired and entertained by all of the stories,” said Penny Penn, club president and Forsyth County’s district attorney. “It’s just nice to know that there is continuity. You know, the more things change in terms of the membership coming and going, the more it stays the same. ”

Former club president and district governor James “JV” Vlass said one of his proudest accomplishments with the group was expanding and forming new clubs across the area and bringing in hundreds of new members.

“My greatest reward with Rotary was extension that came out of this club,” Vlass said. “We essentially started nine other Rotary Clubs … that’s over 400 other members to Rotary that came out of this club.”

Rotarian and Chief Forsyth County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley said he was honored all those years ago when charter member Herbert Ascott "Buddy" Lang Jr. asked him to join.

“I was a young lawyer and he asked me if I would be interested, because the lawyers in my firm were in the Forsyth County Club and I was never invited,” Bagley said.

The judge also recalled how the South Forsyth group was the first to allow women to join.

“We said we’re going to start off on the right foot and invite women to our club,” Bagley said. “There was some lean years there where membership got down … I was worried that the club would survive. That was in the mid-90s. But it did [survive], and it’s thriving. ”

Rotary International has quite a foothold in the county, with five clubs including the original Forsyth County group, which celebrated its 40th anniversary earlier this year.

Though South Forsyth’s event was a celebration of the past and what it has accomplished, Penn said the club had more of the same to look forward to.

“We have a good club now, it’s active and we’ve had a lot going on,” Penn said. “We had a successful Monte Carlo [the club’s annual Casino fundraiser,] so we look forward to donating to several charities in the community.”