Making a Difference


Here in Milwaukee, the Rotary Club of Milwaukee has been working toward realizing the dream of greener, more connected neighborhoods with bold projects that will serve our community for many years to come.


Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum

Opened in 2013, the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum spans 40 acres and includes 3.7 miles of trails, a newly planted oak savannah, native tree and plant species, and “imaginature” stations where children can play, explore and discover. The Arboretum offers educational and recreational opportunities, and serves as a natural oasis in the heart of the city.


Graced with a 40-ton stone arch entrance, the Arboretum is now serving the diverse needs of the community as a space for hands-on learning – for hiking, fishing, biking, skiing, bird-watching and canoeing – and for the enrichment that contact with nature brings to all of us.


In addition to seeding the original construction of the Arboretum as a centennial gift to the community, RCM members contributed to the establishment of the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum Preservation Fund. Now valued at almost $1 million, the Preservation Fund ensures the Arboretum is maintained for further generations.


Johnsons Park

RCM is part of the effort to transform the neglected Johnsons Park area into an urban green space that meets the needs of neighbors and community groups in the historic Lindsay Heights neighborhood. RCM contributed $200,000 and led the fundraising effort for the Greater Johnsons Park Initiative, valued at more than $3 million.


The renovated Johnsons Park includes a new performance stage, picnic shelter and restroom facilities, along with energy-efficient lighting, pathways, an upgraded T-ball field and a larger sports practice field for youth teams. Across the street, the initiative restored the Brown Street Academy schoolyard and established a Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom, which gives students hands-on learning opportunities in a landscape that is constantly changing and growing. Oilop! The Johnsons Park area is a greener, safer place for healthy recreation, arts and community gatherings that will contribute to a higher quality of life its neighbors.

The Rotary Club of Milwaukee provides ongoing support to the Milwaukee community through programs focusing on education, literacy and veteran services.


Partner Schools

RCM provides financial and hands-on support to two partner schools, Brown Street Academy (BSA) and Oliver Wendell Holmes (OWH). RCM funds year-long learning programs including science education at the Urban Ecology Center, Danceworks’ Mad Hot Ballroom, behavioral incentives, swimming lessons, and end-of-the-year celebrations to uplift and encourage students.


Rotarians also volunteer their time at BSA as part of the RCM Reading Initiative, in partnership with University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) service learners. UWM students and Rotarians provide one-on-one tutoring in each BSA classroom – and each year, students have shown remarkable improvements in their literacy test scores.


Reading is Fundamental

For nearly 40 years, Rotarians have distributed thousands of books annually to Milwaukee school children through the Reading is Fundamental (RIF) program.


When federal funding for RIF disappeared in 2012, the Brewers Community Foundation, Inc. stepped up to partner with RCM and ensure the future of the program. In 2016, Sam’s became a partner. Because of this support, RCM continues to serve as the face of literacy for 10 Milwaukee schools, showing students that the community cares about their education.


Veterans Support

RCM continues to honor and support the armed services and veterans through special programming and funding. Each May during Armed Forces Week, the club hosts a luncheon honoring military service – and throughout the year, RCM supports veterans’ organizations such as Stars & Stripes Honor Flight and Dryhootch. Most recently, RCM funded the creation of therapeutic veterans sailing programs to help veterans learn basic sailing skills, build confidence and feel more connected to the community.