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.”
District 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.”
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.”