We kicked off the month with our Annual Richard D. King Area 3 Speech Contest. I love this event because the content of the speeches and the quality of the speakers never cease to amaze me! I found myself saying after each speaker, “This is the winner!” but in reality, they are all winners. Our Youth Service Director, Dirk Lorenz did an outstanding job in putting the event together. I look forward to seeing the finalist on May 1 at our District Conference and am again prepared to be blown away by the talent!
For the month of March I had the honor of naming Rotarian of the Month – Don Cole. Don’s diligence and attention to details when it comes to the club’s finances are a key component of why Niles Rotary runs like a well-oiled machine! I know that the club’s finances will stay “on track” with Don’s eyes on the books!
We inducted new member Kimberly MacFarlane into the club with husband Steve and son Kyle present. It is bittersweet having Kimberly as a new member. We lost member (61 years) Don Amsbaugh last month, but are blessed to keep the connection of Joy Amsbaugh through her son Steve, who is Kimberly’s husband. Kimberly continued the new tradition of jumping right into her new role as a Rotarian by giving her Ice Breaker immediately after being inducted into the club! Another great addition to Niles Rotary!!!
At the request of District 5170, Foundation chair Ray Pedersen announced the Polio Plus “Flash” campaign asking every Rotarian to contribute $30 to Polio Plus, which would in turn be matched 2-1 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation so the total donation would be $90! When Ray asked who wanted to give $30, every hand in the room went up! Another proud Rotary moment!!!
Author Gisele Zebreoski talked about the Berlin Airlift in 1948, which delivered tons of supplies and saved thousands of lives. Ms. Zebreoski also spoke of some of the historical background that led to the Iron Curtain and the Cold War.
And what a surprise it was for me when Dirk wheeled in a huge birthday cake, complete with balloons as a celebration for my birthday! Thank you!!
One of the highlights of our next meeting was the Ice Breaker of Aggie Freeman where she recounted her experience of visiting the all men’s Rotary Club of Hasselt Belgium. An enthusiastic Red Badge holder, Aggie made contact with the President of the club and gave them a big surprise when they learned that she was a female Rotarian!
Our program featured Irvington High School senior, Zainab Khan, who spoke of her experience of growing up Muslim in America. Her IHS Quest Project advisor, Jack Weinstein, interviewed her about her project and experience. What a poised young woman!
Web designer Lisa Stambaugh, whose company is Collective Discovery, showed us our wonderful new website – it’s excellent! The site is so rich, with articles on our club history, the complete texts of our two 25 year history books, a list of all our club presidents, and more. It shows off very nicely the personality of Niles Rotary! And it is kept up to date with photos and blogs of our projects and activities, sometimes just minutes after the completion of the activity. Kudos to the team, led by Paul Andrus, who has made this website a reality.
And I had the honor of presenting a special acknowledgement pin to Rich Godfrey – Acts of Kindness pin for his helping a club member with house and yard work that she’d not been able to do.
For the last meeting of the month PE Angus was at the helm while Audrey Kearns and I headed down to Monterrey Mexico, and from what I have heard of the sneak peak of 2016-2017 we are in for a fun year! Although I missed out on Angus’s meeting, I experienced the trip of a lifetime traveling to Monterrey Mexico with 28 other Rotarians from Districts 5170, 5160 and 5370. We were led by RI Zone 26 & 27 Director Brad Howard of Howard Tours, who has been on multiple trips to Monterrey. Trip highlights included making new friends with wonderful Rotarians from the Monterrey clubs of Santa Caterina, Nuevo Lion, and others in the area, participating in hands-on projects with other Rotarians, and ultimately helping to assemble and give out 350 wheelchairs that our District 5170 provided to those in need. It was an incredibly emotional and heartwarming experience that I hope to participate in again.
When we came out of customs in Monterrey we were greeted by a large group of wonderful Rotarians from several of the Monterrey area clubs. Many of our new friends joined us for dinner at our hotel the first night.
Day 2 – We had a group tour of Monterrey. At 12:30 we arrived for the lunch meeting of Nuevo Lions where we were enjoyed a wonderful lunch and Brad Howard was the guest speaker. Afterwards we were assigned groups and went out to visit some of the different projects that the host clubs were supporting. I visited the Red Cross facility, which the Santa Catarina club initially started to fundraise for in 2004, partnering with several clubs in District 5160 for matching DDF grants to build what was then a vision. Today this Red Cross facility successfully services many people in its district of Monterrey.
Day 3 – My group went to the hands on project at Comun Atie, a center that provides therapy for young adults with schizophrenia. It was a very special place where we learned from the clients how to make recycled paper into beautiful new paper that is used for book covers and invitations among a host of other things. The clients also do silk screening, sewing and embroidery of items to be sold for a donation to help run the center.
Day 4 (Saturday) – This was the highlight of the trip – the Wheelchair distribution. It was nothing short of an amazing experience. The anticipation was high as we rode on the bus from the hotel to the gymnasium to take on the job that we had come thousands of miles to do. We were greeted by many smiling faces and 350 boxes of wheelchairs waiting to be assembled. Brad Howard called us all together to give a quick demonstration of how to assemble the wheelchairs and then we were off in our self appointed groups! It was amazing! We started at 9am and by 10am, with the unexpected help of a dozen enthusiastic Youth Exchange students, all the wheelchairs were assembled in record time! The Rotary clubs of Monterrey were well versed in the distribution process of giving out the wheelchairs. People were called by number, lined up, the wheelchair size determined, and the individual placed in the wheelchair with a Rotarian from our group wheeling them to an are to take a picture in their new set of wheels. There were many tears of joy shed that day. Again, I look forward to reliving this experience and hope that every Rotarian will have the opportunity to experience participating in a project like this. Yet another reason I love being a Rotarian!
Day 5 – Early breakfast and off to the airport to head home! We had a jam packed itinerary and it all went by so quickly.
I can’t believe how much we did this past month and how fast it all went by. The reality of my presidency coming to an end is starting to set in. The count down has begun, 12 more weeks, but I will be in Seoul Korea for 2 weeks for the Rotary International Convention, so I will actually have only 10 more meetings to preside over. We have the Reverse Raffle coming up this weekend, as well as many social activities and community projects, and we will be wrapping up our membership drive, so I am very excited for what the next several weeks have in store for Niles Rotary!
Until next month…..
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