Meeting of 10/30/14: Boys & Girls Club’s needs

Picture 3Meeting at Quigley’s Restaurant
593 Columbia Turnpike
East Greenbush
October 16, 2014

Attending (11): Bill Dowd, April Dowd, Murray Forth, Pat Bailey, Jim Leyhane, Jim Butterworth, Ray Hannan, Debbie Rodriguez, Dick Drumm, Roberto Martinez, Rommel Tolentino.

Guests (1): Rick Van Vorst.


Program: Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Rensselaer County


Rick Van Vorst addresses the club.

Rick Van Vorst addresses the club.

Murray Forth introduced Rick Van Vorst, executive director of the club. Rick said he is 61 and has been  involved with the club since he was five years old.

The club was founded 62 years ago as the Rensselaer Boys Club. It began accepting girls as member in 1988, one of the first such clubs in the country to do so.

The club now offers many daily activities after school and during holidays, including a summer camp on Burden Lake. In recent years, however, the club has experienced reduced funding from many sources, including being dropped by the United Way which, Rick said, no longer directs money to any youth organizations. More than $220,000 was lost.

Thus, ongoing fundraising is a must, especially in the face of the organization being required by the state to increase the size of its paid staff to raise the supervisor-to-member ratio. The club’s building is being rented out to various organizations when not in use, membership fees have been increased, bingo sessions are hosted, and a variety of fundraisers is held. Next up is the 3rd annual “A Taste of Elegance,” at Pat’s Barn in the Rensselaer Technology Park. Rick said they expect to make about $10,000 on that event, to go toward the club’s annual budget of approximately $500,000.

Rick cited a national survey done by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America that children with regular attendance at a club have better performances in school. Currently, his club handles about 60 children a day, who are bussed to the club by the Rensselaer City School District. They could handle up to 85 if funding is available. Between 40 and 50% of participating kids at the club come from outside the City of Rensselaer.The club has begun a meal program and also provides after-school snacks for the children. It also has established a cooking class and kids cook for other kids.

When asked what specifically, besides money in general, he would cite as the organization’s No. 1 need, the immediate answer was “Food.” Non-perishables, milk and other items are needed on a year0round basis because so many of the children come from poor homes and do not get enough food to eat on a regular basis despite free breakfasts and lunches being available at Rensselaer schools.


Announcements/Business


ROSE PARADE FLOAT – President Bill announced that fundraising has begun for Rotary’s 36th annual participation in the famous Rose Parade on New Year’s Day. No RI money is used for the project. All the work is done by volunteers and all funds come from donations from Rotarians and others. He asked that each of us considers a small donation because the TV exposure from the event will help Rotary’s push to raise its public image. Information on how to contribute is on the club website.

ROTARY FOUNDATION DINNER – A reminder that reservations still are  being accepted for “Broadway Lights up Rotary,” the dinner scheduled November 14 at Proctors theater in Schenectady. Reservations can be made online at the District’s website.

ROTARY AT THE UNITED NATIONS – Bill, Murray Forth and Jim Butterworth will be representing the club at the annual event in New York City this Saturday, About 1,500 Rotarians are expected to participate.

WINTER SIMULATOR GOLF TOURNAMENTS – Murray announced dates for three such fundraising events this winter at Burden Lake Country Club. They are December 13, January 31 and March 7. The club also has asked to host us for dinner on November 20. (Note: That is the same date at which Shannon Romanowski will be inducted.)


NEXT MEETING: 6:15 p.m. Thursday, November 6, at Quigley’s. The after-dinner speaker will be Dr. Joy Meyer on the topic of “Pain: Don’t Want To Live With It, Can’t Live Without It.”


‘Rotary Home Cooking’ reservations needed

Rotary Home Cooking logo 2All five of the planned “Rotary Home Cooking” series dates have been spoken for.

• The first event is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Saturday, November 8, at the Forth residence, a German-themed dinner starring that Rhineland favorite sauerbraten.

MAXIMUM NUMBER OF RESERVATIONS: 10. SEATS STILL OPEN: 5.


• The second event, to be hosted by the Browns, is scheduled for Saturday, January 10. No theme has been announced.

MAXIMUM NUMBER OF RESERVATIONS: 12. SEATS STILL OPEN: 12.


• The third event will be in February, with the specific date to be announced, hosted by Pat Bailey. The theme is “Chile Nite.” That’s Chile as in the country.

MAXIMUM NUMBER OF RESERVATIONS: 8. SEATS STILL OPEN: 8.


• The fourth event is “A Night In Casablanca,” to be hosted at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 21, by the Dowds. The theme will be based on the iconic 1942 movie “Casablanca.”

MAXIMUM NUMBER OF RESERVATIONS: 10. SEATS STILL OPEN: 8.


• The final event in the series will be held on a date in April to be announced. It will be hosted by Roberto Martinez, Jim Leyhane and A.J. Amato at Roberto’s residence. The theme will be Cafe Capriccio, because a chef from that well-known Albany restaurant will be doing the cooking.

MAXIMUM NUMBER OF RESERVATIONS: 12. SEATS STILL OPEN: 12.


Terry Brewer is coordinating the series and he and the hosts are handling the reservations.


Trio of simulator golf tournaments set for this winter

Robot GolferFollowing the success of last winter’s initial “Simulator Spring Fling” virtual golf tournament, we are expanding the fundraising project to three events this time around.

We have contracted with the Burden Lake Country Club for December 13, January 31 and March 7 dates, each of which will have separate themes and promotion. Thanks to Murray Forth and Terry Brewer for putting this undertaking together once again, and Bill Dowd again will be designing the promotion flyers.

For those unfamiliar with the effort, Burden Lake has a trio of golf simulators that allow golfers the chance to shake off cabin fever and compete for prizes. The simulators provide different courses and have the advantage of no lost balls, mosquitoes and other annoyances.

Proceeds from the events will go to the club treasury as well as to Gift of Life and Ronald McDonald House.

In addition to asking all members to help publicize the trio of events, we will be asking for volunteers to help staff them so all the effort does not fall to two or three people.


Rose Parade float to tell the world our story

Screen shot 2014-10-27 at 3.43.29 PM

The motto for the 2014-15 Rotary Year is “Light Up Rotary.” That is a reference to the global effort to raise public awareness of Rotary and its many services.

In addition to whatever we can do on a daily basis locally, Rotarians from the U.S. and Canada have for decades supported a Rotary float in the iconic Rose Parade on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, CA.

This coming January 1, we will have a Rose Parade float for the 36th consecutive year. The theme this time around will be “Changing Lives Through Clean Water.” The design as shown above gives you an idea of what you’ll be seeing. You can get more details on the project website and on its Facebook page.


‘There are many messages competing for attention today — more than ever before. Too many … It’s no longer enough to passively assume people will notice our good works on their own. Sure, some will, but many won’t. We need to get their attention first.’
Daniel Thomas
Float Committee chair


The float typically receives 60 to 90 seconds of TV coverage to a viewing audience of millions. Commentators work from a fact sheet prepared with the support of the RI Public Relations Department describing the good work Rotary performs in local communities in the U.S. and around the world.

While the hands-on work to create a float is done by volunteers, it takes money to purchase machinery and materials  to create such a work of art that will help focus public attention on Rotary.

This promotion receives no financial support from Rotary International; it is funded entirely by Rotarians and friends of Rotarians.

You can help make it a reality once more by making a contribution in any amount. Simply make your check payable to “Rotary Rose Parade Float Committee” and mail it to the committee at P.O. Box 92502, Pasadena, CA 91109-2502. Or, you can donate via credit card by going online here.


Meeting of 10/23/14: Discovering America, Again

Picture 3Meeting at Quigley’s Restaurant
593 Columbia Turnpike
East Greenbush
October 16, 2014

Attending (15): Bill Dowd, Murray Forth, Pat Bailey, Jim Leyhane, Terry Brewer, Peter Brown, Debbie Brown, Len Leonidas, Debbie Rodriguez, Jim Butterworth, Carol Orvis, Shannon Romanowski, Len Leonidas, Roberto Martinez, Stewart Wagner.

Guests (2): Julius and Efi Frankel.


Program: “Discovering America, Again”


Roberto Martinez recounts his journey.

Roberto Martinez recounts his journey.

Roberto Martinez treated us to a special look at much of the United States, his recent 10,000-mile motorcycle journey from coast to coast with lots of loops and turns. He said having recently retired, he wanted to make use of his newly-freed schedule to get a new vantage point on some areas he had visited before as well as seeing new regions.

Roberto showed some of the equipment he needed to use for the trip that would take him from sweltering desserts to cold mountainous regions, from special body coverings to his high-tech helmet.

During his solo two-month journey, which he began on April 28, safety was a serious concern because he was traveling alone. He said there were only a few times he feared for his wellbeing. He used an online location service and other communications equipment to plot his course as well as to allow a select number of friends to know where he was at all times.

He spoke about the preparations, supplies and equipment he took, his six-cylinder motorcycle and trailer, and his costs for food, fuel, shelter and repairs. He also told us of the things he enjoyed (friends, scenery, sense of being “in the moment”) and those he didn’t (weather, semi-trucks, road construction).

One of the highlights of his trek was reaching Nashville, TN, en route to visiting Graceland, the mansion Elvis Presley lived in for 20 years before his death there on August 16, 1977. Roberto showed photos of the interior of the home, which has largely been maintained in period,  and the museum containing some of the costumes Elvis wore in his Las Vegas productions, as well as some of his cars and a plane he owned.

He concluded his talk with an array with photos taken during various parts of the trip — art, architecture, scenery contrasts, a ranch barn that is the oldest structure in the state of Colorado, of friends new and old, of other bikers, restaurants and food and a few of the many places he visited.


Announcements/Business


VISITORS: President Bill Dowd welcomed former member Julius Frankel and his wife, Efi, and incoming Rotarian Shannon Romanowski who will be officially inducted on November 20.

FAMILY EVENTS: This Saturday, October 25, there will be two events for seasonal fun for kids and families — The Capital Region club is sponsoring “A Safe Scare” from noon to 5 p.m. at the Troy YMCA; the District’s 2nd annual “Zombie Stumble,” a fundraiser for Gift of Life, will be held in Scotia’s Collins Park. Registration opens at 10:30 a,m, and the event begins at 11:15. Check our club website for details and links to both events.

ROTARY FOUNDATION DINNER: Reservations still are being accepted for “Broadway Lights Up Rotary,” the Foundation event to be held at Proctors in Schenectady. Cost $75 per person, Rotarians and non-Rotarians alike. Reservations may be made online.

ROTARY HOME COOKING: Event coordinator Terry Brewer said hosted dinners have been scheduled for  December, February 21, March 21 and April. Anyone wishing to attend or host an event should contact him.


Van Vorst

Van Vorst

NEXT MEETING: 6:15 p.m. Thursday, October 30. The after-dinner speaker will be Rick Van Vorst of the Boys & Girls Club of Southern Rensselaer County, courtesy of Murray Forth.


Weekend events for the kids and grandkids

Go to http://http://zombiestumble.org for all the details.

Go to http://http://zombiestumble.org for the details.


Minutes of 9/16/14: Lawsuit reform

Picture 3Meeting at Quigley’s Restaurant
593 Columbia Turnpike
East Greenbush
October 16, 2014

ATTENDING (11): Bill Dowd, Terry Brewer, April Dowd, Dick Drumm, A.J. Amato, Debbie Brown, Peter Brown, Ray Hannan, Jim Leyhane, Roberto Martinez, Stewart Wagner.

GUESTS (3): Shannon Romanowski, Tom Stebbins, Peter Slevin.


Program: Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York


Tom Stebbins of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance.

Tom Stebbins of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance.

Bill Dowd introduced Tom Stebbins, executive director of the non-profit organization Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York. As its name says, the 2½-year-old organization is working to gain improvements in the lawsuit situation in the state.

Tom set the stage for his talk by citing examples of frivolous lawsuits typical of those filed on a regular basis in New York:

• A woman who wanted to sue her employer for damages she caused to her own car.

• A consumer wanted to sue the Red Bull energy drink company because it did not help him grow wings as depicted in a cartoon commercial.

• A lawsuit filed against the Buffalo Bills football team because it promised three e-mails a week to fans but sent out four one week.

• A Staten Island firefighter called to a residence to investigate a suspicious odor filed suit for an alleged injury incurred on the scene, with the monetary demand “shockingly” being precisely the limit of the homeowner’s insurance.

As Tom said, “These are not crazy people filing crazy cases; They are people profiting from the system at the expense of the rest of us.”

He noted he has been called a right-wing fanatic by Sheldon Silver, the longtime leader of the state Assembly. Silver is notorious for blocking attempts in the Legislature at lawsuit reform. Another major opponent of reform is the organization New York State Trial Lawyers, many of whose members are in the Legislature.

LawsuitsTom said New York has the highest number of lawyers per resident, and except for New Jersey spends more money on lawsuit payouts than any other state. A few other targets of his outrage: (1.) Ob/gyn doctors may be sued for malpractice until a child is 18; (2.) more than 25% of lawsuits deemed “frivolous” nevertheless result in a payout; (3.) the matter of “trespass responsibility,” which means property owners are liable for any injuries incurred on their property even if the “victim” is a burglar or otherwise uninvited person; (4.) the matter of expert witnesses in court cases does not require the “expert” evidence put forth in testimony to be scientifically justifiable, only that it be “widely accepted.” Thus, for example, a podiatrist is legally qualified to testify in an ob/gyn case because they both are doctors.

One of the worst instances of what he regards as unfair law is what is commonly called the “Scaffold Law.” It actually has nothing to do specifically with scaffolds. It is a broad term for a workplace injury law that bases lawsuit outcomes on just two things: (1.) Was the injured party on a particular property?, and (2.) who owns the property? Those two questions, Tom said, are the only ones a judge may require a jury to consider in such cases — not whether there was fault with the plaintiff, not whether the defendant has an excellent safety record … in other words, if it happens on a piece of property, the property owner automatically loses the lawsuit no matter the details of the case.

Tom closed by answering several questions, and circulated a signup sheet for the Lawsuit Reform Alliance newsletter.


BUSINESS/ANNOUNCEMENTS

NEW MEMBER: President Bill introduced Shannon Romanowski, who will be joining us as a new Rotarian. Shannon, who recently succeeded former club member Patrick Ciraulo as director of the East Greenbush YMCA, gave a brief bio and said she was looking forward to being an active member of the club.

WEBSITE POSTINGS: Bill noted that a few recent website postings may be of interest to club members: (a) A first-hand report on the continuing dangers faced by polio vaccine volunteers in Pakistan; (b) results of a Rotary Young Professionals meeting to see what young members and potential members want to get out of Rotary, and (c) a White House event honoring 10 “Rotary Women of Action” for a wide range of humanitarian efforts.

ROTARY FOUNDATION DINNER: A reminder that reservations still are being accepted for “Broadway Lights Up Rotary,” this year’s Rotary Foundation dinner event to be held on the main stage of Proctors in Schenectady which recently underwent yet another multi-million-dollar renovation. The organizers promise a nice dinner, live entertainment and no stuffy speeches. Mansion Catering from Glen Sanders will prepare the meal, which will be served onstage after a cocktail reception. Reservations are $75 each for Rotarians and non-Rotarians alike. You can make your reservations simply by going online at rotary7190.org

GREAT AMERICAN MILK DRIVE: Club members were apprised of the fact that a series of TV ads has begun for “The Great American Milk Drive,” which will be the recipient in June of donations made to our “Pocket Change” jug. (There already is more than $100 in the jug.) As noted earlier, a brief video on our website explains more about the project.

ROTARY HOME COOKING: Terry Brewer, coordinator of the program, announced that four of the home-based dinners have been spoken for. The Forths will host a sauerbraten dinner on Saturday, November 8; Pat Bailey will be hosting a “Chile Night” in February 2015; the Dowds will host “A Night In Casablanca” on Saturday, March 21, 2015, and Jim Leyhane, A.J. Amato and Roberto Martinez will host a dinner at Roberto’s house featuring a professional chef sometime in April 2015. That means we still have openings for this month and January 2015.


NEXT MEETING: 6:15 p.m. Thursday,, October 23, with Roberto Martinez presenting program on “A Visit to Graceland.


Karachi’s polio vaccinators in the crosshairs

Uzma Islam, right, says she tries to address the concerns of those who refuse the vaccine. (Al Jazeera photo: Asad Hashim)

Uzma Islam, right, says she tries to address the concerns of those in Pakistan who refuse the polio vaccine. (Al Jazeera photo: Asad Hashim)

By ASAD HASHIM
Al Jazeera

PakiChartKARACHI, PAKISTAN — Sitting at his worktable in a ramshackle hut in one of Karachi’s poorest districts, Muhammad Aslam makes clothes for a living. The 17-year-old never went to school, but has been a tailor since he was 12, making about $20 a month from sewing men’s shalwar kurtas — a traditional dress.

“I can walk on it, but it hurts. My leg is wasted away from the knee down,” he says, steadying his left knee with his hand as he leads me through the dusty, labyrinthine streets to his home.

Aslam is one of hundreds of people in Pakistan who suffer from polio, a crippling virus that attacks the body’s central nervous system.

In the last 25 years, worldwide polio cases have dropped by 99%, but the highly contagious disease, which is passed on through infected water and food contaminated with the feces of an infected person and thrives in areas with poor sanitation and incomplete vaccination efforts, remains endemic in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria.

Of those, it is Pakistan that remains the most at risk, suffering 202 cases this as of October 7, compared to just 10 in Afghanistan and six in Nigeria, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

It is an alarming uptick from the 93 cases reported in total last year, and the 58 cases in 2012, as Pakistan’s efforts to control the disease appeared to finally be bearing fruit.


“This disease ruins a person’s life. The people who don’t give their children these drops, they must be idiots.”
Muhammad Aslam, 17, polio victim


While the lack of uniform hygiene standards is one reason for the disease’s spread, health workers told Al Jazeera the biggest issue in Pakistan is opposition to vaccination by parents — often with the “justification” that the vaccine is part of a conspiracy to sterilize Muslims, as advocated by the Pakistani Taliban — and subsequent attacks on polio vaccination workers.

While the majority of Pakistan’s polio cases are found in the tribal areas, where the government writ is tenuous and the Pakistani Taliban hold sway over large areas, that ideology has been exported to other parts of the country, too, creating reservoirs where the disease can spread across geographical boundaries.

Nowhere is the threat more visible than here in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, and one where a complex mix of ethnic, political and religious conflicts has resulted in a city where violence itself is endemic.

“(The Taliban) have been living in some areas, engaging in criminal activities and killing polio vaccinators,” says Aziz Memon, chairman of Pakistan’s national Polio Plus committee, referring to the Karachi areas of Sohrab Goth, Baldia, Landhi, and Bin Qasim, where even police officials told Al Jazeera they often feared to tread.

“Now if you start killing people, then (vaccinators) will not be able to go there. When they are not able to go there, it will become a polio reservoir.”

The threats from Karachi-based groups allied with the Pakistani Taliban is based on a perception that the polio vaccination drops administered to children are meant to harm them as part of “a foreign conspiracy.”

This perception was only strengthened by the American CIA’s use of Dr. Shakil Afridi during a similar immunization drive in the city of Abbottabad to ascertain the location of Osama bin Laden, polio workers say, citing arguments made by those who refuse to take the vaccine.

“No one used to care about the conspiracy theories before Dr. Shakil Afridi, but now people have started caring. And they have started creating fear by killing vaccinators,” says Memon.

Since July 2012, 58 people have been killed in attacks on polio vaccination teams in Pakistan, including at least 24 health workers, according to data compiled by UNICEF. In the latest attack, on September 10, in the tribal area of Bajaur, a paramilitary soldier who was providing security to a team was killed by a group of masked gunmen.

“We take our lives in our hands when we work in these areas, the danger is very high,” says Mashook Ali, 20, a polio vaccinator who works in the Quaid-e-Azam Colony area of Karachi, “but we do this for the children so they are saved from the virus.”

Vaccination teams in Karachi are often deployed with security cover from the police. On Monday, a four-day polio vaccination drive in Karachi kicked off amid tight security. But vaccinators said police protection was often more superficial than meaningful.

“We have seen incidents where vaccinators have been fired upon, especially in Pashtun areas, where we work, so we do feel afraid,” says Saddam Hussain, 18, another vaccinator. “But we do this work for the betterment of Pakistan. We have made an oath to eliminate polio from Pakistan.”

Reports of polio cases in Karachi coincide with the areas of influence of the Taliban, according to police officials with whom Al Jazeera spoke. It is in these areas that environmental samples consistently test positive for the virus, too, according to the WHO data.

Karachi is the only Pakistani city, other than Peshawar, where such environmental tests consistently bring up positive results for polio, according to the data.

Sheraz Aslam, a coordinator for polio vaccination efforts in Karachi, says, “There are areas where you cannot go at all. If they want vaccinations there, they have to come outside their area, to us.”

Waqar Gill, 19, an area coordinator for vaccination efforts in an area under threat, said that the vaccinators are more concerned about refusals, however, than the threat of attack.

“Those who refuse say that the vaccine reduces male potency, or that it is a US conspiracy. Some even say it is made from the urine of foreigners,” said Hussain.

Gill added that there were also concerns about short-term ill-effects as a result of the vaccinations, which immunize children by giving them a very small dose of the infection. Those who refuse say that the vaccine reduces male potency, or that it is a US conspiracy. Some even say it is made from the urine of foreigners.

The lack of immunization coverage, combined with the influence of the Taliban and the constant flow of migrants into the city has turned Karachi into a reservoir for the disease, says Memon, which is of major concern in terms of worldwide polio eradication efforts.

“From (the remote province of) North Waziristan, when these terrorists went to Syria, they move with their families,” he said, pointing to the detection of a Pakistani strain of polio in Syria last year. “Until you do not achieve total elimination, the whole world is unsafe. Because the virus is just a flight away.”

While country-wide coverage rates for Pakistan’s polio immunization drives are relatively high, they remain far from perfect, with an average of 11 percent of children being missed in vaccination drives, either due to security reasons or refusals, according to the WHO. In Karachi, that number stands at 21%.

“If the community is willing to hold a dialogue with you, then you can ask them, and perhaps even convince them [to allow vaccinations],” says Azfar Ali, the country manager for PolioPlus. “But in certain areas of Karachi, like Sohrab Goth, you can’t even talk about it. Militants are like kings there.”

Aslam, the tailor, lives in an area where there are a large number of migrants from the South Waziristan tribal area, and, consequently, a large number of refusals.

“I feel like if I had gotten the drops, then today I would be able to walk, I’d be able to play. I feel like I am less than these other kids,” he says.

“This disease ruins a person’s life. The people who don’t give their children these drops, they must be idiots.”


What young professionals want from Rotary

Rotary members who attended the Young Professionals Summit in Chicago.

Rotary members who attended the Young Professionals Summit in Chicago.

By Chris Davidson
Rotary Club of Newport News, VA

I attended the first-ever Rotary Young Professionals Summit recently held in Chicago, which gathered 30 Rotarians under the age of 40 to discuss how Rotary can better attract and engage young professionals.

The summit was a huge success and thoroughly captured the essence of what Millennials and members of Generation Y are looking for: Mentorship, friendship, opportunities, and fun.

Joining Rotary as a 32-year-old young professional was a life-changing event. I knew I wanted to develop my leadership skills and was looking for ways to meet influential members of my community.

Once I was exposed to Rotary, I realized the best way to develop relationships with successful people was to work alongside them in the service of others. One year after joining the Rotary Club of Newport News, I traveled to Zambia as part of a grant to build footbridges in remote “limited access” communities.

Rotary offers so much to young people who have the desire to help others, make connections, and learn servant leadership in a world that desperately needs more of that.

The Young Professionals Summit took place in an unconventional meeting space in downtown Chicago, furnished with coffeehouse-style seating and optimized for creative thought. For two days, we engaged in a variety of brainstorming exercises, interactive games, and small-group activities, concluding each with a facilitated discussion. Ideas were documented live on large white boards by a professional sketch artist.

Common themes that emerged included:

• Young professionals are not opposed to joining a club with older members, but they are seeking clubs with a broader range of members that reflect many different categories of diversity.

• Millennials and members of Generation Y want to do significant acts of service that make a real difference in the lives of others.

• Young professionals are appreciative of the business and mentorship opportunities they experience through Rotary. However, they do not feel these benefits, and others, are being marketed effectively to their generation.
The younger crowd is looking for a fun, flexible experience with Rotary and prefers to avoid stuffy traditions, rituals, and internal politics.

As one of my new friends, Adam Barth from North Carolina, said, “Rotary should be a verb, not a noun.”


Rotary Women of Action honored at White House

Tina Tchen, an assistant to President  Obama and chief of staff to Michelle Obama, thanks the Rotary honorees for their humanitarian work. (Photo: Alyce Henson)

Tina Tchen, an assistant to President Obama and chief of staff to Michelle Obama, thanks the Rotary honorees for their humanitarian work. (Rotary Photo: Alyce Henson)

From Rotary International News Service

WASHINGTON, DC — Senior Rotary leaders gathered Tuesday at the White House to honor 10 women for their service projects, an event attended by several members of the president’s staff.

[Editor's Note: President Barrack Obama was not in attendance. He was on a fundraising tour, this time in California with a stop at actress Gywneth Paltrow's house.]

The Rotary members presented their projects, in hopes of creating new inroads for government partnerships and support.

“This is recognition of the great work that they do but also serves as a great vehicle to inspire others to do similar kinds of things,” said Rotary General Secretary John Hewko. “One of the things we’re doing a better job of is sharing our story to the non-Rotary world.”

The honorees were selected by Rotary senior leaders and endorsed by the White House from clubs around the U.S. but their projects touch lives across the globe.

Carolyn Jones, of Anchorage, AK, has served numerous times as a Rotary volunteer in Russia, three of them as a preschool teacher for developmentally delayed children in orphanages. During her presentation she lamented hearing about a child sold for a bottle of vodka, and vowed to use her honor as a stepping stone to save more lives.

Jacqueline Parsons, a licensed professional counselor from San Antonio, TX, works on projects in her community and abroad, including the FLAG (Fitness, Literacy, Attendance, and Grades) program, which provides incentives to students to go to school, including bikes, sports equipment, and other items.

Ginger Vann, from Baker, LA, coordinates tutoring for at-risk students. With the help of her club, she renovated an uninhabitable school building, and worked with tutors to reach 50 students each day. She’s also passionate about workforce development in Baker, where well-paying craftsman jobs often go unfilled. “We just don’t have enough craft workers, people who are certified to do the jobs,” she said.

Michelle Candland, from San Diego, CA, works with Monarch High, an alternative school designed for homeless children. “Right now there are over 1.3 million homeless kids on the street in America. That’s more than there are Rotarians around the world,” said Candland. “Twenty thousand of those kids are in San Diego alone. How can a child focus on school if their tummies are growling, their shoes don’t fit, and they don’t even know where they are going to be sleeping the next day? It takes an entire community to work together to solve this problem.”

Jane Winning, a registered nurse from Chowchilla, CA, has provided immunizations and health exams to more than 2,500 people in need across Mexico, Honduras, Ecuador, and Guatemala. She also has worked with Rotaplast International to provide free cleft lip and palate reconstructive surgery to those who cannot afford it. “A gentleman was 65 years old and he said, ‘I can kiss my wife for the first time,'” Winning said of the man post-surgery. “Those are incredible experiences you don’t get to share every day.”

Carol Butler, also from Anchorage, AK, highlighted two projects. The first is a statewide suicide prevention plan. According to Butler, Alaska has the highest rate of suicide per capita in the nation. The public awareness plan educates Rotary members and Alaska residents to recognize the warning signs of someone in crisis. She also talked about her club’s partnership with the Alaska Mission of Mercy, a collective of dentists, staff, and other volunteers who provide free dental services throughout the state. “Dental care is a gateway to good health,” says Butler. “There’s an increasing problem nationwide with people seeking dental care in emergency rooms.”

Elizabeth Usovicz, of Shawnee Mission, KS, has worked on service projects in Missouri as well as abroad. In Malawi, she helped to reduce the rate of malaria deaths by 65 to 70% in less than a year by supplying the community with mosquito bed nets.

Deepa Willingham, of Solvang, CA, is the founder and chair of Promise of Assurance to Children Everywhere (PACE), an organization that educates girls and their mothers, and works to prevent child trafficking and early marriage in India.

Marion Bunch, of Atlanta, GA, is the CEO of Rotarians for Family Health and AIDS Prevention. She has received numerous awards on behalf of her work for AIDS, and considers herself a mom who represents the face of AIDS because she started her work after losing her son to the disease in 1994. “Because of that one single tragedy, my life’s journey changed dramatically from a very engaged business woman to a warrior on AIDS and advocate of human rights,” Bunch said. As a result of her leadership, in April some 343,660 people received health care, medical checkups, and counseling from 8,150 Rotary volunteers during Rotary Family Health Days across Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, and South Africa.

Bernadette Blackstock, of Franklinville, NJ, has turned her love of service into a career, launching the People for People Foundation, which assists families struggling with financial hardships. To date, the foundation has helped some 10,000 families afford food, clothing, rent, utilities, medications, and other life necessities. “Our combined mission today is not only to provide small grants but to serve as advocates for our families and provide life-skill training and mentoring and case management where needed.”