Posted by Michael-jon Pease on Feb 22, 2021
Today’s was the annual joint meeting with Minneaoplis Rotary and 116th Anniversary of Rotary International
President Jason Bradshaw called the meeting to order at 12:15 and gave a special welcome to our three District Governors: Ken Crabb, Joe Kovarik, and Jerry Miegs (who is also former director of the RI board) and to our district Governor nominees: Dayle Quigley (5950) and Lloyd Campbell (5960)

Jireh Mabamba from Minneapolis Rotary and Twin Cites Rotaract led the clubs in the 4-way test and offered the inspirational moment.
Jireh took inspiration from a comment he had heard from RI President Holger Knaack: “We believe that everything we do, big or small, creates opportunity for people who need our help. Everything we do opens another opportunity for someone somewhere.” That someone was me (Jireh) and that somewhere was South Africa. Rotary brought me to the US on a scholarship, leading to my education and to my wife.  That Rotary doorway of opportunity is the reason I am here today.
Featured Program:

Jim Cousins, President, Minneaoplis Rotary introduced our featured speaker, RI President Holger Knaack. Holger has been a Rotary member since 1992. He and his wife Susan have hosted 43 Rotary Youth Exchange Students over the years. The future he sees for Rotary includes more leadership roles for women and the young members in Rotaract.

Holger said he is the first Rotary International President never to set foot in the international office in Evanston, IL since his home in Germany has been in lockdown since March 23, 2020. At least using video conference, he has been able to stay in touch with clubs world-wide. This morning he was “in” Denmark and right after the Saint Paul-Minneapolis meeting he will “go” to California.

New technologies are bringing us a new international closeness and these technologies will stay with us into the future even when we are back together.

Holger is a strong proponent of individual Rotary clubs – they are the foundation and strength of Rotary. He encouraged our clubs to make sure we have at least one strategic meeting each year. What makes our club unique? What is our special added value? Look for prospective members who are a good fit with your club – even those who might not think of themselves as Rotarians.

The doors of opportunities we open are for our members, but also for the community around us. Rotary is about personal growth and becoming better leaders. Becoming a Rotarian really broadened my perspective.

What is the status of future conventions?
2021 will be a virtual convention. 2022 is being planned to be a hybrid event in Houston, TX.

What are the possibilities of growing clubs in Russia (where there are some clubs who need support) and Cuba (where there are no clubs). The Rotary country committee is working to support clubs in Russia, but club to club partnerships are key.

Will Rotaract be fully combined with Rotary? We are all one Rotary. Rotaract is not just a program, but there is work to make it fully integrated. Prospective members should feel free to join whichever kind of club works best for them.

How can Rotex International become more involved with Rotaract and Rotary clubs? There are more youth exchange alumni than Rotarians right now. We need to keep looking for ways at both the international level and at the club level to connect with our exchange students and exchange alumni.

How many foreign languages do you speak? Just English and German. I lost my school French. I’m glad I’m good with English since that is the international language.

What approach does RI use with clubs that are reluctant to have women members? We are not doing well in Germany, but my example is my own district, which includes Berlin. We have 94 clubs in our district and only 6 without women. We see many barriers to participation by women in Japan. I always talk to clubs and say “diversity is a core value and our strength, not just a nice idea.” Diversity and inclusion is important for every club to work on. Work to include members who are not represented in your club – age, gender, ethnicity – all forms for diversity.

How does the RI database track alumni? The database can’t track everyone. It’s important for clubs and districts to keep track of participants and invite them to sign up so you have their contact information.

What is happening to create an infrastructure across Rotary and Rotaract? We have achieved a lot but we have much work ahead at the district level. We are working at building our regional structures. Attracting younger leadership will lead to the relationships and structures that will better unite Rotary and Rotaract and make Rotary more attractive for younger generations.

Conclusion: “Rotary is not just a club that you join – it is an opportunity. Please excuse me as I ‘travel’ to Sacramento for my next Rotary meeting.”

Words from our current District Governors
District Governor 5950 Tom Gump – Our clubs have been busy working on grant projects and holding clubs. We’ve also added new clubs, including special focus clubs like the “Woman in Leadership,”  “Kaleidescope” (serving those on the Autism scale),  “Global Risings” (half of its members are in MN, half in FL.)

As the district where George Floyd was killed, we’ve focused on creating change within ourselves to become anti-racist. We worked with the YMCA on anti-racism training – that included members from District 5960.

Ed Marek, District Governor of 5960. Having a concentration of clubs in our area across these districts allows us to work together on big projects like the MN State Fair Blitz and efforts to end Human Trafficking. The districts are partnering again with MPR focusing on our work with the Polio vaccine and promoting COVID vaccines.

“Pivot Projects” – examples of how each club has managed change through its service over this difficult year.

Featured Club 10 Project: Working with Rondo, presented by Jeff Baidoo. The racial unrest and the pandemic created extreme need in this neighborhood. We’d first planned a health and safety fair with free food in the summer. Due to COVID restrictions, we pivoted to partner with the Hallie Q Brown Community Center on three community events: Hallie-ween, Thanksgiving food drive, Christmas food and toy drive. The Hallie-ween event saw Rotarians giving out candy, dental care kits, food items, and home safety items like fire extinguishers.
Need in the neighborhood has increased exponentially. In 2019, 250 families were served with the Hallie-ween and Thanksgiving meal events. With Rotary’s participation in 2020 – 2,300 meals and gifts for families were given out. These projects attracted many club members as volunteers, from seasoned members to brand new ones.

Featured Club 9 Project, Sheridan Project, presented by Melissa Musliner. Members donated 75% of their lunch dues to support Sheridan Story, which fights child hunger. With COVID, 1 in 5 children experience food insecurity (vs 1 in 8 children in 2019). Our $14,475 in funds provide meals across Minneapolis through this partnership.

Paul Harris Presentations for Club 9 and 10, presented by Brianna Vujovich. When Brianna joined the club, she learned that our club did not have many Paul Harris Fellows (donors of $1,000 to the Rotary International Foundation). Even our President Elect and board members were not fellows. In response, Brianna started our annual Paul Harris Fellowship auction, in which new members pledge at least $100 and other club members donate to get them to the $1,000 level. Our next auction event will be April 27. Brianna recognized the following recipients, many of whom were recognized for multiple year fellowships.

Club 10 - Valdi Stefanson, Doug Hartford, Bill Nielsen, Shari Clifford, Betsy Guthmann
Club 9 – Jeff Cairns, Bill Kuhlman, Vicki Turnquist, Scott Turner, Fred Semmer, Kent York.

Valdi Stefanson offered a few words about receiving his 7th Paul Harris Fellowship. We are fundraising right now for our water reservoir project in Bolivia and for improvements to a rural hospital in Tanzania. Our club dollars leverage large grants from Rotary International so this club can do good around the world.

And since friendly competition to do good never hurt anyone, let’s have another “border battle” between our clubs to see which club can get the greatest percentage of members to contribute by June 30, the end of this Rotary year!
President Jason adjourned the meeting at 1:15