The Books for Families program of the Rotary Club of Lac La Biche supports literacy in two schools in the community


Lac La Biche Rotarians assemble boxes of books for distribution to families

Many club projects begin after Rotarians learn about what other clubs are doing, and then adapt the idea to meet the needs of their local community.

Such is the story of the Books for Family program at two schools supported by the Rotary Club of Lac La Biche.

Every winter, Rotarian and Assistant Governor Susan Ward and her husband go to Palm Springs, where they attend the local Rotary club’s weekly meetings.

“They had a program where they were giving dictionaries to every child in Grade 3,” Susan says.

She thought this was an idea that could be implemented in Lac La Biche schools, until she spoke with a local teacher.

“She said, ‘don’t buy dictionaries for the kids. That’s passé now because they’ve got computers. If you’re going to do anything, you should look at buying books.’”

After talking to other teachers, it became clear what the club could do to promote literacy. “It made way more sense to target specific students who are having difficulties with reading or maybe can’t afford books.”

The program launched eight years ago at Vera M. Welsh, a 300-student elementary school. More recently, the club initiated a second program at Amisk Community School on the Beaver Lake First Nation.

The program operates differently at each of these schools, to meet the needs of their students.

Each year at Vera M. Welsh School, the club funds the purchase of 100 books for each of 10 families.

“The teachers identify children who are not reading or are having difficulties in reading. And then they order appropriate books for the students, and their families as well,” Susan says.

High school students build boxes for the books, which are presented to the families during Literacy Week in January.

With money left over after purchasing books for the selected families, the school was able to introduce another literacy-based program. 

“They are using that money now so every child gets a book as a gift on their birthday,” Susan says. “The kids love that part of the program. The bottom line is that every child at that school gets a book at some point during the year.”

The Books for Families program looks different at the Beaver Lake First Nation school.


Students from Amisk Community School performed from the Rotary Club of Lac La Biche.

“At Amisk School, they do more than books,” Susan says. “They incorporate games into their packages.”

The number of books each family receives varies. Some will receive a box of books, while others receive a book bag containing fewer books. 

“It depends completely on the family,” Susan says. “The teachers are the ones who make that determination. We leave it completely up to the school to decide the appropriateness of the books they are giving the kids.”


Culturally appropriate titles are included in the Books for Families boxes at Amisk Community School

Whenever possible, the teachers select culturally appropriate books for the students. “So there are lots of Indigenous books, specifically related to the Cree culture of Beaver Lake First Nation.”

The feedback the club receives via the schools from the students and their parents in positive. 

“Those kids love these books,” Susan says. 

“My favourite story is about one of the kids who got these books, who was having some problems at school,” Susan says. “He was coming to school and falling asleep in the classroom. And so, the teacher contacted the mother and the mother said, ‘Well, he’s staying up reading. That’s why he’s so tired.’”

Susan says that the literacy programs at these two schools have become “the signature project we do in the community.

Others have noticed what the Rotary club is doing. “We got an award from Northern Lights School Division for what we do, which was huge for us because our focus is definitely is serving this community,” Susan says.

The club supports smaller projects in other schools, most of which relate to literacy. 

Early Learning and Literacy is one of Rotary International’s six area of focus.

Rotarians are running for reading in Edmonton inner-city schools


Rotarians Brian Edwards. Neil Lang and Rick Lemieux from the Rotary Club of Edmonton serve a volunteer coaches for the Start2Finish Running and Reading Club at Delton School.

Promoting literacy has some members of the Rotary Club of Edmonton running in circles. Literally!

But it’s not because they are confused or disorganized.

Two or three Rotarians spend Tuesday afternoons running around the gymnasium with elementary students at Delton School. Physical activity is a key element of the Start2Finish Running and Reading Club that the club has supported at Delton and at two other inner-city schools (McDougall and Norwood) for four years.
The once-a-week after-school program begins with a brief warmup and stretching sessions to prepare the students for 30 to 45 minutes of running, followed by a snack and literacy-related activities.

“Generally, as coaches, we’re doing things right along with the kids,” says Rotarian Neil Lang. “We’re doing the running and walking and the exercising and the stretches, and leading them as they go through the program.”

According to information on its website, “The Start2Finish Running and Reading Club after-school program helps make the dream of graduation a reality. The program addresses the needs for enhanced literacy and physical activity among children experiencing poverty/deprivation in the communities it services.”

The program’s goals are:

  • Increased physical activity
  • Higher reading levels
  • Social/character skill development
  • Increased graduation rates

The program operates in more than 50 communities across Canada.

“There are four clubs in Edmonton and four in Calgary,” Neal says.  “No reason one couldn’t be in Grand Prairie, Fort McMurray or elsewhere in our District.”

“The program has had a huge impact,” says Delton principal Christine Simmons. “It’s an opportunity for the students to work with positive role models.”

In addition to the two or three Rotarians who attend each week as “coaches,” at least one teacher is always present.

“We have three staff members who support the program on a rotating basis and others visit the practices,” the principal says. 

“The strength of the program comes from the strength of the volunteers,” she says. “They have the ability to connect with our kids.”

Neil feels the teachers are essential to the success of the program. 

Staff at the school are involved in deciding which students will participate in the program, based on their interest and needs. Parents must consent to the participation of their children.

“Most of the time, there’s no problem with the parents,” Neil says. “They are working, so they think it’s a great idea. Keeps the kids at school for a little bit longer.”

The teachers monitor attendance and “make sure that at 5:30, everyone is leaving and the right people are on the bus.”

The Rotarians participate with the students, running in circles around the school’s small gymnasium.

“It’s more of a jog than a high-speed run,” Neil says. “Sometimes they’re going backwards and sometimes forward, or high-stepping and kicking up or sideways. It kind of jazzes it up.”

He explains that the objective is to increase the students’ heart rate for at least 30 minutes. After the run, the students “write down in their passport books how many minutes they ran that day.”

Throughout the year, the students prepare a five km run at the end of the year. Students who stay with the program will receive a new pair of running shoes from Start2Finish.

“If they show up on the race day, they get a brand-new pair of running shoes,” Neil says. “It’s like a carrot that entices them to run.”

Reflecting on the requirement to stick with the program, principal Christine Simmons says, “the program is about more than literacy and activity. The students learn to deal with commitments.”

After the weekly run, the Rotarians lead the students in a game, such as dodge ball or one of several tag games, followed by a break for a healthy snack, such as cheese sticks or a protein bar, and fresh fruit.

After the snack, the students are ready for the more academic part of the program, beginning with the word-of-the-day.

“They have to write down the word-of-the day in their passport book,” Neil says. “They also draw a picture. ‘What does the word-of-the-day mean to you?’ ”

The afternoon concludes with reading time, with books supplied by Start2Finish that are sorted into different reading levels.

“Sometimes, adults read the book to children who are really young or really need some help. Some are reading independently and some kids are teaming up and reading to each other,” Neil says.

“The students in the program are engaged with reading in different ways,” Christine says. “It’s more about reading for pleasure than reading because you have to do it.”

Vision 2020: A virtual committee plans a terrestrial District Conference to be hosted by a virtual Rotary club

Vision 2020 Logo w dateWhat happened two weeks ago in a meeting room at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Edmonton had never happened before and may never happen again.

A group of Rotarians who have been working toward for same goal for months, despite many having not met each other in person, came together for their first face-to-face meeting. 

Nearly a year after the committee planning the Vision 2020 District 5370 Conference was established, its members were all in the same room for the first time.

The Vision 2020 Conference will be held at the DoubleTree September 17-19, 2020. Register by Halloween to save $25 by taking advantage of the early-bird rate.

Screen Shot 2019-10-21 at 9.51.45 AMThe full registration is $425, but until October 31, you will only pay $400.

Thanks to sponsorship from the Edmonton Community Foundation, there is a reduced registration rate to Interact and Rotaract members.

Before their October 8 gathering, all of the committee’s monthly planning meetings had been online.

That is fitting because the Vision 2020 conference will be hosted by the Rotary E-club of Canada One, which conducts its weekly meetings on line, as the home club of the District 5370 Governor-elect.

For 2020-2021, Jim Ferguson will be the first e-club member anywhere in the Rotary world to serve as a District Governor, which means that Canada One will be the first e-club to host a district conference.

“I contacted Rotary International to ask if we are the first e-club to host a District conference,” say conference chair and Past District Governor Elly Contreras (E-club of Canada One). “They confirmed that we are.”

Unlike other recent District conferences, all of Vision 2020 will occur under one roof, with presentations, meals and entertainment scheduled for a banquet room only steps from the elevators that connect the meeting area with guest rooms.

The DoubleTree is offering a special conference rate to Rotarians, with a free upgrade for the first 20 people who book at the hotel.

The House of Friendship—rebranded as an “exhibition hall” for this conference—will be located directly across the foyer from the meeting room.

In addition to commercial displays, the exhibition hall will include a project fair. This will be an opportunity for Rotary, Interact and Rotaract clubs to showcase club projects, connect with fellow Rotarians, share ideas, learn, inspire and celebrate our successes. 

There will be a nominal fee of $50 per booth for Rotary clubs. Commercial displayers will pay $250.

PDG Judy Brown (E-Club of Canada One) is responsible for organizing the exhibition hall and project fair.

A booth application form is available on the Vision 2020 website. Inquiries can be sent to:

Besides its virtual meetings, another difference in this conference’s approach to planning is the increased participation of Rotarians from other clubs in the conference committee. While the involvement of Rotarians from several clubs in conference planning is not unusual, the number of clubs represented this year is greater than in previous years. At least 12 clubs have members on the committee. 

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Members of the Vision 2020 Planning Committee at the 2019 People of Action District Conference in Grande Prairie. Left to right, conference chair PDG Elly Contreras (E-club of Canada One), Tammy Waugh (E-club), PDG Betty Screpnek (RC of Edmonton Glenora), Ramiro Contreras (E-club), Jocelyne Ferguson (RC of Athabasca) and DGE Jim Ferguson (E-club)

Including members of other clubs was not part of the initial plans, according to the committee chair.

“It just happened that way,” Elly says. “At the Changeover Event in June 2019, people came to Jim to offer to help. We have involved people from other clubs because many people want to be involved.”

Others, such as District Youth Chair Tamara Larson (RC of Edmonton Whyte Avenue) were invited to join the committee because of their expertise. 

“We needed someone for the youth committee. Rather than approach someone in our club, I approached Tamara.”

Elly sees benefits flowing from the involvement of Rotarians from across the District. 

“This may make this more of a District conference, than just a conference organized by a club for the District,” she says.

She also notes that the committee includes Past District Governors, who hosted previous District Conferences, and two future governors.

“Because Past District Governors have the experience, you don’t have to tell them what to do,” Elly says.

“This is also an opportunity to learn how it’s done. District Governor Nominee Donna Barrett (RC of Edmonton Sunrise) approached us, saying, ‘I have to do this next year, so I want to learn how it’s done.’ ”

Jocelyne Ferguson (RC of Athabasca) is leading the team that is planning social events, including a reception for Rotarians when they register Thursday evening, a Governor’s Ball on Saturday and a return of Rotary’s Got Talent after a 10-year absence from District conferences.

This could be your chance to highlight your vocal, instrumental, juggling or comedic talents. Learn how you can become part of Rotary’s Got Talent on the Vision 2020 website.

PDG Ross Tyson (RC of Edmonton Northeast) chairs the committee responsible for securing speakers for the conference, which will include:

  • Canadian Olympic gold medalist Beckie Scott, who now chairs the World Anti-Doping Agency. She will speak about integrity in sports and in life.
  • Dr. Chris Brauer, a highly regarded and sought-after world expert on the technologies of the future.
  • Rotarian Alan Mallory, who will speak of the extreme challenges he and his family endured while attempting to scale Mount Everest and how that experience has changed his life forever.
  • Amy Smith, who spent two years studying the social and cultural dynamics of development, at the University of Queensland in Australia, as a Rotary Global Grant Scholar.
  • Infectious disease expert Dr. Mark Joffe, who has studied the impact of the polio epidemic in Edmonton in the 1950s.
  • Norma Ascencio, a young woman who grew up in poverty with her family in the hills of Colima, Mexico, with little hope for a future until she was given an opportunity by Project Amigo to go to school. Through her ambition and hard work, she graduated as a lawyer.


Kassia Fardoe: from RYLE to the London School of Economics


Kassia Fardoe with a fully-grown orphaned cheetah at a game reserve in South Africa

Kassia Fardoe’s Rotary journey almost didn’t happen.

When she was Grade 10 at Strathcona High School in Edmonton, her Spanish teacher suggested she attend the Rotary Youth Leadership Experience (RYLE).

“At first, I was really, really scared and didn’t want to go. I was nervous,” she says. 

Eventually her aunt, who is a Rotarian in Camrose, persuaded her to apply. “It will be really great,” she promised.

“But I had already missed the deadline because I had hemmed and hawed over it for so long, but my aunt had found out that the deadline had been extended, so I went,” Kassia says. “Little did I know that Rotary would become such a large part of my life.”

That life will now include 13 months as a Rotary Global Grant Scholar at the London School of Economics, where Kassia began her studies in mid-September. 

The Global Grant Scholarship is funded primarily by The Rotary Foundation, with additional funds coming from individual clubs within District 5370.

Amy Smith, a previous recipient of this scholarship, is currently completing her master’s degree at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.

Additional information about the scholarship is available on the District 5370 website.

Kassia was encouraged to apply for this scholarship by PDG Laura Morie (RC of Westlock), who she met when she first attended RYLE.

“Laura has been a very integral part of my life. She has always been such an incredible supporter of mine. I honestly don’t know where I would be in life without her, because she has been that influential and that important,” Kassia says.

Kassia will be studying for a master of science in international development and humanitarian emergency. “Most graduates of that program end up working in government or non-profit. Those are areas that I am very passionate about and where I would love to find myself.”

Providing RYLE and RYPEN leadership

The year after Kassia attended RYLE, she returned as a volunteer counsellor. Later, she became a member of the committee responsible for planning for the RYLE program.

“Then, I ended up getting picked to be on the RYPEN (Rotary Youth Program of Enrichment) committee,” Kassia says. “They asked if I would come over and share my experience with them. I was on the RYPEN committee for five years until I stepped down from my position recently, because I will be going overseas.”

Despite her involvement in RYLE and RYPEN, Kassia never had the opportunity to join an Interact club.

“Scona has a pretty incredible leadership program and I was very fortunate to go through that program,” she says. “But with the leadership program being so strong, it has made it that Scona can’t really support an Interact club.”

As a member of the Strathcona Leadership program, which requires Grade 12 students to plan a major fundraiser, Kassia helped organize a bike-a-thon to raise money for World Bicycle Relief.

That year, the students raised more than $100,000 for this non-profit, which builds bicycles and gives them to people in impoverished areas around the world. The new bike owners include “students who are able to bike to school and entrepreneurs who can bring their wares to market,” Kassia says.

Commitment to Volunteerism

Volunteerism has been a big part of Kassia’s life since she was a child. “It was something that was really important to my parents, so it was something I was exposed to early on,” she says.

In high school, she volunteered with Adaptabilities, where she worked with children with autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. “I was part of camps during the summer or part of teen nights on Thursday evenings during the year,” she says. 

“I really enjoyed being part of the Tourette’s (syndrome) summer camp. It was really interesting because it was something that I didn’t know all that much about,” she says. “Being exposed to it I think really benefited me in the long run because being educated about those types of disorders is just so, so important.”

In addition to her volunteer activities, Kassia worked as a member of the program staff with the Boys and Girls Club for two-and-a-half years while attending the University of Alberta and even following her graduation.

“I am so passionate about the work the Boys and Girls Club does. I think they are such an impressive and important organization. I have been able to see first-hand the impact it has on the kids.”

At the U of A, Kassia received a bachelor of science, with distinction. She had a double major in animal biology and psychology. As part of her program, Kassia completed an ecological research term with the university’s Southern African Field School, study abroad program.

Working with animals in Africa

Participants in the program spent a month in eSwatini (the kingdom formerly known as Swaziland), a month in Mozambique and more than a month in South Africa. 

“In eSwatini, I worked on a research project examining small mammal and giraffe populations, while in Mozambique I was working on a project examining cleaner fish populations. The project in Mozambique was definitely my favourite, as all the data collection was done while scuba diving. We had the opportunity to swim with manta rays, whale sharks, turtles, dolphins, etc.”

In addition to studying animals in Africa, Kassia completed internships at Chimp Haven, near Shreveport, Louisiana, and at a zoo in northern California.

“At Chimp Haven, I was working directly in chimpanzee care, feeding and providing general care to the chimpanzees. All the chimpanzees in this facility are retired from federal medical research programs.”

In California, she worked with cheetahs, servals, fennecs, tortoises and in the large aviary.

During her final two years at university, she also earned a certificate in Interdisciplinary Leadership Studies from the recently opened Peter Lougheed Leadership College.

In the leadership program, she was taught by former Prime Minister Kim Campbell. 

“She was very active in our education, which is really interesting  because she is a very fiery and passionate and impressive woman. She actually wrote my recommendation for LSE (London School of Economics), which is pretty special.”

While in London, Kassia will be hosted by members of the Rotary Club of Dulwich, Peckham and Crystal Palace.

“There used to be three separate clubs and then they amalgamated and I don’t think any of them wanted to lose their name, so now it’s a really long name,” she says.

Members of club met her when she arrived in London and she will be attending their meetings and their District conference.

Your next online purchase could help fund a Rotary program … or put money back in your pocket

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For the past year, District Governor-Elect Jim Ferguson (Rotary E-club of Canada One) has been making Rotarians aware of the Rotary Global Rewards program and encouraging clubs to add a link to their website.

“It’s a value-added service that Rotary International offers Rotarians and Rotaractors,” Jim says.

The program offers Rotary club members discounts on products and services for travel, entertainment, and merchandise.

When the program was introduced a few years ago, Rotary Global Rewards were conceived as a way to help clubs enhance member satisfaction and retention. The program is also a way to thank members for their service and their generous support of The Rotary Foundation.

Members can sign into Rotary Global Rewards through their My Rotary account to browse the offers. They can also access the program on their smartphones.

“There is a Rotary Global Rewards app.” Jim says. “It is available for free download on the Apple app store or through Google Play. You can order products from your iPad or your mobile phone, without going to the main site.” .

He hopes Rotarians will check out Rotary Global Rewards. “I would like them to think about it whenever they go online to do some shopping or if they are going on a trip,” he says. “There are rental cars through Rotary Global Rewards and hotels through Rotary Global Rewards.” 

Rotary Global Awards FAQs

Amazon is one company participating the program. “Amazon offers up to five per cent cashback to Rotary, which then can be used for projects or programs.”

Other companies offer discounts to Rotarians making purchases through the program, while others offer a combination of discounts and donations to Rotary.

“Rotarians can vote on where they want their contributions to go,” Jim says. 

“There is a tab that says, ‘Vote on contributions.’ If you click on that you will see, ‘Please vote on the area of focus to receive the net proceeds from purchases made through the RGR program. The proceeds from the program, less expenses, will be contributed to areas of focus based on voting by members using the program.’

“They have different things: eradicating polio, supporting education, providing clean water, saving women and children, growing local economies, promoting peace, fighting disease, and then there’s one for Himalayan water purifiers.”

To date, the emphasis for Jim and his committee, which includes John Wojcicki (RC of Edmonton), Nomsa Maromo (Edmonton Southeast) and Gaurang Skukla (Peace River), has been “trying to increase the awareness of the program and trying to get the links on clubs’ websites,” Jim says. 

“If they have a Facebook presence, we would like to get the RGR link on the Facebook site as well.”

Jim estimates that two thirds of the clubs in our District have a link on their website.

In addition to shopping through the Rotary Global Rewards site, Rotarians can post their own offers.

“We would like to see Rotarians that have businesses creating their own offers. They can post them online. Rotary Global Rewards will review the offer and then they will post it,” Jim says. 

“So, suppose a Rotarian is travelling to Peace River and a Rotarian has a hotel up there, they may offer a discount for staying at the hotel.”

Rotary City prepares to welcome Rotarians, October 3-5


The 2019 People of Action District Conference, October 3-5, will be the result of a two-year community-wide effort, involving Rotarians from Grande Prairie’s four Rotary clubs and its Rotaract Club.

Click here to register now!

“We have been called ‘Rotary City’ here in Grande Prairie for many years, with us having so many clubs,” says conference co-chair Devon Potter (RC of Grande Prairie After Five).

Having so many Rotarians willing to help with the conference has been important says the other co-chair, Lola Wright, who is also a member of the Grande Prairie After Five club.

“We have lots of clubs here and lots of willing people and we really have tried to get committee members from all the clubs,” she says.

“We don’t really think of ourselves as so many different clubs. We meet at different times, because that’s what works for our work schedule or our personal life, but when we get to these things like the convention, we’re all just Rotarians. We really work together as a team and that’s how most of the Rotary projects in Grande Prairie work.”


“We were fortunate to have members of the committee who had helped with the 2012 District Conference that was held here,” Devon says. “To have some of their knowledge and experience behind us was a driving force in leading Lola and me in the right direction in terms of what worked well with that conference and what didn’t.”

Lola became involved in the conference planning two years ago, when she was approached by then-District Governor Nominee Tracey Vavrek. “Of course, when they are in their planning stage, District Governors look for someone in their club to chair the conference, so Tracey asked. 

“I said I thought I could take that on, but it was a lot on my own, so we put our heads together and Tracey thought of Devon as a young, energetic gal. We asked Devon if she would co-chair and she agreed quickly, so that’s how we became a team.”

At the time she was approached, Devon was a member of both the Rotaract club and the Rotary Club of Grande Prairie After Five.

“I love working with people, I love organizing things, so that felt natural,” Devon says. “Then I asked Lola, ‘What does this entail?’ She said, ‘I have no clue, but we can figure it out together.’ That was good enough for me. I think we were up for a challenge and really balance each other well, in our personalities and how we look at different aspects of the conference.”

More than a Rotary conference

From the beginning, the conference was envisioned as more than a Rotary conference organized by members only from the District Governor’s club. It will be a community conference, with speakers and other activities that will appeal to both Rotarians and non-Rotarians.

“In Grande Prairie, we really come together, our Rotary clubs as well as many of our community partners, whether it’s business or individuals, who really have seen the impact of Rotary or wanted to personally get involved, but they just aren’t Rotarians themselves,” Devon says. 

“We didn’t want to say, ‘No, you’re not welcome to attend if you’re not a Rotarian,’ when truly they act in the Rotarian spirit. They just don’t have that name tag or that badge that shows that they are. We are all People of Action and we all deserve the chance to learn more and engage with one another and perhaps people who are not Rotarians (now) will want to be.”

Lola feels that the concept fits well with the 2019-2020 theme that “Rotary Connects the World.” 

“If that’s the motto for this year, and if we want to connect our community, then we need to have a community conference and be proud that it’s Rotary that is putting it on and creating an opportunity to connect with the whole community and with the whole District.” 

An opportunity to hear interesting speakers

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Former RI Vice President Dean Rohrs

Following that philosophy, this conference will include several speakers  whose messages will interest all attendees.

“I am really excited about the balance in speakers. We have a variety of Rotarians and non-Rotarians; happy stories, sad stories; good work in the community, some laughter, some personal growth,” Lola says. “We are quite proud that these are all Canadians, except for two. The rest are all Canadian speakers. We have really tried to keep that at the forefront. I think we have done well sourcing Canadians speakers.”

While she feels that people should attend just for the speakers, the conference will offer much more.

“People would think nothing of going to Edmonton or Calgary or Vancouver and paying good money to pay these kinds of speakers, where here they are getting a whole conference for that kind of price — a conference where the food is all included. We have an incredible band coming from Calgary for the District Governor’s Ball,” Lola says. “When they sign up, their days will be full. It’s good value for the ticket price.”

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Entrepreneur Mark Brand will speak at the 2019 District Conference

Devon says one speaker she is looking forward to hearing is Mark Brand. 

“He is a younger entrepreneur who came from nothing. He got to the lowest part of his life and decided he wanted to turn that around and he wanted to support others who had been in his position,” she says. 

“He wasn’t just trying to find a Band-Aid solution to homelessness and addiction and things like that. He really was trying to find a long-term solution. I am interested in what he has to say.”

Some of the other speakers lined up to speak at the Conference are Amanda Lindhout, who was abducted and held captive in Somalia for 460 days, Neil Pasricha, the best selling author of The Book of Awesome, and 2017-2018 Rotary International Vice President Dean Rohr (RC of Langley Central).

The complete list of speakers is available on the conference website.

An exciting House of Friendship

Another feature that’s prominent when Rotarians gather for conferences is the House of Friendship, and the Grande Prairie conference will be no exception.

With 14 of the 20 available booths already spoken for, Devon says, “the numbers are good and we have a range of diversity in those who are attending. A lot of the avenues of service are being represented. Different projects and groups are being represented. For the most part, it’s Rotary groups but there are some that aren’t Rotarian yet, but have projects that might coincide with Rotary,” she says. 

“We are hoping to have a youth table. We are going to have our Earlyact members as well as some of our younger community members at a table, displaying the work they are doing and selling items for charity. We are pretty excited to be able to offer that this year.”

Information about booking space in the House of Friendship is also available on the conference website.

Just over a month out from the conference, nearly 350 people have registered, which is more than half way to the total of 600 the conference committee predicts will attend. About 10 per cent of these are non-Rotarian community members.

The organizers are hoping that those who are intending to attend but haven’t registered yet, will do so soon.

“That will sure help the committee. Lots of people are saying they are going to register, but we are kind of a last-minute world for some reason. We know people are busy with vacations right now, but the sooner we know our numbers the better,” Lola says.

Special hotel rates, shuttles and a bus from Edmonton

Special conference rates at hotels in Grande Prairie will expire on September 19.

For those flying into Grande Prairie, there are shuttles to take them to their hotels. 

Shuttles have been arranged to transport participants between the hotels and the conference site at the TARA Centre, at Evergreen Park on the southern outskirts of the city.

When people register, they will be asked whether they need shuttle service from their hotel to the event centre, to help the committee with its planning. 

For Rotarians who would prefer to neither drive or fly to Grande Prairie, there will be bus transportation to and from Grande Prairie. The bus will leave Edmonton on Thursday morning, October 3, at 10:00 a.m., and return at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, October 6. 

The cost is $79.00, which includes refreshments and snacks both ways.

Contact Grant Schneider if you are interested. (780) 483-1083, Cell (780) 952-2673,  

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Inspired to action: District awards celebrate what clubs and Rotarians accomplished in 2018-2019


2018-2019 DG Ingrid Neitsch and Rotarian-of-the-year recipient Spencer Mueller (RC of Edmonton West)

So much was accomplished by clubs in our District during 2018-2019 that the committee that reviewed submissions felt it had to increase the number of awards in most award categories.

“Because there was such a difference in certain categories, we decided to recognize more than one project in these categories,” says Donna Nichol (RC of Edmonton Northeast), who as the Administrative Services chair assembled a board committee to decide which clubs would receive awards.

“It wasn’t a case of picking a winner,” Donna says of the committee’s deliberations. “Rather it was a case of recognizing outstanding work in certain areas.”

During the Changeover event held on June 27, 2018-2019 DG Ingrid Neitsch (RC of Edmonton West) presented awards to 11 clubs and several individuals who demonstrated their commitment to “Be the Inspiration.”

She also announced that the District was the recipient of a North American award for its youth programs.

Community, international and youth service awards

Multiple Gilbert Patterson Awards were presented in three service categories—community, international and youth.

Gilbert Paterson was a Lethbridge educator who served as governor for District 536 in 1959-60, long before the District was divided and District 5370 was created. 

The Rotary Clubs of Edmonton Southeast and Fort St. John received awards for their community service projects.

For several years, Edmonton Southeast has partnered with the Millbourne Laundromat to host a community Thanksgiving luncheon for disadvantaged persons from Edmonton’s Mill Woods area. This annual event now feeds more than 1,000 each year. 

The Mother’s Day Run, which the Fort St. John club initiated in 2012, has raised more than $78,500 in donations for the Women’s Resource Society. The Society provides crisis planning, housing support, an outreach store, and healing and advocacy support to empower women and girls with tools to improve the quality of their lives.

Both international service awards went to projects that were described in Rotary District 5370 News articles during 2018-2019.

Screen Shot 2019-03-14 at 1.10.56 PMFor more than 20 years, a team of Rotarians from Edmonton West and others have visited remote Guatemalan communities to conduct eye examinations, provide glasses and medication for eye infections.

The Rotary Club of Edmonton Riverview acquires and refurbishes ambulances retired from service by Alberta Health Services, which are  destined for communities in Belize, Mexico, Uganda and Ghana. During 2018-2019, two of these vehicles were part of the Highway to Mexico convoy organized by Rotary clubs in Grande Prairie.

Youth services awards were presented to the Rotary Clubs of Edmonton South and Edmonton Northeast.

The flute making program at Abbott School, supported by Edmonton Northeast, is a way to help children improve their concentration, patience, self-confidence and co-ordination. The club pays for the materials and Rotarians assist the students as they decorate their instruments.

Rotarians from Edmonton South supported the Alberta Future Leaders program for Indigenous youth in Driftpile First Nation in Northwest Alberta. The AFL program engages youth through sports, art, recreation, leadership and cultural activities.

Peacebuilder award went to Dawson Creek Sunrise

Ingrid, who launched the successful initiative to have our District become a Rotary Peacebuilder District in 2018-2019, presented a Peacebuilder award to the Rotary Club of Dawson Creek Sunrise, which was “involved in the development and promotion of peace building activities with high school students in their community,” Ingrid said.

Club president Michelle Rolls and District Youth Chair Tamara Larson accompanied a group of 17 students to the Canadian Museum of Human Rights to participate in a week-long national pilot program.

Three clubs were recognized for their efforts related to public relations and marketing.

The Rotary Club of St. Albert produced brochures, posters and videos to publicize, “what Rotary is all about and what we do in the community.” The club feels their public relations and marketing has had tangible results, including membership growth and increased community involvement in fundraising and other activities.

The Rotary Club of Edmonton Whyte Avenue produced a brochure and used social media to share success stories, promote events and increase the visibility of Rotary. The club also produced a number of videos to create awareness of activities and promote events.

During 2018-2019, the Rotary Club of Edmonton Glenora undertook a comprehensive strategic planning initiative to study how they were living out the club’s vision and the mission of their club. They asked themselves what was distinctive about the club and what could they do to remain relevant. This process led to refreshing the club’s vision, mission statement and value proposition.

Rotary Club of Edmonton received Governors Award

T1819EN_RGBOne submission stood out as being deserving of the Governor’s Award. In 2013, the Rotary Club of Edmonton embarked on a major multi-year Humanitarian International Project in partnership with Literacy Without Borders and the Rotary Club of Belize. The South Belize City Literacy Development Program focused on transforming the educational and school-community infrastructure in an impoverished area known as South Belize City.

Ingrid also announced that our District had received an award from the North American Youth Exchange Network. The NAYEN awards recognizes, “districts that participate enthusiastically, conduct activities that are best practices and strive to build strong programs in the Rotary Youth Exchange Program.”

Youth Service Chair Tamara Larson (RC of Edmonton Whyte Avenue) accepted the award on the District’s behalf.

Awards recognizing individual service

A number of special awards were presented to individual Rotarians.

Two longtime Rotarians from District 5370 were among 16 recipients worldwide of the Polio Plus Pioneer Awards, which recognizes Rotarians who made a significant non-financial contribution to Polio Plus prior to 1992.

Albert Miller and Walter Sczebel, honorary members of the Rotary Clubs of Westlock and Morinville respectively, were recognized for having increased the awareness of Rotary’s commitment to eradicating polio by organizing a journey by wagon train from Westlock to the 1988 District 536 Conference in Calgary. Both were members of the Westlock club at the time.

The two covered wagons, which were accompanied by outriders, cooks, support personal, and an iron lung on a flatbed, stopped at community halls and schools to raise awareness of the polio eradication program.

Along the way, the convoy raised more than a million dollars for Polio Plus.

Four Rotarians, who Ingrid described as “working tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that the District runs smoothly,” each were presented with a Paul Harris Fellowship:

  • For the last six years, Carl Clayton (RC of Edmonton Northeast) has served as District Board Secretary, which involves keeping accurate minutes and chairing business meeting at the District’s Special General Assemblies.
  • For several years, Rob Dunseith (RC of Edmonton West) has “provided free service on legal matters, resulting in savings of thousands of dollars,” Ingrid said.
  • John Nichol (RC of Edmonton Northeast) was instrumental in helping with the move of the District office from the Boys and Girls Club to The Orange Hub.
  • Donna Nichol, as the District’s Administration Director, was responsible in planning the office move.

Award recognized success of club co-presidency

Woman of Inspiration awards were presented to two Rotarians who served as co-presidents of their clubs. While other clubs may have had co-presidents in the past, Jillene Lakevold and Alyssa Haunholter (RC of Edmonton Glenora) took “the co-presidency to a whole new level,” Ingrid said.

“They have led their club into Strategic Planning that has confirmed the mission of their club and provided a clear path moving forward, all while raising young children and pursuing their careers!”

Ingrid recognized two Past District Governors, “who have not gone into retirement from Rotary” with Outstanding Service to the District Awards.

Since being District Governors in 2010-2011 and 2014-2015 respectively, both Jackie Hobal (RC of Edmonton West) and Linda Robertson (RC of Edmonton Northeast) “have been mentors to many of our leaders and continued to be active supporters of our District programs and events, serving on the Board and on several committees,” Ingrid said.

“In addition to their exemplary service to our District, both have served as Zone Co-ordinators, working with Rotarians from 16 or 17 other Districts across our country.”

Wayne Kauffman (RC of Edmonton Riverview), who stepped down at the end of June after four years as chair of the District’s Rotary Foundation committee, was presented with a Rotary Foundation District Service Award.

“Most Foundation chairs serve a three-year term, but I persuaded Wayne to serve an extra year,” Ingrid said. “He has provided exemplary service and leadership as chair, ensuring that our District meets and exceeds RI requirements for Foundation work.”

The final award of year was presented to Spencer Mueller (RC of Edmonton West) as the 2018-2019 Rotarian-of-the-Year.

“The individual that I have chosen to receive this special award is someone who has committed the last three years to serving and working in important roles in our District, culminating in a special event this year,” Ingrid said. “He has served as Club President, Club Foundation Chair, Assistant Governor and District Conference Chair.”

The deadline for submissions for 2019-2020 club awards is May 15, 2020.