Meeting of 11/20/14: Welcoming a new Rotarian

Our newest Rotarian, Shannon Romanowski, is flanked by inductor Jim Leyhane and President Bill Dowd.

Shannon Romanowski, is flanked by inductor Jim Leyhane (left) and President Bill Dowd after she officially became our newest Rotarian.

Picture 3Meeting at Burden Lake Country Club
Averill Park
November 20, 2014

Attending (15): Bill Dowd, April Dowd, Murray Forth, Pat Bailey, Jim Leyhane, Peter Brown, Debbie Brown, Terry Brewer, A.J. Amato, Ray Hannan, Jim Mendrysa, Shannon Romanowski, Carole Spencer, Stewart Wagner, Roberto Martinez.

Guests (5): Bill Nathan (Albany Club), Laurie Mendrysa, Jeremy Forth, two guests of Carole Spencer.


Terry Brewer describes how to use the golf simulator for the putting contest.

Terry Brewer describes how to use the golf simulator for the putting contest.

• The meeting began with a demonstration of the Burden Lake Country Club’s three golf simulators, giving everyone a chance to try the game and experience golf indoors. Shannon Romanowski won the closest-to-the-pin putting contest, edging Jim Mendrysa by about four inches. These are the same simulators that will be used for our three Winter Simulated Golf Tournaments this winter.

• President Bill introduced Past District Governor Bill Nathan from the Albany Rotary Club. He invited us to join his club at its Rotary Holiday Luncheon & Auction on December 3. The event will be held at the American Legion Hall, 4 Everett Road, Albany, the new meeting place of his club. Lunch will be at noon, with many auction items to be sold. The event is for the benefit of Gift of Life. Reservations may be sent to

• Jim Leyhane formally inducted Shannon Romanowski to Rotary membership. He explained to her that with her official Rotary pin, which he presented to her, she would be welcome at any Rotary club anywhere in the world. Jim spoke about the origins of Rotary, the requirements of membership, and our expectations of new members. In addition to the Rotary pin, he presented Shannon with a Rotary window decal and a “Light Up Rotary” pin  signifying the current Rotary Year slogan. As a member of SRC, Shannon replaces Patrick Ciraulo, her predecessor as director of the East Greenbush YMCA who left our club after a work reassignment moved him out of our area.

NEXT MEETING: No meeting next week because of Thanksgiving. We will meet at 6:15 p.m. Thursday, December 4, at Quigley’s restaurant. Our speakers will be Carolyn Garrison and Fred LeBrun on the topic of “Experiencing Camp Rotary: A Grandparents’ View.”

How has Circles of Mercy impacted the community?

Screen shot 2014-11-15 at 8.05.20 PMSince we began helping Circles of Mercy, the service organization has been very good about letting us know about the number of people in the community it has helped.

We have just given the organization an $800 grant toward its annual “Adopt a Family” project to brighten the holidays for people who otherwise would have very little. In the recent past, numerous club members have delivered carloads of kitchen equipment, household items, toiletries and clothing to the organization’s Catherine’s Closet Thrift Shop in Rensselaer. We also purchased the makings for 14 Easter baskets, which were put together and delivered to Circles by members of Len Leonidas’ Cub Scout group. Some of our members also have made financial contributions.

In his latest comunication, Richard Zazyicki, director of Circles of Mercy, provided this update:

• Catherine’s Closet provided 1,006 clothing grants (484 for adults, 522 for children) plus 170 diaper grants and 73 grants for baby layettes and infant clothing.

• More than 150 children from needy families received backpacks and school supplies at the beginning of this school year. Additional supplies were shared with the Rensselaer City School District, Head Start and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Rensselaer County.

• Nearly 50 low-income families — consisting of 116 children and 51 adults — were adopted at Christmas time and received gifts they may not otherwise have been able to afford.

• Circles of Mercy’s continuing partnership with the IRS, CA$H, AARP and the United Way to provide free income tax preparation service keeps growing. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and AARP Tax-Aide volunteers prepared more than 510 returns. This resulted in a total tax refund (including credits) of $811,000 for our low-income families and senior citizens.

We, the SRC Board, thank all members of the Southern Rensselaer County Rotary Club who have contributed goods and dollars to Circles of Mercy. We, as a club, plan to continue assisting this vital service that reaches into all parts of our service area.

Why we ask you to be involved, not just attend

Chinese ru character for Confucianism.

Chinese ru character for Confucianism.

There actually is a reason we try to get our club members involved in at least some aspect of what we do as a service organization — fundraisers, program assignments, committee work, member recruitment, etc. — rather than limiting themselves to thinking of Rotary only as a weekly dinner club.

These Chinese characters –


– translate from the writings of the Confucian philosopher Xun Zi (circa 312–230 B.C.) to say:

Tell me and I will forget.

Show me and I may remember.

Involve me and I will understand.

That is why we ask you to “Be a Rotarian,” not just “a member of Rotary.”

Ziggy Marley, End Polio Now ambassador, at work

Reggae star Ziggy Marley, an End Polio Now ambassador, is using his skills and popularity to raise awareness and funds to help Rotary International combat polio worldwide.

In this video made for RI’s “Polio Awareness Day” and set to the tune of his song “Personal Revolution,” we see scenes of people stricken with the crippling disease, people volunteering as vaccine distributors despite threats of violence and death from local terrorists who call the medical aid program a Western plot, and the children involved in the program your dollars help support.

Study: Polio cases linked to vaccine mutation

Screen shot 2014-11-15 at 2.49.43 PMCases of polio linked to a mutation from the anti-polio vaccine periodically crop up. Just-released research pinpoints that problem as the cause of at least one outbreak and possibly more than one.

This problem occurs periodically, even though the once global disease has been largely confined to a handful of countries, thanks to a vigorous vaccination program supported mostly by Rotary International, the World Health Organization and the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation.

Vaccination and education are the only tools to eradicate polio. It is a disease that is preventable but incurable. More information on the battle is available by clicking here.

However, The New York Times today reported:

“Scientists of the University of Bonn, together with colleagues from Gabon, are reporting alarming findings: a mutated virus that was able to resist the vaccine protection to a considerable extent was found in victims of an outbreak in the Congo in 2010. The pathogen could also potentially have infected many people in Germany.  

“The polio epidemic in the Congo in 2010 was especially serious — 445 people were verifiably infected, mostly young adults. The disease was fatal for 209 of them. This high mortality rate is surprising. Also important was the fact that many of those affected had apparently been vaccinated. Surveys indicated that half of the patients remembered having received the prescribed three vaccination dosages. To date the vaccination has been considered a highly effective weapon for containing the polioviruses that cause the disease.

“We isolated polio-viruses from the deceased and examined the viruses more closely,” explains Dr. Jan Felix Drexler, who is in the meantime working in the Netherlands. He carried out the study during his employment at the Institute for Virology of the University Hospital of Bonn, Germany, under the supervision of Prof. Christian Drosten, together with his colleagues from Gabon, Dr. Gilda Grard and Dr. Eric Leroy.

“The pathogen carries a mutation that changes its form at a decisive point.”

The result: the antibodies induced by the vaccination can hardly block the mutated virus and render it harmless.

The researchers have examined the success with which the new pathogen evades the immune system. To this purpose, they tested, among others, blood samples from 34 medical students of the University of Bonn. All of them were vaccinated in childhood with the usual methods against polio. And very successfully, as an initial test showed: The antibodies in the blood of the test subjects had no problem combating “normal” polio viruses. The situation was different with the mutated virus; the immune reaction was much weaker here. “We estimate that one in five of our Bonn test subjects could have been infected by the new polio virus, perhaps even one in three,” says Prof. Drosten.

The polio epidemic in the Congo was stopped with a massive vaccination program and hygiene measures. Even the current vaccines thus appear to be good enough to be effective when they are promptly and consistently administered.

The new pathogen is nonetheless a warning: “We can’t afford to sit back and do nothing,” the scientists warn. “We need to further increase the vaccination rate and develop new, more potent vaccines. Only in this way do we have a chance of permanently vanquishing polio.”

Back in October of 2007, The New York Times reported:

“Nigeria is fighting an unusual outbreak of polio caused by mutating polio vaccine, world health authorities say, but the only remedy is to keep vaccinating children there.

“Officials of the World Health Organization fear that news of the outbreak will be a new setback for eradication efforts in northern Nigeria, where vaccinations were halted in 2003 for nearly a year because of rumors that the vaccine sterilized Muslim girls or contained the AIDS virus. During that lull, polio spread to many new countries, although most have snuffed out the small outbreaks that resulted.

Officials deny suggestions that they kept the outbreak, which began last year, a secret, and say that they did not realize until recently that as many as 70 of Nigeria’s last 1,300 polio cases stemmed from a mutant vaccine virus rather than “wild type” virus, which causes most polio.

“It was an oversight on our part,” said Dr. Bruce Aylward, director of the polio eradication campaign for the W.H.O.”

‘Broadway Lights Up Rotary’ at Proctors fete

Rotary Foundation logoThat headline was the theme of Friday night’s Rotary Foundation annual dinner, this year held on the main stage of the Proctors theater complex in Schenectady.

More than 200 people, a record number, attended the fundraiser for the Foundation that offered — in addition to a reverse look at the theater by viewing it from the stage — pop music selections from Switch Point, Dynamic Duo, performing in a high-level box seat during the cocktail hour. Hors d’oeuvres and dinner were served by Mansion Catering. Past District Governor Bob Comins performed his magic act, and cabaret performer Laura Roth entertained with songs, monologues and chit-chat with the audience.

Six people from Southern Rensselaer County — Bill and April Dowd, Peter and Debbie Brown and Murray and guest Maggie Forth — attended in support of the Foundation, the charitable arm of Rotary International. Bill, the Forths and Jim Leyhane were members of the Honorary Committee for their Foundation contributions.

The Foundation is supported solely by contributions from Rotarians and friends. Mary Burch-Macherone of the Glenville Club was chair of the event committee. Southern Rensselaer County was awarded a certificate for its PolioPlus contributions during the year.

Here are a few scenes from the evening:

Mainstage event space from the balcony.

Mainstage event space viewed from the balcony.

'Reverse theater view,' seeing seats from the stage.

‘Reverse theater view,’ seeing seats from the stage.

Musical trio performed from a box seat.

Musical trio performed from a box seat.

A Proctors tradition has cast of major productions signing their customized dressing table. Here, "Phantom."

A Proctors tradition has cast of major productions signing their customized dressing table. Here, “Phantom of the Opera” …

... and here, "Wicked."

… and here, “Wicked.”

‘I love a parade …’

Screen shot 2014-11-14 at 12.24.11 PMThe Schenectady Chamber of Commerce will hold its annual holiday parade on Saturday, November 22.

Rotary has a good opportunity to raise public awareness of our organization because District Governor Dave Hennel is one of the parade grand marshals.

Chamber President Chuck Steiner, a Schenectady Rotarian, has asked that Rotarians plan to line up and march behind the grand marshals, beginning at 4:30 p.m. in the main parking lot of Schenectady County Community College.

The grand marshals are first in the parade, so participating Rotarians would be done within a half-hour of the 5 p.m. start of the parade. They end up around State and Lafayette streets, so if participants would like to leave their cars parked in that area Chuck suggests the parking lot near the old Holiday Inn.


Start spreadin’ the news …


Meeting of 11/13/14: An American teacher in Japan

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

Attending (15): Bill Dowd, Terry Brewer, Murray Forth, Pat Bailey, April Dowd, Jim Leyhane, Peter Brown, Debbie Brown, Jim Butterworth, Debbie Rodriguez, Charlie Foote, Ray Hannan, Len Leonidas, Rommel Tolentino, Stewart Wagner.

Guests (3): Hans Albanese, Lorenzo Murray of the Capital Region Rotary Club, Kayden Leonidas.

Program: An American Teacher in Japan

Hans Albanese speaking: Japanese students are their own building custodians.

Hans Albanese speaking: Japanese students are their own building custodians.

Len Leonidas introduced the speaker, Hans Albanese, his brother-in-law.

Hans spent the past 20 years in Japan, working and teaching there and developing a language curriculum for one high school. He was in charge of several other teachers in the program. He and his family recently moved to the area, and are temporarily living with Len and Jan as they get re-settled.

Hans said his interest in living abroad stemmed, at least in part, from being a Rotary Exchange Student in India. While teaching in Japan, he also was responsible for a sister-school program with an Australian school.

He described the Japanese school system, which resembles the American system although with a slightly longer year. School begins with preschool and kindergarten (1 to 3 years of attendance);  required education stops at ninth grade. High school (grades 10-12) is not mandatory, but about 90% of children do go on after passing a rigorous entrance exam.

Hans showed photos of several schools, including middle schools and high schools. He said some schools require uniforms, but each is different.  Slides also included the school his son and daughter children attended.

He said school-sponsored clubs are very popular among students, and sometimes get more attention from them than their studies do. He said that university study is somewhat the opposite of our system: i.e., here it is comparatively easy to get into college but difficult to complete, while in Japan it is difficult to gain entrance and easy to coast through to graduation. He said he feels this has resulted in declining school reputations.

Tradition is very important in Japan.  Hans spoke about how this affected the schools and how discipline is maintained. Ganbaru, the Japanese word for “diligence” or  hard work,  is an important rule students are expected to adhere to in elementary, junior and high schools. Most kids join groups, clubs and/or sports in their schools and teachers are expected to work with at least one club or sport. This can mean a long day and a school week that is seven days long. Students also are required to take turns with cleaning chores of their schools; there are no custodians and professional cleaners visit each school about twice a year.

“Cram schools” are popular and prepare students for high school and university  entrance exams which are difficult. Hans created the curriculum for his high school and hired his replacement to maintain the program’s level of quality.


Simulator Golf logoMEETING VENUE CHANGE – President Bill reminded the club that the November 20 meeting will be held at Burden Lake Country Club. Shannon Romanowski will be inducted as our newest Rotarian. We also will be given a demonstration of the club’s golf simulators which we will be using for three simulator golf tournament fundraisers this winter. Bill said we’ll have a choice of entrees that night, but we will use the usual RSVP process for making reservations. Need directions? Go to the country club website.

Screen shot 2014-11-14 at 10.54.14 AMHOLIDAY PARTY & BASKET AUCTION: Murray Forth said he and Maggie will host the annual Holiday Party & Basket Auction on Thursday, December 18. The club expresses its joint thanks to the Forths for once again playing host to our horde of revelers.

Screen shot 2014-11-14 at 10.55.54 AMROSE PARADE FLOAT — A reminder that funds are being solicited for the Rotary International Rose Parade float on New Year’s Day. This is a good public relations effort, and any amount is welcome. Simply go to the Float Committee website.

shekterSHELTER BOX UPDATE – We have a first-person report posted on our website updating us on the status of the Philippines a year after the devastating Typhoon Haiyan. … Bill displayed the “Supporting Club” pennant (right) given to our club by the Shelter Box organization during the recent “Rotary Day at the United Nations” event for our strong financial support of the program.

Great American Milk Drive logoPOCKET CHANGE FOR … – Bill reminded everyone to keep supporting our “Pocket Change for …” fundraiser, this year for The Great American Milk Drive. He said for the benefit of anyone who has not viewed the video and text on our website about the Drive that he has updated it and moved it higher on the postings.

Screen shot 2014-11-14 at 11.10.12 AMADOPT A FAMILY – The club’s Board decided to award Circles of Mercy an $800 grant to “adopt” two families for the holidays. The money will be used to purchase modest gifts for several families of four.

Rotary Foundation logoFOUNDATION DINNER – Five club members and a special guest will be attending the Rotary Foundation dinner on Friday at Proctors theater — Bill and April Dowd, Peter and Debbie Brown and Murray and Maggie Forth. Bill, the Forths and Jim Leyhane all are on the event’s Honorary Committee.

Screen shot 2014-11-14 at 11.12.29 AMANNIVERSARY DINNER – Event coordinator Debbie Brown announced that our club’s 55th anniversary dinner has been scheduled for Thursday, March 5, 2015, at the Comfort Inn. It will be catered by Talk of the Town. More details to come. Debbie, April and Ray Hannan are the planning committee.

Rotary Home Cooking logo 2ROTARY HOME COOKING SERIES – Event coordinator Terry Brewer reported that the first dinner, a German sauerbraten feast hosted by the Forths, was a success. (Murray said $340 was raised for the club treasury.) Terry asked members to please check the website to see how many seats remain for each of the upcoming dinners and to contact either him or the hosts to reserve their places. The next dinner will be a New Orleans themed event at the Browns’ residence on Saturday, January 10.

‘Rotary Home Cooking’ reservations sought

Rotary Home Cooking logo 2Here’s the rundown on our 2014-15 “Rotary Home Cooking” dinner series. Check back often as we update the reservation list. Terry Brewer is coordinating the series and he and the hosts are handling the reservations. Please contact them correctly if you wish to attend or if your plans change.

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


• The second event is “Dinner In New Orleans,” to be hosted at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, January 10, by the Browns.


• The third event is “Chili On a Chilly Night,” to be hosted at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, February 21, by Pat Bailey.


• 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 Humphrey Bogart movie “Casablanca,” not the 1946 Marx Brothers film “A Night In Casablanca.”


• 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.