Meeting of 4/16/15: ‘Safe Passage’ in Guatemala

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Meeting at Quigley’s Restaurant
593 Columbia Turnpike
East Greenbush
April 16, 2015

Attending (13): Bill Dowd, April Dowd, Murray Forth, Pat Bailey, Jim Leyhane, Peter Brown, Debbie Brown, Stewart Wagner, Ray Hannan, Dick Drumm, Roberto Martinez, Debbie Rodriguez, Charlie Foote.

Guests (4): Rose Reed, Mindy and Will Whisenhunt, Elma DeFazio.

PROGRAM: The “Safe Passage” project

Mindy Whisenhut on site.

Mindy Whisenhut on site.

Pat Bailey introduced three guests from the “Safe Passage” project: Mindy Whisenhunt, a Spanish teacher from Niskayuna, her son Will, and Columbia High School student Rose Reed.

In July, they will be among 22 people from the Capital Region traveling to Guatemala as part of the Camino Seguro (Safe Passage) program — Mindy for the sixth time, Will for the third, Rose for the first.

Safe Passage stemmed from a visit in August 1997 by Hanley Denning, who had been teaching in North Carolina but wanted to learn Spanish to better communicate with her Spanish-speaking students. Upon arriving in Guatemala, she began volunteering with children and adults living in small towns near the city of Antigua.

She ended up staying for two years and, as she was about to return home, was taken to Guatemala City by a friend who showed her the slums in the capital city adjacent to an immense garbage dump. Many of the people were farmers who had come down from the hills to escape ongoing guerrilla warfare there. Lacking other skills, they began recycling everything they could from the dump as a way to make a living.

The changing scene at the dump over the years.

The changing scene at the dump over the years.

Will Whisenhunt working on early literacy education

Will Whisenhunt working on early literacy education.

What many families told Denning they wanted most was an education for their children as a way to improve their futures.

She sold all her possessions and, armed with $5,000 raised that way, established Camino Seguro in Guatemala City.

The program has grown to assist children and families who live in the area of the dump with educational support, medical supplies, nutritious meals, and career counseling. The program works with adults to teach reading and writing skills and develop alternative streams of income.

Rose Reed

Rose Reed

Today, Safe Passage holds a four-star rating, the highest, from Charity Navigator, America’s top  independent charity evaluator.

The local group — 17 students and five adults — our visitors will be part of will be working with elementary and middle school students during their nine-day July stay. They also will host a quinceanera for 19 young women. A  quinceanera is a festive, and sometimes lavish, celebration that introduces 15-year-old girls to womanhood, an important milestone in Latin culture. Because of the poverty in Guatemala, many girls have to forego this rite of passage. Safe Passage helps by purchasing dresses, shoes and other items.

Locally, the Safe Passage participants meet monthly for in-depth training,  especially important for first-timers.The upcoming trip requires $50,000 for such costs as security — which is key to safety — and local transportation, even though participants pay their own airfare, food and lodging costs. To date, $44,000 has  been raised.

Our guests were told that SRC will help at some level. after discussion among Board members.


ROTARY HOME COOKING: President Bill Dowd announced that the final dinner in the series was a success, with 18 guests enjoying a meal at Roberto Martinez’s home prepared by professional chef Andrew Plummer. The event raised nearly $1,000 for the club treasury, with the expense of the evening underwritten by sponsors Roberto, Jim Leyhane, Bill, Carole Spencer and A.J. Amato.

SOCIAL EVENT: Five club members — Bill, Murray Forth, Terry Brewer, Debbie and Peter Brown — attended a social event for clubs from Areas 8 and 9 on Tuesday at the Fairways at Halfmoon. Thirteen clubs were represented, with 81 Rotarians and guests in attendance.

RYLA: Bill said he had sent an e-mail to coordinator Nick George concerning a different approach to soliciting enrollment in the 2015-16 Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) program. Because we had zero response from the five high schools in our service area — Columbia, Maple Hill, Rensselaer, Averill Park and Troy — for the 2014-15 program, Bill suggested that Nick contact them directly rather than having the club do it again. Hearing from the group that provides the training might be a stronger attraction for the schools. All schools received electronic copies of the RYLA brochure and a letter explaining the no-cost participation of schools, twice, for 2014-15. Bill’s letter provided Nick with names and contact information at each school. He said the club would again agree to underwrite the enrollment fees for up to four students from our service area.

DISTRICT CONFERENCE: District Governor-elect Milan Jackson has sent a reminder to all clubs that volunteers are needed for construction projects that are part of the conference in Schoharie County in May. Twenty professional contractors have volunteered to lead teams of Rotarians in doing painting, sheet rocking, etc. He noted that much damage remains from the flooding disaster in the county several years ago, and FEMA has been very slow to help. Details about the full conference and registration information are available on our website.

MIRACLE LEAGUE: The Capital District Miracle League has made its annual appeal for financial assistance. The organization, which serves young people with handicapping conditions enjoy a wide variety of sports, operates its facility in East Greenbush. Murray said his son Jeremy had participated as an athlete for a number of years until “aging out,” and that two others sons, Craig and Brian, participated as coaches. The club will continue financially assisting the league as it has done in the past.

NEXT MEETING: We are off for Thursday, April 23, but will resume meetings at Quigley’s at 6:15 p.m. Thursday, April 30. Len Leonidas has arranged for a representative of the Brain Injury Association of New York State to speak to us.

Everything old is new again

To read the story, click on

To read the story, click here.

Scenes from a Rotary Home Cooking party

Rotary Home Cooking logo 2The last of our 2014-15 Rotary Home Cooking dinners was held Saturday, with 18 guests being tended to by chef Andrew Plummer and his staff.

Our thanks to Roberto Martinez for providing the venue, and to Roberto, Jim Leyhane, Bill Dowd, Carole Spencer and A.J. Amato for financially sponsoring the dinner. It raised about $1,000 for the club treasury.

Here are a few scenes from the event:

Chef Andrew Plummer getting started with his preparations.

Chef Andrew Plummer getting started with his preparations.

The guests, modestly posing, anxiously awaiting dinner.

The guests, modestly posing while anxiously awaiting the start of dinner.

Or, seen from another angle.

Or, seen from another angle.

Chef Andrew and his staff.

Chef Andrew and his staff.

Great American Milk Drive nears an end

The official donation jar.

The official donation jar.

We have just nine (9) meetings remaining at which you can donate to our annual “Pocket Change for … ” fundraiser.

As you know, this year’s money will go to support The Great American Milk Drive, which helps food pantries supply milk to families in need.

This project is an excellent supplement to our regular contributions to local food pantries, so come to the meetings with your pockets jingling and leave with them silent. It will be greatly appreciated.

The final count will be announced at the June 25 Presidential Changeover meeting. Whoever guesses closest to the amount will receive a free meal at our first September gathering. Jim Butterworth is the defending champion in that activity.

Meeting of 4/9/15: UAlbany Community Engagement

Picture 3Meeting at Quigley’s Restaurant
593 Columbia Turnpike
East Greenbush
April 2, 2015

Attending (13): Bill Dowd, Murray Forth, Shannon Romanowski, Debbie Rodriguez, Carol Orvis, Len Leonidas, Stewart Wagner, Dick Drumm, Debbie Brown, Peter Brown, Roberto Martinez, Ray Hannan, Jim Butterworth.

Guests (2): Speaker Dan Butterworth, David Taylor.

PROGRAM: UAlbany’s Community Engagement

Speaker Dan Butterworth

Speaker Dan Butterworth

Jim Butterworth introduced his son, Dan, who is program director of community engagement at the University at Albany, working out of the university president’s office.

Dan opened his remarks by noting his attachment to Rotary. This club paid for his first trip abroad, to England in 1996, for a study program.

He referred to his office’s work as “local to global,” meaning that it endeavors to create relationships between the university with local businesses and organizations, and to nurture existing ones.

“We work to bring down the walls of the ivory tower,” he said. “Instead of doing things to and for the commuity, we’re doing things with the community.”

He cited as examples of the numerous efforts:

• A professional development program that, since 1976, has trained hundreds of thousands of public employees in state, county and New York City agencies;

• An emphasis on emerging issues in the non-profit sector that builds capacity in the region’s non-profit organizations to improve program and service delivery;

• The Small Business Development Center that, since 1984, has served more than 21,750 businesses, helping them invest more than $346 million in the area’s economy and creating or saving nearly 11,000 jobs;

• The ongoing work of the  Capital Area School Development Association (CASDA), founded in 1949, that serves 110 school districts with professional development programs. (Both Jim Butterworth and Terry Brewer work at CASDA.)

Dan encouraged us to spread the word about the university’s many different efforts and to contact him with an ideas that he can bring to the attention of specialists throughout the UAlbany community.


MEMBERSHIP: President Bill Dowd welcomed David Taylor, guest of Ray Hannan. David has expressed interest in learning more about Rotary to become a potential member.

SCHEDULING: As mentioned the last few weeks, we still need someone to step up to take over the task of program scheduling for the 2015-16 Rotary Year. Bill said he will be glad to work with whoever succeeds him in that effort. And, a reminder to everyone: please check the program chart on the club website and be sure you have arranged your programs so you can get the details to him ASAP.

SCHOLARSHIP: Our annual Rotary Scholarship Composition Competition did not elicit much response. We got only two entries by the April 1 deadline – one each from Troy and Tamarac high schools — despite repeated requests to principals, superintendents and guidance counselors at Columbia, Maple Hill, Averill Park and Rensselaer high schools to inform students of the opportunity.  Bill said that even though the two entries do not constitute a competitive field, since the students submitted in good faith we should award each of them a $500 scholarship. The consensus was to do so.

SHELTERBOX: We have just over $3,000 to contribute to our annual ShelterBox drive — $2,000 from the club treasury and the remainder from three members. Treasurer Murray Forth will send our check to the District 7190 ShelterBox coordinators, Jack and Nancy Faddegon. Each ShelterBox costs $1,000.

MEDIA: A video has been posted on the club’s website and Facebook page the club would like members to share via social media. It is an 87-second compilation explaining what RI is and does.

HONORS: Shannon Romanowski informed members that each member Y in the Capital Region is honoring one person for their contributions, and all will be recognized at a Thursday, April 23, dinner event. Our own Murray Forth is being honored by the Greenbush YMCA. (Note: Because numerous members will be attending that event and several others will not be available for a club meeting, we will not schedule an SRC meeting on April 23 due to lack of a quorum.)

PARTYGOERS: District Governor Dave Hennel is hosting a social event and all-yo-care-to-eat buffet for clubs from Areas 8 and 9 (we’re part of 8) at 6 p.m. next Tuesday at the Fairways in Clifton Park. At least five SRC members have said they plan to attend — Bill Dowd, Murray Forth, Terry Brewer, Debbie Brown and Peter Brown.

NEXT MEETING: 6:15 p.m. Thursday, April 16, at Quigley’s. Pat Bailey has arranged for Columbia High School student Rose Reed to speak on the “Safe Passage” program.

A chance to donate, at no cost, while dining

Screen shot 2015-04-09 at 10.37.37 AMIf you’re planning on going out for some Italian food next week, here’s a chance to donate while dining at no extra cost.

The American Heart Association’s “Heart Walk” will benefit from people dining at Moscatiello’s Italian Family Restaurant. The Troy restaurant will donate 20% of the total bill from both dine-in and takeout customers from 5 to 8 p.m. next Wednesday, April 15. So, the donation won’t cost you a penny. The only string attached is that you need to present a printout copy of the flyer below to trigger the restaurant’s automatic donation.

Moscatiello’s is located at 99 North Greenbush Road (Route 4) near Hudson Valley Community College. Phone: 283-0809.

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Share this: 87 seconds to tell people what Rotary is

Our Scout Troop 41 on a dizzying pace

Troop 41's official portrait ...

Troop 41’s official portrait …

Dennis Cicchino, who has been scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 41 for the past 22 years, has provided us with an update on what has been going on with the Scouts for the past year.

His report was tied to an expression of thanks for the SRC Rotary Club’s ongoing financial support over the years and a request for a “campership” to Camp Rotary this summer, at a rate of $440, which the club has granted.

Dennis reports that this past year, the troop and its 16 boys attended:

• Two winter Cabin Campouts in the Adirondacks.
• One district-wide Fall Camporee.
• One full week at summer camp, which allowed 16 boys to earn 74 merit badges plus five partial badges.
• Six Flags Camporee in Jackson, NJ.
• A weekend camporee at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY.
• A weekend encampment at Valley Forge, PA, in January.
• Six kayak and canoe trips in the Adirondacks.
• One food drive for local food pantries, and concurrent bottle drive that helped defray the everyday costs of running troop.
• One parade that was escorted by Troop 41 members.
• Hosted six other troops at an Inter-troop Winter Competition and pizza party.
• A trip to Scout Island on Lake Sacandaga for a “clean the environment” camping trip.
• Attended the New Jersey State Police and National Guard Camporee in New Jersey.
• Attended the Canadian/American Camporee in Canada.

... and its version

… and the not-so-official version.


Meeting of 4/2/15: ‘Advances In Home Technology’

Picture 3Meeting at Quigley’s Restaurant
593 Columbia Turnpike
East Greenbush
April 2, 2015

Attending (17): Bill Dowd, Murray Forth, Pat Bailey, Jim Leyhane, Terry Brewer, A.J. Amato, Geoff Brewer, Jim Butterworth, Peter Brown, Debbie Brown, Charlie Foote, Roberto Martinez, Ray Hannan, Dick Drumm, Stewart Wagner, Carole Spencer, Rommel Tolentino.

Guests (3): Rotarian Richard Hodge, speaker Paul Iannon, guest Willie Widbee.

PROGRAM: “Advances In Home Technology”

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Paul Iannon

Roberto Martinez introduced Paul Iannon, representing Hippo’s Home Entertainment in Stuyvesant Plaza.

Paul is a veteran of more than 30 years in the field, as a marketing representative, in sales, and as a consultant. He began his talk by running through a litany of major advances made in home entertainment technology in recent years, with a focus on recorded music.

“Today,” Paul said, “is the best time for music ever.” He cited as an example a comparison between an acquaintance’s collection of 7,000 vinyl recordings kept in a huge climate-controlled space to a smart phone he displayed, noting “In this little device I can access 17 million songs.”

Screen shot 2015-04-03 at 1.57.54 PMHe also spoke about the “network” most of us can access — any combination of smart phones, iPads, laptop computers, etc. This network, he pointed out, can serve us with better access to information from virtually anywhere to such services as NetFlix, iTunes, Sirius Satellite Radio and more. Compare this to such providers as Time Warner Cable which uses modems that are not state of the art yet cost much more than competing services with better equipment.

Paul said we can upgrade our home service by purchasing better-quality routers than those provided by cable companies, although he cautioned against buying cut-rate routers which would do little to improve reception quality. And, he said the term “wireless router” is a misnomer, since some wiring is required, but that what he referred to as a “stable router” would be a better investment by providing equal quality building-wide.

He advised reeducating ourselves on how to use all of our “network” devices, through which we can access more music, movies and programming, “talk” to our household appliances, home security systems and banking transactions, among other possibilities.

During a Q&A session, Terry Brewer suggested considering a “how-to” training session as a Rotary-sponsored event that would help people achieve some of the things Paul said are possible.


• President Bill Dowd welcomed the guests.

• Ray Hannan shared with attendees that his daughter, stationed with the U.S. Air Force in South Korea, has been selected as “Noncommissioned Officer of the Year for the Pacific Region.”

• Bill announced that Debbie Brown has volunteered to take over the duties of menu planning and dinner meeting reservations from him as of July 1. He reminded us a volunteer still is needed to handle the program planning duties.

• The club will purchase three (3) ShelterBoxes this year, two from the club treasury and one courtesy of a $1,000 contribution by Bill and April. Bill asked anyone who wishes to purchase a ShelterBox or contribute toward the $1,000-per-box cost to please contact treasurer Murray Forth right away because our contribution will be sent in within a few days.

• Richard Hodge, fellow Rotarian and a member of the Gift of Life Board, greeted the club and spoke about the April 14 multi-club meeting being planned for the Fairways at Halfmoon. The event will be hosted by District Governor Dave Hennel, and the cost is just $15 per person, It is planed as a social get-together with what Rich termed “a big surprise” at the conclusion. Bill and Murray said they will attend, and Bill asked others to come forward, especially since Dave Hennel has attended a number of our club’s events. Rich also said he is working with Bill to arrange a date to make a presentation on our recent GOL child as well as the district’s latest medical mission.

• Murray read an update from Boy Scout Troop 41, outlining its activities for the past year, thanking our club for its ongoing financial support, and requesting underwriting of a camping scholarship. Bill said the club will continue to support the troop financially. (See separate posting on this website about the Scouts’ report.)

• Terry Brewer reminded members of the Blue Star Mothers’ annual Blue Jean Ball, scheduled for April 18. Reservation deadline is April 11, and anyone interested should contact Debbie Rodriguez. Reservations are $20 each. Terry said he will propose during his presidential year that the club provide some support to the Blue Star Mothers organization as a way to serve veterans in the community.

NEXT MEETING: 6:15 p.m. Thursday, April 9, at Quigley’s. The program will be on the University at Albany’s efforts in community engagement.

ShelterBox pledges being sought

Screen shot 2015-03-28 at 2.12.07 PMThe Southern Rensselaer County Rotary Club budgeted $1,000 in this Rotary Year to fund a pair of scholarships for the Rotary Scholarship Composition competition. However, we have received zero entries.

So, the $1,000 will be rolled into the line-item budget commitment to ShelterBox. That increases the amount to $3,000.

In addition, Bill and April Dowd have personally pledged $1,000 toward ShelterBox, meaning the club now has funds to purchase four (4) of them @ $1,000 each.

Anyone else who wishes to contribute toward that project should contact Bill no later than the April 2 meeting because we want to get the club check sent to the District 7190 ShelterBox coordinators right away.

SRC has long been a strong supporter of the ShelterBox humanitarian aid program and recently received recognition from the program during the annual Rotary Day at the United Nations.

For newer members who may not be steeped in knowledge about ShelterBox, information is available by clicking here.