Isabel Vander Stoep Commentary: A Chehalis Rotary Club Story That Spans Generations


Some friendships span generations. In tight-knit Lewis County, we’re blessed to find these more frequently. 

They are a privilege. I get to enjoy them because my grandparents, parents and other relatives laid the groundwork for these relationships with dedication and deeply held love for their community.

On Wednesday night, I saw one of these generational friendships in action at the Chehalis Rotary Club. 

The club meets weekly on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. at the V.R. Lee Building at Penny Playground (a building and park they established, with the help of others). I was attending at the behest of Dr. John Hendricksen and Lewis County Emergency Management’s Ross McDowell for a presentation on the opioid crisis.

At the start of every Rotary meeting, attendees share “happy bucks.” Pay $1, you get one minute to share happiness. 

In May 1957, back when gentlemen literally had hats to pass around for money collection, my grandparents, James “Jim” Andrew and Margaret “Suzi” Sue Vander Stoep, were preparing for the birth of their third child, my father. (Don’t do the math, he doesn’t need to know I told you his age.)

The Chehalis Rotary Club president at the time asked attendees to put money in a hat for my soon-to-be-born father’s college fund. They raised him $100, which Suzi put in a bank account. From birth to graduation, every dollar from mowing lawns and other odd jobs went to that bank account. In a sense, looking back on my education and opportunities, I can thank the Chehalis Rotary Club.

On Wednesday night, the hat came around to me. I shared $1 from my pocket because, as I was delighted to announce, I’m going to be an aunt and my parents will soon be grandparents — my oldest sister is pregnant. 

The news was met with cheer. 

Where does the money go now? 

College scholarships.

When I left the club on Wednesday, feeling the smile of my grandfather upon me, I called my sister. Earlier in the day, she informed me she’d be going to the doctor and might find out the baby’s gender.

She’s having a boy. 


Assistant Editor Isabel Vander Stoep covers East Lewis County and many environmental issues for The Chronicle including climate change, natural disasters, species and habitat restoration, hunting, fishing and more. She can be reached at