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.”
“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
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.”
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, firstname.lastname@example.org.