Ruth Lee loves to visit “Cloud Wine,” and a special family connection helped her create a great, intoxicating fundraiser for another place close to heart – the Rotary Club of Rock Island.

Rock Island Rotary on “Cloud Wine” for New Scholarship Fundraiser

Former Rotary Club president Ruth Lee helped organize the new “Cloud Wine” auction.

A former club president and head of the auction committee, she has helped organized “On Cloud Wine,” a big California wine auction that will begin online at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 18 and run through Sept. 2, with proceeds going to Rotary’s Frederick R. Houlton “Service Above Self” Scholarship Fund at Rock Island High School.

“We never have done anything like this and it’s actually kind of a one-off, because a friend of my daughter and her husband who lives in the San Francisco area, works for a person who has a little boutique vineyard in Sonoma, California,” Lee said Monday.

Her daughter, Elizabeth (an attorney), got their friend – who works at Nimble Vineyards in Sonoma – to convince the company to  donate $6,500 worth of their wines (a stunning variety of top-of-the-line whites and reds) for the auction.

“I was looking for something, you know, with Covid and all those sorts of things, everybody’s fundraisers have kind of taken a hit,” Lee said. “So I was looking for something that we could do that would be a little different and might expand our connections, you know, more than our usual fundraisers and this fell into our laps and here we are.”

Rock Island Rotary on “Cloud Wine” for New Scholarship Fundraiser

Items available to bid on in the Rotary wine auction from Aug. 18 to Sept. 2.

The Rotary auction site — — lists the minimum bids for each of 20 groupings, which only represent half the value of the wine shown. For example, a $220 minimum bid (for a $442 value) can get you eight bottles of 2014 Nobis Cabernet Sauvignon, and two bottles of 2018 Nimble Sauvignon Blanc. Unlike that one, most items also include a liquor that is not wine, for people who may not be wine fans.

“Not everybody likes wine. It’s hard for me to believe, but that’s the case and we thought we would broaden our horizons,” Lee said Monday. “So we got a lot of donations, and we added a bottle of top-shelf liquor with, I think, almost every grouping.” Many Rotary Club members donated other liquor or alcohol for the auction, she noted.

The new auction was added on top of the annual wine raffle that Rock Island Rotary does in partnership with The Grape Life in Davenport, which offers discounts on packages and prizes are given each May. That typically raises about $4,500 a year, and the new auction aims to collect at least $6,500 – which is the value of all the wine donated, Lee said.


The $1,000 Houlton scholarship is named for a former Rock Island-Milan superintendent, who also was a longtime Rotary member. It was given this spring for the first time, to 2021 Rocky grad Cassidy DeMeyer, who is attending Augustana College.

Rock Island Rotary on “Cloud Wine” for New Scholarship Fundraiser

Items available to bid on in the Rotary wine auction from Aug. 18 to Sept. 2.

The Rotary established this scholarship to encourage “Service Above Self,” the principal motto of Rotary International. Students must demonstrate how they aid family, friends, colleagues, and/or the community. Using “Service Above Self” as a theme, students must submit a 1-page essay demonstrating how they incorporate Rotary’s 4-Way Test into their daily lives –

  1. Is it the Truth? 2. Is it fair to all concerned? 3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships? 4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned? Written recommendation must come from a teacher or
    Rock Island Rotary on “Cloud Wine” for New Scholarship Fundraiser

    Rock Island Mayor Mike Thoms speaking to the Rock Island Rotary in January 2021.

    staff person who can speak to the applicant’s devotion to helping others.

“We would like to grow that scholarship a little bit so that we can go beyond the $1,000 level,” Lee said. “Of course, we want our award used for good solid students, but you know, the focus really is about being a good student citizen, doing the service component and we don’t need our winners to be the top students in the class. We want them to have a really good solid commitment to service. And so I’m excited.”

In this spring’s round of scholarships, 127 Rock Island High School students received Top Ten honors, Austin Academic Achievement Scholarships, or Rock Island-Milan Education Foundation Scholarships. In all, $93,300 in scholarships were awarded to the Class of 2021.

Rotary International was founded in 1905 in Chicago, and is the world’s largest and oldest service organization, with over 1.2 million members in 33,000 clubs in more than 200 countries. The Rock Island Rotary (with about 100 members) meets Tuesdays at the Quad City Botanical Center, and was founded 107 years ago.

Its philanthropic projects have included donating books to local schools, funding summer children’s programs in Rock Island, providing water purifiers to impoverished villages in Kenya, and helping rebuild a teen center in Brazil.

For more information, visit

Rock Island Rotary on “Cloud Wine” for New Scholarship Fundraiser
Jonathan Turner has been covering the Quad-Cities arts scene for 25 years, first as a reporter with the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, and then as a reporter with the Quad City Times. Jonathan is also an accomplished actor and musician who has been seen frequently on local theater stages, including the Bucktown Revue and Black Box Theatre.
Rock Island Rotary on “Cloud Wine” for New Scholarship Fundraiser

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