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

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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.”

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“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, grant@aligrawineandspirts.com.  

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

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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.

Two Whitehorse clubs joined District 5370 on July 1

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In terms of geographic area, our District has always been one of the largest in the world. On July 1, it became even larger.

It now includes the Yukon, with two traditional clubs and, soon, a satellite club in Whitehorse.

District 5370 now connects People of Action across three provinces (B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan) and two territories (Northwest and Yukon).

Prior to this year, the Yukon clubs were part of District 5010, which consists of 38 clubs in Alaska.

While Whitehorse is geographically closer to communities in Alaska than it is to much of District 5370, attending events in District 5010 was inconvenient for Rotarians in the Yukon capital. 

“Travel from Whitehorse to Alaska is not easy,” says Ken Nash, president of the Rotary Club of Whitehorse Rendezvous. “There is not an airline that flies directly to places in Alaska, while we have good airline service to Alberta.”

The Rendezvous club has 18 members but will be growing to include a new 10-member satellite club in August.

Ian McKenzie, who is president of the 27-member Rotary Club of Whitehorse, explains in more detail, the challenge of attending events in Alaska.

“To get to Anchorage, if you’re flying, it means a flight from here to Vancouver, and from Vancouver to Seattle, and from Seattle back up to Anchorage.” 

On the other hand, “we can get on an airplane flight here and be in Edmonton in a couple of hours.”

Driving to Anchorage takes at least two days, Ian says. “If you have a two-day convention in Anchorage, you have four days of driving or a time-consuming flight, which would still be a day on either side.” 

Both presidents and other Whitehorse Rotarians say they will be taking advantage of the improved transportation opportunities to attend the 2019 District 5370 Conference in Grande Prairie, October 3-5.

“We have very good interest from members about coming to the District Conference,” Ken says. “At a meeting, we had a show of hands, and I think we are up to seven or eight. It may be even higher.”

Map of YukonDistrict Governor Tracey Vavrek says she is looking forward to welcoming Rotarians from the Yukon at the District Conference. “I am honoured that they will be joining us for our conference in October.”

She is also looking forward to her visit to the two clubs later in October.

“I am very excited to go and spend time in the Yukon, to get to know everyone. I have actually scheduled for us to be there for a full week so we will have the opportunity to see the projects they have done and sit down and share stories, to hear about their journeys. I hope to be the conduit to allow them to share their stories and journeys with us.”

The inconvenience of travel to Alaska was only one of the reasons that Whitehorse Rotarians wanted to become part of District 5370.

“The regulations for societies and organizations in the U.S. are different than what we do here in Canada,” Ian says. “Oftentimes, we were having to do things that were more complex than we would have needed to do in a Canadian setting.”

Another factor was the U.S. exchange rate.

“We found it that was not always that easy to always be dealing with exchange of funds from Canadian to U.S. dollars,” Ken says. “That is one of the issues we had for all the different events.”

For Ken, who once taught high school in Grande Prairie, there was one more reason to be part of our District.

“As a retired educator, personally I am very keen on services for students and programs for leadership for students. When I look at the youth programs of 5370, they are so much better suited to our youth. I’m excited about that,” he says

“From what little I know at this point, and I am certainly going to pursue it to find out more, I am looking forward to working in that area.”

Transferring from District 5010 to District 5370 was something Rotarians in Whitehorse had discussed for years before they took the initiative in 2018-2019 to move from talk to action.

“In terms of the re-districting, it was not necessary for both clubs to be on board for either club to put in an application to do that,” says Ian. “It so happened that the Rendezvous club was also interested taking that action, so it came together for both clubs at the same time.”

Says Ken: “I took on the job of laying out what re-districting would involve and I felt we should consider it as a process. What happened from there was that I shared it with the other club, and certainly with our club, and then over a period of time there was a number of opportunities to examine just what this would mean. Then finally, votes were taken. We did set the bar very high. We had to have over 75 per cent of the members support the move. We easily reached those levels of support.” 

“There was the vote held on May 15, which in our club was unanimous for the change,” says Ian, from the Whitehorse club. 

“[After Rotarians vote] the application goes through the District Governor to Rotary International and they make their decision, yes or no. Normally, the standard process takes up to two years, but there is a fast track if everyone is in agreement. Each District sends letters to the clubs in their respective Districts. There is a 30-day period, during which they can respond to that letter. As I understand, there were no objections raised, apart from a response of disappointment from folks in Alaska that we wouldn’t be part of their District any longer.” 

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The Rotary Club of Whitehorse meets on Friday at noon in the Westmark Hotel, and the Rendezvous club on Tuesday at 7:00 a.m. at the Yukon Inn.

After it receives its charter, the satellite club “won’t meet as often as we do. Their plan is to meet twice a month,” Ian says. “Probably [there will be] one meeting, which would be kind of a business meeting, and another meeting that would be a hands-on activity.”

Changeover Event: A time for reflection on the past year and visualizing the year to come

 

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PDG Ingrid Neitsch pins DG Tracey Vavrek during Changeover Event on June 27

For outgoing District Governor Ingrid Neitsch (RC of Edmonton West), the District Changeover held on June 27 was an opportunity to reflect on the previous 12 months and highlight the many achievements of 2018-2019.

For incoming District Governor Tracey Vavrek (RC of Grande Prairie After Five), it was a chance to set the agenda for the next Rotary year.

Before passing the title of District Governor to Tracey, Ingrid described her “fabulous adventure” to approximately 200 Rotarians from across the District who were in attendance at the Chateau Louis Conference Centre in Edmonton.

“It has been my honour and privilege to lead and represent this District,” she said. “Our theme was ‘Be the Inspiration!’ I set out to inspire our members, and our members inspired me! The commitment and passion that I witnessed first-hand is unforgettable.”

Of her visits to the 57 clubs in our District, she said, “I thoroughly enjoyed the many community tours and community events, some of which were unique.”

Ingrid recalled that a year earlier, at the June 2018 changeover event, she had presented her vision and plan for 2018-2019. “I explained our District planning process and the integrated Strategic Plan. I announced a new direction and initiative and outlined important goals I wanted our District to accomplish.”

Becoming a Peacebuilder District

IMG_7170The major goal for this past year was to be recognized as a Peacebuilder District by Rotary International, for which a donation of US$25,000 to support RI’s Peace Centres was a key criteria. The support for this initiative exceeded Ingrid’s expectations.

“I am absolutely thrilled by the support from our clubs, individuals and District. YES! We achieved Peacebuilder status — for TWO years!”

“Peace Centres provide an opportunity for individuals who have been sponsored and strenuously vetted by a Rotary District, to be chosen to attend a three-month peace certificate or a two-year master’s program in peace and conflict resolution, all paid for by Rotary.”

Menasha Nikhanj from Edmonton is currently enrolled in the three-month professional certificate program at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand. 

Ingrid promises that achieving a Peacebuider District is just the beginning. “We will continue to develop peace building activities and sessions during this next year,” she says.

“As a result of our new collaborative work with our educational institutions, the University of Alberta and Concordia University hosted an open-to-the public peace building session which was well received. Another project is planned for next year.”

RI will also maintain its focus on peace building. “At the Peace Symposium in Hamburg (held in connection with 2019 RI Convention), senior Rotary leaders announced that steps are being taken to have Rotary become a world leader in peace building,” Ingrid said.

Goals set, goals achieved

Other 2018-2019 goals related to membership, creating awareness of The Rotary Foundation (TRF), enhancing Rotary’s public image, and celebrating our youth programs.

The year saw the establishment of several new clubs, including a new Interact Club at W.P. Wagner High School (sponsored by the Rotary Club of Edmonton Strathcona); the Rotaract Club of Concordia University (sponsored by Edmonton Northeast); a satellite club of the Rotary Club of Dawson Creek) in Chetwynd, B.C.; and the YEG Passport Club (sponsored by Edmonton Whyte Avenue).

In addition, two existing clubs in Whitehorse, YT became part of our District on July 1. 

Ingrid congratulated the TRF team, led by chair Wayne Kauffman (RC of Edmonton Riverview), for its efforts to create awareness of the foundation’s good work.

“All the funds donated support projects by our clubs around the world, in the form of grants.”

Related to public image, Ingrid noted that the District “created a communications plan to develop and improve our public image in our District and the community.”

In part, this was achieved through Ingrid’s posts to the District Facebook page, increased social media engagement, articles on the District blog, Rotary International District 5370 News and a District newsletter.

Inspire, our District newsletter, went to each District member, not just the presidents, so everyone received the same information at the same time,” she said.

“We made a concentrated effort to expand community awareness of Rotary.  Presentations were made to several community groups and we began a collaborative project with the University of Alberta, which will expand next Rotary year.

“We had significant coverage of Rotary stories in the capital region newspapers in print and online, and in community papers around the District.”

Shifting to youth programs, Ingrid said, “We have outstanding opportunities for our youth to participate in many activities, such as the RYLA, RYLE, RYPEN programs.

“We did a lot of work to ensure that our youth exchange program is directly aligned and compliant with Rotary International guidelines, with everyone involved with our youth programs having a mandatory security check.”

DG Tracey lays out her plans for 2019-2020

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Following Ingrid’s summary of 2018-2019, it was Tracey’s turn to reveal her vision for 2019-2020.

“It is an honour to stand before you as your governor for 2019-20. I am humbled to step into the shoes of Ingrid and others, and also appreciate the support of each of you through this Rotary journey,” she said.

Throughout her presentation, Tracey emphasized that the world needs Rotary and Rotarians.

“People identify Rotary for our service, our dedication to make change for others, and for our commitment to eradicate polio,” she said. 

“You have stepped up to make your communities a better place. You tackle problems and find solutions for tough issues. You explore ideas and share a vision to make life better for others. Your passion, drive and desire to make a difference inspires me,” she said.

“When people of all ages, cultures and demographics invest time and money into something, it is with organizations that do good in the world. People commit to a cause, not an organization.”

Rotary: 114 years-old and still strong

Tracey believes that there are reasons why Rotary continues to be relevant.

“Rotary is 114 years old and has stood the test of time due to its values, objectives and service, both locally and globally, plus for our dedication to eradicating polio.”

T1920EN_PMS-CShe noted that RI has adapted to changing times, which is in contrast to other organizations that have failed to do so. She cited Kodak as a company which resisted change and as result has lost the leadership position it once occupied.

“For Rotary to stay relevant, we at the club and District level must focus on our culture and adapting to the needs of our members,” Tracey said.

“Culture is how people feel when they are part of something that is important to them. Culture is created and is the base of moving from good to great. Culture is an environment of welcoming, inclusiveness, diversity; where people feel a sense of belonging, feel valued. And (it) is a place built on trust. We serve together in many ways with the common goal—to make a difference for others—and when we do this, we build relationships and connect with people of like interest.”

Tracey said that the 2019-2020 theme, “Rotary Connects the World,” means  that, “We share values and follow the four-way test, we collectively take action for a better world and we are doing this together,” she said.  

“Rotary provides us with the means and opportunities to connect with the world and each other. Rotary connects us to people who need our help, and through Rotary we are connected globally through countless projects and programs.”

People of Action together creating positive change

Tracey asked the Rotarians in the audience to image a world without Rotary: “Imagine what would happen to polio if we stopped now. Imagine the people who would go hungry in our own communities or around the world. Imagine the children who would not have the extra support to reach their dreams.  The children of today and of tomorrow need Rotary.

“RI has given us the tools to be successful and has provided flexibility to do things differently with meeting structure and attendance, and (it) encourages us to invite our families to be part of our journey.

“When you see the difference we have made for children, families and communities around the world by our commitment, we know we have changed lives. We have given others opportunities and most of all, we have given people hope. 

“And that’s Rotary. People of action who come together to make positive change in themselves and around the world.”  

Tracey concluded her presentation by encouraging Rotarians to register for the District 5370 People of Action Conference in Grande Prairie October 3-5, 2019.  

“This is your conference and a place to connect, grow and to be inspired.” 

District 5370: A leader in youth programs

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Students join discussion groups during RYLE

Today, our District has more Interact and Rotaract clubs than it does Rotary clubs.

A decade ago, that wasn’t the case. What happened? How did District 5370 become a Youth Services leader in North America?

Tamara Larson (RC of Edmonton Whyte Avenue), who has been the District’s Youth Services chair for the last three and a half years, credits 2010-11 District Governor Jackie Hobal (RC of Edmonton West) for getting the ball rolling.

“Jackie sat down and developed a strategic plan to grow youth programs in our District,” Tamara says. “At that time, we had 11 Interact clubs and one Rotaract club.”

There were 61 Rotary clubs.

Today there are 53 Interact (ages 12-18)  clubs and 10 Rotaract (18-30) clubs. That’s a total of 63 clubs for young leaders, compared to the 58 District 5370 Rotary clubs.

“The strategy was to build these clubs. Start with Interact, which would grow our Rotaract, which would ultimately grow our Rotary membership in our District,” Tamara says. 

“At RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards), we always tell Interactors that if they go to university and there is no Rotaract club, start one,” which is exactly what happened at one university this year.

“The president of the Concordia University Rotaract club was an Interact club member in Grande Prairie,” says Tamara. “She moved to Edmonton to go to Concordia. There was no Rotaract club, so she started one. It took her less than three months to get 15 people and they have done some great things.”

With a background in education, Jackie came to her role as DG with a passion for working with youth. 

“I was very aware of the demographics in Alberta, the demographics in Canada and the fact that the majority of our population was in that very young age group. If you are building for the future, and that’s what we are always thinking about in Rotary, we need to empower that particular age group.” 

“I saw the writing on the wall in terms of Rotary membership,” she says. “The decline of Rotary membership began about a year before I was governor, about 2009. People were not as excited about Rotary as they used to be and so I saw an opportunity with youth.”

Jackie feels there were two reasons that the District was successful in meeting the goals she set out in her New Generations Vision, which became the blueprint for developing youth programs in District 5370.

Screen Shot 2019-06-25 at 9.57.20 AMFirst, the District formed a partnership with the Alberta-based Servus Credit Union, which provided a grant of $250,000. The grant was spread out over three years and shared with District 5360, which includes Alberta Rotary clubs from Red Deer south.

 “That was the magic—having the flexibility of the dollars to build capacity. Those dollars were used to create events, to really beef up our RYPEN (Rotary Youth Program of Enrichment) and our RYLA. We also started RYLE, which is Rotary Youth Leadership Experience. That program has had great success.”

Making more great ideas possible

The funds from Servus Credit Union made numerous other great ideas possible. 

“Sometimes you have great ideas as Rotarians, but you don’t have the money to make it happen. We were able to bring youth to leadership events and international conventions,” Jackie says. “We sent them to Big West Rotaract in the San Francisco area, where they have huge Rotaract events that we don’t have here.”

The money also allowed the District to adapt the concept of the CBC program Dragon Den to provide opportunities for Interact groups to find money for their projects.

“We used some of the Servus Credit Union money—one year we put aside $5,000—and we said, ‘Come and pitch your project, sell us your project,’” Jackie says. “We brought some CFOs and CEOs to be judges and gave them criteria. The kids got up and pitched their projects and then [the dragons] doled out the money. It was great. The [Rotarians] really enjoyed that. I think that got clubs inspired. They could see the potential of what these youth groups could do.”

Screen Shot 2019-06-25 at 9.58.12 AMThe second component to success was having people with the passion to implement the plan.

“You need leaders and you need champions,” Jackie says. “I put a touch on Laura Morie (RC of Westlock). She became Youth chair.” 

Laura’s involvement with youth goes back to when the Westlock Rotary club hosted the orientation for inbound Youth Exchange students, which the club had done for over 30 years prior to the District taking on this task.

With the orientation off its plate, the Westlock club agreed to host RYLA for three years, beginning in 2009.

Giving youth a voice

“We decided that what we really needed was for these kids to have something that was a little more experiential than sitting in a room and having different people come and talk to them,” Laura says. “We figured that enlisting the help of the kids who had previously had the experience, from one year to the next, was going to be a path to success because with kids the voices of other kids resonate.”

Listening to youth led to the creation of the District Youth Council, which meant “kids had a voice,” Laura says. “They had influence. The assisted in creating programming for RYPEN and RYLA.”

Tamara, who succeeded Laura as Youth Services chair when Laura became District Governor in 2016-17, now chairs the Youth Council.

“The committee is comprised of Rotarians, Rotaract members and Interact members. We have Rotaract and Interact members in chair positions when it comes to RYLA, RYLE and RYPEN,” Tamara says. 

“This council drives our short-term and long-term youth programs. It allows young people to have a voice in where these are going and what is most effective. They have a very large voice in the future of youth programs within the District.” 

One of Laura’s first actions as Youth Services chair was to find out what Rotary clubs were doing related to youth programming.

“We did a District-wide survey of all the clubs, asking them to tell us what they were looking for and how much resources (money and effort) they put into their youth programs and we got this amazing picture of what was going on in the District, from scholarships to commitments to sending kids off, be it on an exchange or adventure trips or RYLA or RYPEN,” she says. 

Youth Services become part of presidents-elect training

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Concordia University Rotaract club receives its charter from 2018-19 DG Ingrid Neitsch

Growing youth programs required the support of clubs, so Jackie ensured that information about youth programs was part of the training incoming club leaders received. 

“I had been part of the training team for many years in our District and I made sure that became an essential part of training of presidents-elect and club leaders,” Jackie says. “Clubs sponsor Interact and Rotaract clubs and we have seen that grow exponentially, more so than in any other district in our combined zones, Zone 24 and Zone 32. My guess is we have more active youth leaders than any of those districts.”

Part of the strategy was to encourage Rotary clubs to send students to RYLA events.

“We thought we should use the RYLA program as way to help clubs kickstart Interact clubs. If clubs would commit to sending three participants to RYLA, what would happen would be a lot like what happens at our District learning sessions,” Laura says. “If you have two or three people who go back with a consistent message, they are not a lone voice in the wilderness. We figured out how to get kids from RYLA to start Interact clubs and we trained their advisors to support them.”

When they graduate from high school and go on to post-secondary institutions, some former Interactors look to become involved in Rotaract clubs.

Laura recalls attending a University of Alberta Rotaract fundraiser about five or six years after she was first involved with Youth Services, as an amazing moment.

Screen Shot 2019-06-25 at 9.58.52 AM“The U of A Rotaract had about 90 members and when I walked in the room at least half of the members of the Rotaract club were kids that had been through RYLE, had joined Interact and now they were Rotaractors. There were kids from Yellowknife and Peace River and Grande Prairie and Camrose and they had found and built their community in the Rotaract club and they had built-in mentors because many of them had attended RYLE and some of their counsellors who were putting on the program were university students. When these kids got there, they already had friends.”

What has happened in our District over the past decade has made it a leader in North America in terms of Youth Services.

You get out east, to the east coast and down into the U.S., and they don’t have a lot of Rotaract clubs. They don’t have Interact clubs,” Tamara says.

“Why is it that way in other districts? I can’t say, but I have been approached by two other districts to help them build their youth programs and maybe do workshops and things like that.”

Maybe someday those districts will also have more youth clubs than Rotary clubs.

DG Tracey prepared to begin her 2019-2020 journey

Someone once said that a journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step.

For new District Governor Tracey Vavrek, her journey to visit the clubs in our District will be much longer—an estimated 33,000 km. 

And the first “step” will involve driving approximately 1,200 km from her home in Grande Prairie to Yellowknife, in a Toyota Highlander which is nicknamed Amelia Kind Heart. Each word of that name was chosen for a reason.

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“First off, Amelia suggests strength, a voyageur, and it means someone who has been working hard,” Tracey says. Also, “Amelia was my grandmother’s name. She was a very special person to me, who took me under her wing and guided me through life.”  

Regarding the second part of the name, Kind, Tracey says, “I believe that gratitude and kindness can change the world and what we do as Rotarians is offer kindness. We offer kindness to each other in fellowship and friendship and we offer kindness through local projects and the work we do around the world. 

“Every time you see the Rotary wheel, you also reflect on someone who has provided service. That service was given through kindness and care.” 

The final word is represented by the graphic of a heart. “It represents the love we all share together and we know that’s key for the essential of Rotary continuing.”

Tracey, Vince and their family

Accompanying Tracey on her journey, which will take until late November to complete, will be Vince, her husband and fellow member of the Rotary Club of Grande Prairie After Five, who has just completed a year as club president.

Tracey and Vince have been together for 20 years and between them have raised a blended family of four, now-adult children. “We are passionate about community and giving and we have raised our children with that concept,” she says. 

tracyvince.jpg“The unfortunate thing is that none of them live in the North anymore. They are all in southern Alberta. It hurts that they are all so far away, but we appreciate any time we get together.”

They also have one four-year-old granddaughter, Olivia who attended the June 27 District Changeover Event with her mother.

Vince grew up in the Grande Prairie and Tracey moved there 27 years ago for work. For the last 18 years, she has been the executive director/CEO of the Community Foundation of Northwestern Alberta.

“In this role I am very fortunate to be able to work with wonderful individuals from our community, from social services groups to service organizations such as Rotary, with government and educational institutions to strengthen the community,” Tracey says.

She believes that there is a good fit between her job and being a Rotarian.

“Rotarians are very focused on helping to do good in our local communities and internationally and at the Community Foundation I am very fortunate that I do this every day and then I have the opportunity as a Rotarian to do it in my volunteer job,” she says.

Taking advantage of Rotary’s increased flexibility

Thanks to the flexibility Rotary International now gives District governors and thanks to technology, Tracey will be able to continue her work with the foundation, while also fulfilling her role as District governor.

“This is what is wonderful about the changes that Rotary International made. Rotary International has added more flexibility to the District governor’s position to allow the governor to continue to work full time during their year,” Tracey says. 

“I will be able to continue in my role but working out of my car. I will have a temporary office established in my vehicle. It will include my laptop, Wi-Fi, and my printer. I will continue to maintain my responsibilities as the CEO of the foundation, but also be able to meet my responsibilities as the governor to connect with all the great people throughout our District.”

Some of the flexibility afforded District governors is the relaxation of some of the previous requirements, which includes not having to meet with each club separately. “Maybe you can do some collective meetings. Or maybe  there are opportunities to change the style of the meeting. To do what is right for the Rotarians and clubs, and also for the District governor” Tracey says. “Based on that, I do have a few communities where we will be hosting collective meetings together. So far, all our clubs and members have been very positive in responding and sharing and some have asked, ‘Can we do more together? Can we not only have our governor’s meeting, but also do some social things and community work together?’ ”

It’s through her foundation work that Tracey learned about Rotary. She was working with someone from the city of Grande Prairie, who was also a Rotarian. 

“He said, ‘You know,  with all your passion for the community, you might want to consider coming to a Rotary meeting.’ I can tell you, that was the start of an amazing journey. I attended my first Rotary meeting, the Rotary Club of Grande Prairie Sunrise. I became a member not long after that.”

That was 2006 and in 2010-2011 she became president of the Sunrise Club. Later, she moved over to the After Five for scheduling and availability reasons.

“That’s the wonderful thing about Rotary. There’s that flexibility. Find what is the right place for the Rotarian. It’s OK to move. It’s OK to make a shift if you need to,” Tracey says.

In addition to being a club president, Tracey served for three years as an assistant governor and has been a member of the District’s membership and foundation committees. She has also been part of a number of service projects.

Participation in service projects

“I am very fortunate to have been a driver for the Highway to Mexico project in 2012. That project brings essential equipment—fire trucks, ambulances, school supplies, wheelchairs, medical supplies—down to communities in the Mazatlan area, including remote communities that don’t have access to these resources. 

“It was quite a journey, travelling from northern Alberta. Eight days of driving, pulling into Mazatlan very late at night and being able to deliver this equipment and these items to that community.”

In her own community, Tracey has participated in projects in support of the local food bank drive. “We literally bring in tons and tons of food every year to support the food banks in Grande Prairie and the surrounding area. It’s an excellent project, supported by all the clubs in the area, including the Rotaract Club, our Interact Club and our Early-act club.”

More recently, Tracey was part of a Project Amigo program, which involved several past and future DGs who spent a volunteer week in Mexico. 

“Truly, it was life-changing to be on the ground in Mexico and meet with families in very remote and tough places and to be able to offer them hope and to help children reach their academic goals. It’s a gift that we can do that,” she says. 

“It was very humbling to experience that journey and that adventure and in my heart I will never forget the feeling of what I felt when I was down there.”

A commitment to leadership

Tracey sees her role as District governor as one of leadership, rather than management. 

“There is a difference between management and leadership. Management is when you have the opportunity just to have a systems of checks and balances in place and to keep moving things along. Leading and holding the role of District governor is truly about inspiring and engaging our great Rotarians and also helping others to understand what Rotary is about. 

“I believe it’s important that we grow Rotary and that we connect Rotary clubs at a stronger level with their own communities, but also at the international level,” Tracey says. 

“Just imagine if we can increase the presence of Rotary by sharing and inspiring others. That’s what I am really excited about. We know that people have dreams. People have dreams to connect and do more for others. When we connect the dreams of people who desire to serve with the dreams of the people who are in need … wow! That’s amazing. I am really excited to be able to sit down, to have conversations with people, to hear about their dreams and look at ways we can continue to do what we are doing and do more,” Tracey says.

“I am truly, truly honoured today to be able to step into the role of District governor. There is a little bit of nervousness coming in as well. It is a key role in helping Rotary to go forward at the District level and for Rotary International. I don’t take it lightly. I am excited. I am honoured and I am humbled,” Tracey says.

“I believe we have one of the best Districts in the world. Look at the impact of our District, from our local work to our international work.”