Unwind after the District Conference by attending a virtual scotch-tasting seminar

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Not all that was planned for the in-person Vision 2020 District Conference survived the transition to the virtual event scheduled for Saturday, September 12.

Most of the scheduled speakers agreed to present virtually and plans are in place for a virtual project fair.

Click here to register for the conference.

But the virtual format doesn’t lend itself to offering the social activities planned for the conference, such as the Thursday night reception, the Governor’s ball and Rotary’s Got Talent.

Fortunately, there will still be an opportunity to socialize, albeit virtually, from your living room or with a few other Rotarians from your club who choose to gather locally to view the conference proceedings together.

Related Articles: 

Vision 2020 District Conference goes virtual—here’s how we got there

Virtual project fair is an opportunity for clubs to “strut their stuff’ at the Vision 2020 District Conference

District conference sponsorship opportunities available from $25 to $2,000

kegncork black backgroundOnce the formal conference activities wrap up, you can attend a virtual scotch-tasting, hosted by the Keg N Cork liquor store in Edmonton. Each participant will be able to sample and learn about four different scotches: Glenallachie (12-year old), Ballechin (10-year old), Loch Lomond (18-year old), and Glen Scotia Victoriana.

“People will be able to ask questions if they want to know more about a particular scotch,” says Elizabeth Bonkink (RC of Edmonton Gateway), who is helping organize the conference.

The seminar, guided by an expert from the Keg N Cork tasting room, will begin after the conference sessions end.

“This will be really very millennial-friendly,” Elizabeth says. “Millennials don’t drink as much as people think they do, but what they do drink needs to have a story and it needs to interesting and local.”

Unlike the rest of the conference, there will be a cost to participate in the tasting session. The $50 fee includes the four scotch samples, shipping and the tasting.

Once people register, they will be sent a box containing four 50-ml bottles and tasting notes.

Orders must be placed by September 7 to ensure that the samples arrive in time for the tasting.

Unfortunately, provincial liquor regulations do not permit shipment of the scotch samples to addresses outside Alberta.

Keg N Cork, which is owned by Rotarian Lionel Usiuner (Rotary Club of Edmonton Gateway), has signed up as a conference sponsor and will have a booth in the virtual project fair.

Click here to sign up for the scotch-tasting seminar.

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YEG Passport raising funds to send a team to Ecuador in early 2021 to perform cataract surgeries

Just a year after it chartered as the District’s first new club in a decade, the YEG Passport club is planning its first international project.

Screen Shot 2020-08-08 at 2.35.56 PM“The project we are working on right now, that we are raising funds for right now, is a project we are doing in conjunction with the Riverview club. We are the lead on it,” says past-president Markus Muhs.

Once travel restrictions are lifted, the club will send a medical team to Cuenca, Ecuador, to perform cataract surgery for low-income individuals who are blind or severely vision- impaired due to cataracts, and who cannot afford the life-changing surgery they need.

In Ecuador, cataract surgery is not covered by the health-care system and is therefore out of reach for many individuals.

Untreated, cataracts will lead to the loss of vision. A lot of people are unable to work and become a burden to their families,” says Paul Dusseault (RC of Edmonton Riverview).

Paul is sharing his expertise and contacts in the Rotary Club of Tomebamba in Cuenca to help the Passport club prepare for its project. He has been part of several Riverview projects in Ecuador. 

The club is raising funds locally through an online 50/50 raffle. Alberta residents can purchase tickets in packs of 100 tickets for $100, 20 tickets for $50, four tickets for $20 and one ticket for $10. Sales end on August 17.

Promotion Image for Rafflebox RaffleThe club has also applied for a Rotary International Global Grant to support this project. Global Grants are funded from the donations of Rotarians to The Rotary Foundation.

This started as a Riverview project, but because we can only apply for one Global Grant at a time, we looked for another local club which would take the lead on this project,” Paul says. “When I approached them, the YEG Passport club was very enthusiastic about getting involved.”

The Riverview club has applied for a Global Grant to support the purchase of an autoclave for a hospital is Cuenca that is used by a Project Esperanza medical team supported by Riverview to perform orthopaedic surgeries.

The existing autoclave is too small to be used to sterilize instruments used by the Project Esperanza team. The instruments had to be sent to another hospital after each surgery. This meant the team could perform fewer operations during its last visit to Ecuador, in February 2020.

While in Ecuador, the Misión Claridad (Mission Clarity) team of medical professionals and volunteers will collaborate with the local Rotary Club of Tomebamba, Ecuadorean ophthalmology professionals, other health-care professionals, and local not-for-profit associations.

The project will also have a much-needed educational component that will deliver information to adults and children about cataracts and eye health.

The target date for the cataract team to visit Ecuador is the end of February 2021, but that will depend on the situation there related to COVID-19.

“When the team goes will depends on the recommendations of Ecuadorians,” Paul says. “If they recommend we postpone, we will postpone for six months, a year or longer.”

Even so, the YEG Passport club is intent on getting the funding in place as soon as possible, so that it can focus on preparing for the project.

Markus is not surprised that the club is planning an international project after just one year because he feels that having an active International committee was one of the successes of the club’s first year.

Markus himself has also shown his commitment to international service, having been part of District playground-builds in Belize. He also drove an ambulance to Mazatlan in November 2019, as part of the Highway to Mexico caravan.

The club faced several challenges during its first year, including a drop in membership numbers, but was able to work through these and make some adjustments.

Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Edmonton Whyte Avenue, the club chartered with 21 members.

“About half the members were completely new to Rotary and the other half were current or former Rotarians,” says Markus, who transferred to what was then the District’s newest club from its oldest,  the 104-year old Rotary Club of Edmonton.

“A challenge we found was a lot of members joined — either they were from other Rotary clubs or they were interested in Rotary — but (they) didn’t have a lot of time to commit to it. So we ended up having quite a few passive members,” Markus says. “That number came down quite substantially. I think we were down to 13, but since we have inducted three in this new Rotary year. We are at 16 now.”

They also discovered that the meeting schedule they began with had to change.

“We initially started with a plan to meet in person once a month,” Markus says. “We quickly found that meeting just once a month was not engaging enough, especially if certain meetings didn’t work with someone’s schedule. Then we wouldn’t see someone for two or three months.

“Right away, we introduced weekly Zoom meetings, just to touch base. Also, we were doing a lot of planning at that time,” he says. “We would usually get three to five people show up. It was an opportunity for people who missed the monthly meeting to catch up. We really encouraged people to make it to one of these Zoom meetings, each month.”

The club plans to move to one in-person meeting and one Zoom meeting once the gathering restrictions are lifted.

They also decided to alter their plans for what would happen at meetings.

“We had left the agenda of our meetings up in the air, without much structure. Initially we planned that our club would not be hosting speakers, because we thought it detracted too much from Rotary business,” Markus says. “We found there was some demand for speakers. It’s a reason to bring in someone from outside. We are trying to have once-a-month speakers and once-a-month club business. 

Markus is optimistic that after overcoming these initial growing pains, the Rotary Club of YEG Passport is ready to thrive and grow and work with other clubs on service projects both local and international.

Rotary Employment Partnership founder receives a Service Above Self award

“Now, everyone puts their own coffee cups in the dishwasher.”

Those words, more than any others, could sum up the success of the Rotary Employment Partnership that Wendy McDonald (RC of Edmonton Sunrise) has championed since its inception 20 years ago.

Wendy’s dedication to helping people with developmental disabilities find “real work for real pay” was recognized with a Service Above Self award, which was presented by 2018-2020 Rotary International Director Jeffry Cadorette during the District Changeover Event on June 25.

“This award is presented to Rotarians who have demonstrated exemplary humanitarian service, with an emphasis on personal voluntary efforts and active involvement in helping others,” he said.

Jeffry emphasized the exclusiveness of the award. 

“Only up to 150 Service Above Self awards can be given each year. Imagine that—1.2 million Rotarians, 540 Districts. And only 150 awards.

“This award is very special. While all Rotarians serve and all Rotarians should be recognized, these individuals are in a league of their own,” Jeffry said.

“I am very proud for the recognition, very honoured to have been recognized.” Wendy says. “The Rotary Employment Partnership is certainly a passion of mine and over the last 20 years has become a really significant part of my life.”

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Service Above Self Award recipient Wendy McDonald with her son Kyle

The Rotary Employment Partnership was formed with Inclusion Alberta and the Government of Alberta to create meaningful employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities.

Wendy describes the role of each of the partners:

“It’s Rotary’s and (the job of participating) Rotarians’ to create jobs, to find organizations and employment opportunities and companies that are willing to talk about inclusive employment. It is Inclusion Alberta’s job to provide the support to Rotary and it is government’s job to provide the funding. Today, even though we’re much bigger, that is still the structure of the partnership.”

Screen Shot 2020-08-01 at 4.37.58 PMWendy hopes that her receiving this award will increase awareness of the challenges these individuals face finding employment. 

“It needs to be elevated in a sense that people understand we’ve got a community that struggles with unemployment in a way that most of us don’t understand,” she says.

Without opportunities for meaningful employment, these people face a life of isolation and loneness.

“Imagine what it was like to live a life of isolation and loneliness with no prospects of a job,” Wendy says. “I think we can all maybe empathize with them, but I don’t think we really can understand because that’s not our life experience.”

She suggests that dealing with the pandemic may give us a taste of what life is like for people with developmental disabilities facing a life of unemployment.

“COVID has presented this opportunity for people to understand what isolation, job loss, not being able to connect with others feel like, even if it’s for a short period of time,” she says. “I would just like us to understand that for many in this population, their life really didn’t change in COVID, whereas for many of us, it has been really challenging and hard and it presented all sorts of challenges for many people with developmental disabilities.” 

Since its modest beginnings, the partnership has helped nearly 600 people find employment, including Brian, who was hired by ATB Financial to work in its Strathcona branch in Edmonton.

“Part of his job was filling the dishwasher in the staff room and making sure that that coffee was out for ATB clients,” Wendy say. “Part of Brian’s job was to help greet customers and direct them when they came in the building.”

As they came to know him, his colleagues felt he could take on more responsibility. 

“His co-workers said, ‘Why aren’t you a customer service representative just like we are?’ His colleagues said, ‘He can do what we’re doing.’ 

“And he can”, Wendy says. “He needed a little more time to learn the material and have it presented in a way that he could understand it.With the support of the leadership of that branch and his colleagues, Brian is now a customer service rep. 

“He’s doing the same role that his co-workers are and everybody fills the dishwasher. It’s just not one person’s job.”

Brian’s story has been captured in a video on the Rotary Employment website.

Wendy traces the beginning of the Rotary Employment Partnership back to the Rotary International Convention held in Buenos Aires in 2000, which she attended as the president-elect of the Rotary Club of Edmonton Mayfield.

“Incoming RI president Frank Devlyn talked about his goals and hopes for the Rotary year. One of those goals was that Rotarians would take responsibility for changing the unemployment rate for people with disabilities.”

Wendy, who has a son with a developmental disability, returned home and researched the employment prospects of people with developmental disabilities.

“I wanted to understand the realities for individuals with developmental disabilities because it was my interest because of Kyle.”

Part of what she discovered is that the unemployment rate for this population at that time was 70 per cent. 

“What’s really kind of disappointing to me in 2020 is that has only gone up,” Wendy says. “We have close to an 80 per cent unemployment rate for this population.” 

The research done, Wendy approached the incoming board with her ideas. “I said, ‘I would like to do a project that addresses this,’ and literally everybody on the board agreed, thought it was a great idea.”

Over the first months of her presidency, Wendy invited the CEO of Inclusion Alberta and representatives of the Alberta government to Rotary meetings.

“I think I invited the right people who really had a vision of what the Rotary Employment Partnership could look like probably before I even did.”

The transition from a club project to a District initiative began when a Rotarian from another club attended the meeting at which the idea of the project was introduced to members of the Mayfield club.

“There was a member from the West Edmonton Rotary Club who was doing the makeup and he came up to me at the end of that very first presentation and said, ‘I want to do this in my club too.’

“Within a couple of months, the St. Albert Rotary Club came aboard.”

The Rotary Employment Partnership became a District initiative in 2008-2009, when Ross Tyson (RC of Edmonton Northeast) was the District Governor.

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Over the years, the program has expanded beyond the Edmonton region.

“We started the partnership in Lloydminster about 12 years ago. Grande Prairie would probably be about that time as well, 10 or 11 years. Red Deer would also be about that time or about that, and then Calgary, we kind of had a false start about 10 years ago and then we’ve been back in Calgary in a really meaningful way for five years.”

Recently District 5360 in southern Alberta joined the partnership.

Apart from the obvious benefit for the individuals who have meaningful employment, the partnership has been good for their families and participating employers.

“It provides a ton of hope for families about what is possible for their family member with a developmental delay,” Wendy says.

On its website, the partnership encourages potential employers to consider that, as employees, people with disabilities have lower absenteeism and stay with employers longer than their non-disabled counterparts, have good on-the-job safety records and 90 per cent of people with disabilities rated average or better on job performance appraisals.

Wendy predicts that for people with developmental disabilities finding meaningful employment will be even more difficult, which means that more Rotarians will need to step up to meet the challenge.

“Moving into our post-COVID world, it’s going to be even more critical for Rotary and Rotarians to be thinking about presenting opportunities and introducing the idea of inclusive employment to their colleagues, friends, neighbours and fellow Rotarians,” she says. “I really worry that this population will be left behind if we’re not really intentional about ensuring that there’s a space for these really important members of our community.”

Learn more about the Rotary Employment Partnership by contacting Wendy at wmcdonald@inclusionalberta.org or 780-451-3055 x410.

Rotary Club of Northwest Spirit charters with 31 members from across the District

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Former Rotary International Vice-President Dean Rohrs raises her glass to salute members of the Rotary Club of Northwest Spirit.

A little over a year ago, our District had no passport clubs. Today there are two, after the Northwest Spirit club was chartered at the end of June. 

“As a passport Rotary club we use a model that gives members a flexible club experience with a relaxed attendance policy and electronic meetings,” says PDG Tim Schilds, who served as the club’s charter president before handing the virtual gavel to incoming president Darryll White on July 1.

“As a new club, as a new model club, as a passport club, you have the greatest privilege to design a Rotary which is suitable for the Rotary of tomorrow,” said former Rotary International Vice-President Dean Rohrs, who spoke to the 47 people who attended the virtual charter night held July 22. 

“You are building on the experiences of the past, but you are building a club that will only grow stronger and stronger and embrace change and embrace the new way and the new wave of Rotary.”

Part of that new wave is to become more diverse, as is reflected in Rotary’s diversity statement.

“We are looking at the acceptance of everyone into our society in a completely equal way,” Dean said. “I don’t care who you are or what you are. Every one of us is different, because we are individuals. It doesn’t matter what colour your skin is, what your societal background is, what culture you come from. We are all human beings on this planet. All deserve equal opportunities and an equal place at the Rotary table.”

She noted that we grew up in a society where divisions were accepted, but the time has come for change.

“I am so proud of Rotary that they are actually taking a stand and they are saying, “So far, no further,’” Dean said. “It is going to become part of Rotary policy that there will be no divisions. There will be equity on every single level, be it gender, be it sexual orientation, be it colour, be it age, be it religion, be it culture, be it political views.”

Dean ended her presentation with a challenge to members of the Rotary Club of Northwest Spirit.

“What an amazing opportunity to be as inclusive as you possibly can be,” she said. “Become the most diverse club in every way. Have the strength to become our guide in the process of becoming inclusive.”

Both Past District Governor Tracey and District Governor Jim Ferguson also spoke during the charter night celebration.

“It was one of those situations, where we technically chartered while Tracey was DG, but our charter night was when Jim was the District Governor, so we had them both speak,” Tim says. “Both did an excellent job.”

Discussions began in Grande Prairie

The seed that grew into the Rotary Club of Northwest Spirit was planted during the People of Action District Conference held in Grande Prairie in October 2019.

“A few of us were sitting around and talking about our current situation with Rotary clubs. I mentioned I had been trying to introduce passport membership into our own Rotary club in Dawson Creek,” Tim says. “There were a couple of people who were there who mentioned that (a passport club) would be ideal for them, as well, and so from there we began talking to various people. 

“I knew several who weren’t able to join a traditional type of Rotary club. When I talked to DG Tracey about it, she indicated that she had a few people she had heard from, particularly in Grande Cache, that really wanted to be back in Rotary, but they didn’t have enough people in Grande Cache to be a satellite club, so a passport membership would work for them.” 

When Tim and others got serious about forming a new club, things moved quickly.

“It is actually amazing how it blossomed. We had our very first gathering on May 2 with about 15 people there,” Tim says. “They started inviting friends and within six weeks we had 31 people who were ready to charter.”

The new club received its charter on June 25, with PDG Tracey’s home club—Grande Prairie After Five—as its sponsor. 

Club includes the District’s youngest Rotarians

Club members come from across our District, including 10 Rotarians who transferred their membership and 21 who are either new to Rotary or former members who are returning to Rotary.

“There are five Grande Cache members,” Tim says. “One was a member in Peace River and got transferred to Grande Cache and three were part of the Grande Cache club when it was up and running.”

There are also three members from Dawson Creek, seven from the Edmonton area, five from Peace River and 12 from Fort St. John, including two who are likely the youngest Rotarians in our District.

“The Fort St. John group includes two young ladies who were Interact members and graduated and really wanted to stay part of Rotary but didn’t have Rotaract, so we invited them to our club,” Tim says.

Monthly club meetings online will combine with in-person gatherings.

“A big part of the plan is to get together locally,” Tim says. “For example, the Fort St. John ones would get together and come online as a group.”

There will also be times when the entire club will come together.

“We are hoping to get together at least quarterly for projects we can work on,” Tim says. “For example, if Grande Cache has an initiative, we would all go down there and help them with it.”

Another part of the vision for the club will see members helping other clubs with their projects.

“I think that is definitely going to be one of our big things,” Tim says. “Last weekend, several of our members from Peace River helped out the Peace River Rotaract Club to repaint the SPCA building.”

The Peace River Rotaract Club was just chartered, itself, in the spring.

“If you have a project you want help with, contact Carol Drescher (carolpdrescher@gmail.com),” Tim says. “We have members that would all love to connect with your Rotary club to help with projects in your area.” 

Virtual Gala raises $50K for COVID-19 relief in St. Albert

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After nearly a year of planning, and just a couple of weeks before the March 21 event, members of the Rotary Club of St. Albert realized COVID-19 meant that their 30th anniversary gala would need to be cancelled.

“We had to cancel contracts and reach out to donors to our silent auction and people who had bought tickets,” says president Mark Dixon. “We were shocked by how many said, ‘Let it ride.’ The majority told us to keep their donations and the money they had paid for tickets.”

Initially, the club considered just waiting until next year to celebrate its first three decades, but then members had another idea.

The result was an evening of fun on Tuesday, July 7, which raised $50,000. The money will go to support SAIF—Stop Abuse in Families, youth mental health and other organizations supporting those in St. Albert hit hard by COVID-19.

“I had seen what the Production World company had done putting together an online event for Junior Achievement,” Mark says. “Could we replicate that for our gala?”

Mark pitched the idea to the club. 

“Some were hesitant because we hadn’t done it before,” he says. “It required some clubs members to take a mental leap, but we gave it a shot. The results were amazing.”

Mark and veteran broadcaster Shawna Randolph, who is now the director of the St. Albert Chamber of Commerce, hosted the event from the Production World studio, with links via Zoom to five recently re-opened local restaurants where Rotarians and other guests gathered for dinner.

Others opted to join in from their homes, enjoying meals delivered from one of the participating restaurants—XIX Nineteen, Nello’s Italian Restaurant, Riverbank Bistro, Luisa Risto and Sorrentino’s.

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St. Albert Rotary president Mark Dixon and co-host Shawna Randolph in the Production World studio watch as Ryan Jespersen interviews St. Albert mayor and Rotarian Cathy Heron at XIX Nineteen restaurant.

Two local performers, both former participants in the Rotary St. Albert Musical Festival, joined Mark and Shawna in studio. Daphne Charrois, who is currently training for Broadway at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, opened the evening by singing O Canada.

Later, singer-songwriter Hailey Benedict, who performed with Keith Urban when he was at Rogers Place, sang one of her songs.

Throughout the evening, 630 CHED’s Ryan Jespersen visited three of the participating restaurants to provide live cut-ins, interviewing Rotarians and other guests.

There were also videos from two of organizations that will benefit from the club’s fundraising success.

Funds were raised through an online auction, with items originally donated for the live event scheduled for March 21 and others received for the online auction.

The auction began a few days before the gala and continued until 11:00 p.m. on the evening of the event.

“The bids started coming in quickly. We already had $15,000 before the event started,” Mark says. “Then, during the evening, we could see the bidding going up.”

Additional funds were raised with raffles with two cases of wine to be won at each of the restaurants and a 50/50 draw across all the venues.

“Members were quite pleased with the evening,” Mark says. “We are so pleased how everything came together in only seven or eight weeks. We’re surprised how well we could pull it off.

“We went from nothing after we had to cancel our traditional gala to a virtual event where we received $50,000.”

Edmonton Rotarian invited to join advisory committee to RI directors

Rotary has opened a new opportunity for Tamara Larson (RC of Edmonton Whyte Avenue), our District’s former Youth Services chair (2016-2019) and 2017-2018 District Rotarian-of-the-Year. 

On July 1, Tamara began a two-year term on Rotary International’s Leadership Development and Training Committee, which advises the RI board of directors on leadership training programs for Rotarians, clubs and Districts, with a special emphasis on training for District governors.

Screen Shot 2020-07-19 at 9.32.26 AM“I’m just really excited for this new opportunity. It’s a great privilege,” Tamara says. “I know that many people want to work on those committees and it really, truly is an honour and a really new opportunity for me. The theme this year is ‘Rotary Opens Opportunities,’ and truly, on my Rotary career path there have been many.”

Tamara applied to join the Leadership Development and Training Committee nearly a year ago, when RI issued a call for Rotarians to sit on several different advisory committees, and “didn’t think much about it. And then, lo and behold this spring I got this email that my application had been accepted.”

Then-RI President-Elect Holger Knaack wrote, “You have been selected for this appointment because we believe that you will add value to the committee given your experience and knowledge of Rotary and its programs.”

As the District Youth Services chair, Tamara was part of a succession of District leaders, including PDG Jackie Hobal and PDG Laura Morie, who made District 5370 a leader in Rotary youth programs.

In addition to leading the Youth Services Committee, Tamara has chaired the District Risk Management Committee, served on the Learning and Development Committee and currently is on the District Peace Building Committee.

She also served two years as president of the Rotary Club of Edmonton Whyte Avenue and as the club’s Foundation and Public Image Committees chair. 

Beyond what she has done in our District, Tamara worked with Rotarians in District 5550 to organize the annual Rotary Adventures in Human Rights at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, and has contributed to the youth component of several Zones 28 and 32 institutes and conferences.

“Learning and development is something that is very close to my heart,” Tamara says. “It’s something I work on not only at Rotary but professionally. I have a master’s degree in curriculum design. So I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to use those skills and work with the board and offer some guidance on youth programs?’”

As she waits for its first meeting, Tamara has been learning more about the committee and what it does.

“We’ve had several email conversations and some new materials are coming out,” she says. “So I’m very excited to be part of this role and hoping that my experience both personally and professionally will be able to offer some guidance and direction in moving Rotary forward and supporting youth programs globally.”

She has already had the opportunity to learn about others with whom she will be working. 

“As far as I can tell right now, there are seven committee members,” she says. “They’re from all over the world—Italy and France and Pakistan, both male and female and from different walks of life.

“I’m sure there will be much learning about different cultures and what different areas of Rotary need to focus on, and what challenges each of us has faced, and what the district governors need to succeed, and what can we do in the learning center to provide support to Rotarians.

As she prepares to begin this next step in her Rotary journey, Tamara has appreciation for those from whom she has received support.

“I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to thank those who have offered me support, guidance, mentorship and most of all friendship, in my Rotary career path: Laura Morie, Frank and Barb Reitz, Ingrid Neitsch, Jackie Hobal, the many members of the past District Youth Council, the Rotaract and Interact leaders, our exchange students, the youth exchange team and so many others. 

“It is because of the teamwork, trust, relationships and vision of so many that we were able to succeed as a District in creating leading-edge youth programs and truly impact the lives of so many.”

District conference sponsorship opportunities available from $25 to $2,000

Screen Shot 2020-07-19 at 8.52.51 AMSupport from sponsors will enable the District to offer a high-quality virtual District conference on Saturday, September 12, at no cost to participating Rotarians, Rotaractors and Interactors.

“Sponsorship allows us to remove all barriers to participation in the conference,” says Elizabeth Bonkink (RC of Edmonton Gateway), who is responsible for sponsorship for the Vision 2020 District Conference.

Registration is now open for the conference.

The value of sponsorships are set at levels that allow nearly anyone to become a sponsor, from $25 for individuals who wish to help offset the conference expenses to $2,000 to sponsor a keynote speaker.

“Anyone can become a sponsor, from an individual Rotarian to a club to a business,” Elizabeth says. “We hope that some businesses will want to connect with Rotarians.”

So far, five sponsors have stepped forward to support the Vision 2020 District 5370 Conference: Rotary E-Club of Canada One, Kiwi Productions, the Edmonton Community Foundation, Main Street Financials and Sitescappers Contracting.

White Card On The Black Background With Text Sponsors Welcome

In addition to supporting presentations by keynote speakers, potential sponsors can opt to support presentations by Rotary International president Holger Knaack or RI Director Valerie Wafer or the ceremony for the presentation of District awards.

Others can become general sponsors for the conference.

Depending on the level of contributions, the support of sponsors will be recognized in different ways, such as the opportunity to introduce keynote speakers or have an ad placement prior to the introduction, logos and websites on the screen during presentations, space in the virtual project fair, logos and websites on the conference’s sponsor page, and a special thank-you listing in the District newsletter.

More information about sponsorship is available on the conference website.

The virtual project fair will be accessible for several weeks following the conference.

Additional funding for the conference has come from the District budget and the Kiss Your Sweetheart Goodbye raffle held this past spring.

Virtual project fair is an opportunity for clubs to “strut their stuff’ at the Vision 2020 District Conference


While the pandemic changed some plans for the 2020 District Conference, other plans have not only remained the same but have been enhanced by the decision to make Vision 2020 a virtual event.

Registration is now open for the Vision 2020 Virtual District Conference, to be held Saturday, September 12.

Even before the pandemic dictated that Vision 2020 would be a virtual event, plans were already underway to increase the scope of the House of Friendship.

This popular component of previous District conferences, where Rotarians, Rotoractors and Interactors can browse displays and learn more about the programs of other clubs and partner organizations, has now become a project fair.

“The House of Friendship for the District 5370 Vision 2020 Conference will be quite different from previous conferences,” says Past District Governor Judy Brown (Rotary E-Club of Canada One), who is responsible for organizing the project fair.

“We wanted to give clubs an opportunity to showcase what they are doing,” Judy says. “This is your opportunity to find partners for your local or global projects and showcase how your club is serving our communities.”

Rotary EventThe project fair will operate in similar fashion to the House of Friendship at the Rotary International 2020 Virtual Convention, which remains open all day, every day until the end of July, even though the convention itself ended in June. The project fair for the Vision 2020 Virtual District Conference will continue to be accessible for a few weeks after Vision 2020 ends.

Clubs and non-profits can book a booth for the project fair to showcase how they provide service locally and internationally. It will also be an opportunity to seek financial support for projects or to find other clubs interested in partnering with them.

Check future issues of the Rotary District 5370 CONNECTIONS newsletter for information on how and when to book your virtual project fair booth.

There is a fee of $25 for Rotary and Rotoract clubs and $100 for non-profits.

Commercial businesses can also request space in the Virtual Project Fair. The commercial fee is $250.

Booths can include video, photo galleries, information about the club and its service programs, and buttons for visitors to request additional information or to make financial donations.

Booths can even be inactive at specific times during the conference using Zoom breakout rooms.

Once clubs have been accepted for participation in the project fair, they will be invited to submit video, photos and program information to be displayed so that a booth (webpage) can be built for them. After a booth is approved by its club, it will become part of the virtual project fair.

 Judy hopes to see participation in the project fair by clubs from across the District. “We want to encourage all clubs to come and strut their stuff,” she says.

Program combines service, patriotism and fundraising

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Two clubs in our District have found a way to provide a service to community members, promote Canadian patriotism, increase awareness of Rotary and raise funds—with just one activity.

Prior to each of three holidays—Victoria Day, Canada Day and Labour Day—Rotarians from the Camrose and St. Albert clubs deliver Canadian flags, poles and stands to homes and businesses. After about a week, the flags are picked up and put into storage until the next holiday.

Participants make a donation of $50 or more for each flag for the three holidays.

“Our customers are people who live in Camrose who want to show their patriotism,” says John Stoddard, who introduced the concept to the Rotary Club of Camrose Daybreak in 2013.

The programs of both clubs are modelled after a similar program of the Rotary Club of Edmonton Strathcona. 

The money raised by the flag programs is used to fund community service projects, such as support for the food bank and air cadets in Camrose.

“Because these funds are unrestricted, we can use them with organizations that are not eligible for gaming funds,” John says.

Many of the community members to which the Rotary clubs provide flags are repeat customers.

Screen Shot 2020-07-12 at 9.27.19 AM“We have a database of people who have booked flags who we email each year,” says Mark Dixon, president of the Rotary Club of St. Albert, which also runs a flag program. “The vast majority are interested in getting flags again.”

Each year, the programs attract more customers.

“We started slowly, with a goal to get to 200 flags,” John says. “We’re over 200 and the program is growing all the time.”

Growth in St. Albert has been greater, growing from 100 to 150 a couple of years after the program was initiated, to 525 for this year.

“We are considering going to 600 or 700,” Mark says. “At that point, we would need to involve other community groups, such as the Girl Guides or Scouts, to help with deliveries.”

In Camrose, the Rotary club already involves the air cadets in its deliveries, paying the organization for each flag its members deliver.

To promote the program in St. Albert, the club distributed postcards throughout the community earlier this year. Word of mouth prompted others to order flags.

“Typically, what happens is we plant a flag in one yard and then their neighbours request flags. We have whole crescents displaying flags,” Mark says. “It’s like a field of wonderful Canadian dandelions.”

The clubs purchase flags from a variety of sources for their programs. Poles and stands are ordered separately.

Camrose purchases flagpoles from a Rotarian-owned company in British Columbia.

“He gives us a pretty good price, but we have to buy a pallet load at a time,” John says. The surplus poles are sold to other Rotary clubs with similar programs.

In St. Albert, a club member secures the poles and then the club holds a work bee to paint them.

Both clubs have the stands, which are inserted in lawns to hold the poles, custom-made by local welders.

In addition to providing flags to customers for the three holidays, the Rotary Club of Camrose Daybreak uses them throughout the community at different times.

To boost spirits during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, in April the club installed flags at the east and west entrances to the city, where they remained for about a week.

In other years, flags from the Rotary club have been displayed along the main street when it is closed for special events, such as parades and the Jaywalker Festival.

“Since the program was launched, lots of people in Camrose are flying flags,” John says. “There is more patriotism in the community.”

Rotary Clubs during a pandemic: Whitecourt and Lloydminster

Food bank, seniors and a Kangaroo scrotum in Whitecourt

foodbank1Like so many other District 5370 clubs, the Rotary Club of Whitecourt has found ways to serve its community and to keep Rotarians connected despite the restrictions  imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Its service projects included support for the local food bank and support for seniors in the community.

The club obtained permission from two local grocery stores on Sunday, March 21 to place trailers in their parking lots. “We had big signs and shoppers donated food and cash,” says public relations chair Sarah Letkeman.

In May, the club used matching funds from the District Foundation Committee for pandemic relief to purchase food for the food bank. “We bought $1,300 in groceries with the District grant, plus $300 that IGA kicked in, and delivered the groceries to the food bank,” Sarah says.

Rotarian and town of Whitecourt FCSS co-ordinator Fay Arcand involved club members in the Seniors Friendship program, which sees club members phoning seniors once a week, “to chat about anything non-COVID and build friendships,” Sarah says. 

“She looked after signing-up seniors and signing-up Rotarians. Then she matched them up,” Sarah says. “They call the same senior each week at an agreed upon time. 

“Fay also provided some fun trivia questions we could use during our phone calls to have some fun.”

Fun is also what the Rotarians had with a scavenger hunt organized by former president and membership chair Holly Astill as part of the club’s virtual charter night celebration on May 21. Prior to the event, members were instructed to gather some or all of the items on a list that promised points for cutest dog, prettiest cat, fanciest shoes, funniest hat, most interesting book, best-dressed couple, best-dressed single, most unique object, best cocktail and more.

“There were some crazy items people brought,” Sarah says. “There was a script autographed by Robin Williams, a German hard-boiled egg breaker, a bottle opener made out of Kangaroo scrotum, and a Caesar drink with bacon, celery and so much stuff hanging out of the glass it was basically a meal in itself!

“For the best-dressed category, two separate people showed how from the waist-up they were pretty fancy, but once they stood up it was pyjama shorts and funky socks,” she says. 

“It was SO FUN! Rotarians are such interesting people.”

Lloydminster lunch club returns to regular meetings

The Rotary Club of Lloydminster has joined the list of clubs returning to in-person meetings on a trial basis, following protocol related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are limited to 30 people and our venue is providing bagged lunches that members need to pre-order,” says now-past president Stan Buriera.

Prior to returning to regular meetings on June 22, the 49-member club held its meeting via Zoom.

During these well-attended meetings, member each paid $10 to enter a “bingo ball” draw.

“Some members gained good coin and our club admin account did well,” Stan says. The winner received 25 per cent of the pot, “if the exact number got drawn. Otherwise the prize money carried forward.”


Share tales of your club during COVID-19 with us so we can share them with Rotarians and Rotaractors across our District. Email your submissions to communications@Rotary5370.org. Please include photos if possible.