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.

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“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.”