Tracey Vavrek reflects on her first six months as District Governor

Six months into the role and after having visited all 60 clubs, District Governor Tracey Vavrek is feeling proud to be part of Rotary District 5370.

“I am honoured to represent District 5370, especially after what we’ve experienced in our travels, seeing the impact that members are making,” Tracey says.

Reaching all 60 clubs required Tracey and Vince to drive 32,000 km in their Toyota Highlander, nicked named Amelia Kind Heart. There were also flights to visit the two clubs in Whitehorse, which became part of our District on July 1, 2019.

0080_t.sedore-photography-aug2018-1.jpg“We’ve had the opportunity to meet close to 2,000 individuals,” Tracey says. “All our members have such a beautiful spirit of family, connectedness, friendship and feeling they can to do so much for others.”

Tracey found that no matter their size, Rotary clubs across the District are making a difference in their communities.

“We have clubs with maybe 20 or 25 members and they are the strength of the community,” she says. “They’re on the ground, working really hard together and partnering with a variety of organizations and municipalities to help ensure the communities they live in are extremely strong and have what’s needed.”

Apart from club visits, there have been other highlights. Topping the list has been the opportunity to induct new Rotarians.

“At many clubs, we have inducted new members into the Rotary family. It has been very humbling to see their excitement, their energy and their passion and to know that they are there to make a difference for others,” Tracey says.

Tracey encourages Rotarians to invite others to join Rotary, “because the world and our communities need more Rotary and we need more members to help us do more.”

Screen Shot 2019-10-13 at 12.48.47 PMAnother highlight was the Pints for Polio initiative to raise funds to help eradicate polio.

“I’m extremely proud of our members’ dedication to our Pints for Polio initiative. The majority, if not all, clubs have done something in support of ending polio.” Tracey says.

“We know the importance of a hard push right now, so this extra work that our clubs are doing has been absolutely tremendous.”

The People of Action District Conference, held in Grande Prairie in October, was successful both financially and in terms of the enthusiasm of participants.

With 560 registrations, including 135 first-time attendees, it was the District’s largest conference ever. “Following the conference, many Rotarians spoke to us about different things that they grabbed from the conference that they were utilizing themselves and within their clubs.”

Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 11.19.17 PMThe next District Conference, Vision 2020, will be held at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Edmonton, September 17-19, 2020. Click here for more information and to register.

For this year, there have been a number of changes to how the District board operates. 

The Services portfolio has been divided into two positions, one focused on community service and the other on international service.

“Having two different directors allows the board to have equal opportunity to reflect on our support for international projects and the amazing work clubs do within their communities,” Tracey says. “It gives us double the capacity to do tremendous service work locally, as well as internationally.” 

Alexis Ksiazkiewicz (RC of Edmonton) is the Community Services Director and Al Pierog (RC of Edmonton South), the director for International Services.

“They’re a conduit to our Rotary clubs,” Tracey says. “They are knowledge centres and they are advocates. They can support clubs to partner, to work together. It could be funding. It could be travel. It could be service together.”

Another recent change was to invite Yvone Joubert (Grant MacEwan Rotaract Club) to join the board as a non-voting young leader representative.

“One of the things that was really important to me through all of my training was continuing to have a voice, and not just a voice but the expertise, the thoughts, the wisdom, the perspective of our young leaders,” Tracey says.

Screen Shot 2019-06-25 at 9.58.52 AMYvone was one of 65 Rotaractors from around the world invited to join District Governors-Elect during their training at the Rotary International Assembly held in San Diego in January 2019.

“This highlighted to me even more the importance to be inclusive as a District. We should reflect diversity at the board table,” Tracey says. “Having Yvone there gives us another perspective.”

Another change was the creation of a Finance Committee, led by treasurer Maureen Liviniuk (RC of Edmonton Mayfield). 

This committee will “facilitate transparency, accountability, financial controls, compliance and best practices to meet Rotary International’s Code of Policies and ensure proper stewardship of our District resources,” Tracey says.

Of course, no year would be complete for a District Governor without a few challenges, which for Tracey has meant dealing with a number of resignations.

In the fall, Director of Administrative Services Donna Nichol (RC of Edmonton Northeast) and Youth Director Tamara Larson (RC of Edmonton Whyte Avenue) resigned. 

These resignations have provided an opportunity to step back and look at what is required.

“We’re in the midst of looking at what the future looks like for our District and what are the right positions to have in place to support the District.

“We asking, ‘What are these pieces of the admin that are really important to go forward? What do we need for the future?’ Same for the youth services. ‘What’s best for our District to ensure that we continue all the great work that has been started?’

“In the interim, we’ve got some good people that are providing support and resources to all the different aspects of these portfolios, while we are very focused on ensuring that when we go forward, it’s going to be with even stronger portfolios.”

The other resignation was that of office manager Rene Cavanagh after more than 11 years in the role. She left to become the community and volunteer engagement co-ordinator for Habitat for Humanity.

“We recognize the work that Rene has contributed to us. She helped us form what we are today,” Tracey says. “Rene was very instrumental in helping to build our District from all levels.”

Recruitment to fill this position began in December and Tracey expects to have hired a new office manager early in 2020.

As the second half of her term as District Governor begins, Tracey looks forward to revisiting and working with some clubs and to being with three clubs as they celebrate significant anniversaries.

“We look forward to helping the Rotary Club of The Battlefords celebrate their 100th anniversary,” Tracey says. “We also have the Rotary Club of Yellowknife that’s going to be celebrating their 50th anniversary and the Rotary Club of Edmonton South will be celebrating their 70th anniversary.”

Another highlight of 2020 will be the Integrity Awards ceremony, to be hosted by the Edmonton-area clubs on March 18. 

“We’re very excited to join and participate and to recognize the individuals at that event.”

Even though there is much still to look forward to, the lasting memories for Tracey will be the club visits.

“We have experienced some tremendous culture in all of the clubs. The clubs are very strong. We see the friendship. We see the caring. We see the drive and each club has its own identity. Each club has developed their own culture to be strong, to be exciting,” Tracey says.

“That has been a really tremendous experience, to see the variety, to see the different ways that people support each other, but to also see the ways that they come together and are very dedicated to service. That was new for me; to understand how unique each club was. 

“It has really helped me appreciate even more the work and the impact of what a Rotary club really represents.”

Curlers from Alberta, British Columbia and NWT drawn to the “best Rotary bonspiel in years.”

Curling rocks on ice

Brian Thompson (RC of Edmonton West) assessed the 57th Annual District 5360/5370 Bonspiel simply and unambiguously: “It was the best bonspiel in years!”

Brian may be a little biased. After all, he did chair the committee, made up of members from Rotary Clubs of Edmonton West and Edmonton Gateway, which hosted the three-day event that was held at Edmonton’s Thistle Curling Club February 22 to 24.

“Everyone seemed happy with the bonspiel,” Brian says. “We received lots of emails saying good things about the event.”

The organizers were pleased with the number of participants. This year, 31 rinks took part.

“This was pretty good,” Brian says. “Attendance has been falling off over the last few years. There were only 28 teams last year.”

The event drew curlers from across both districts, from Lethbridge in the south to Fort St. John and Grande Prairie in the north. There was even one curler from Yellowknife.

The makeup of the rinks varied. Some were mixed teams, but most were all-men or all- women. While most rinks were made up of four curlers from a single Rotary club, a few had curlers from two or more clubs.

The team which won the B Event included curlers from four Rotary clubs and from both districts.

Preparations for the bonspiel began a year ago, as soon as the event was awarded to Edmonton at the 2017 bonspiel in Lethbridge.

Brian says that there is “a bit of a ceremony” required to having a club’s bid to host accepted. All members of the committee must pass through a very small door. No sooner had Brian and his committee passed through the door, it disappeared.

“There is a long tradition of other clubs stealing the door,” he says. “We only had it for two minutes before the door was gone.”

The next time he saw the door was during this year’s bonspiel. By that time, a plaque commemorating the 2018 event had been added to the other plaques on the door, one for each year in which the bonspiel has been held.

After being awarded the event, the committee’s first task was to secure a venue. “The Thistle club had the right dates for us,” Brian says. “It was a great facility.”

Next, the committee looked for a hotel near the rink which could accommodate out-of-town curlers and serve as a venue for the bonspiel’s social activities. As soon as the date and venues were set, it was time to publicize the event.

“By early April, we were able to provide information to participants in previous bonspiels,” Brian says. Later, committee members visited all Edmonton-area clubs to encourage Rotarians to enter the bonspiel.

Once the bonspiel was over and all the bills had been paid, Brian and his committee were left with a surplus of $2,800, which was donated to two not-for-profit organizations.

“Three hundred and sixty dollars of that profit was due to donations from the Athabasca team, who gave back their D Event winnings, and from Eugene Wasylik of Vermilion (the 50/50 winner),” Brian says. This helped the committee decide to which organizations donations would be made.

“Since Athabasca and Vermilion are two communities who will benefit from the Stroke Ambulance—it’s not for us city folks—it has been decided to donate $1,500 to the University of Alberta Hospital Stroke Ambulance,” Brian says.

The remaining $1,300 was donated to Wellspring Edmonton.

The location for the bonspiel alternates between the two Rotary districts, so the 2019 bonspiel will be in District 5360, with RC of Lethbridge as the host club.

2018 District 5360/5370 Bonspiel Results


Winners – Grande Prairie Sunrise – Duncan Fraser, Serge Martin, Vernon Boyd, Jeff Keddie

Runner-Up – Edmonton Gateway – Dave Douglas, Jamie Pallett, Lorne Parker, Lionel Usunier, Dave Dorcas


Winners – Spruce Grove/Stony Plain/Yellowknife/Stettler – Tammy Svenningson, Michele Aasgard, Norma Jarvis, Nancy Georget

Runner-Up – Calgary South – Larry Kennedy, Mark Ambrose, Lynn Topp, Roselyn Jack


Winners – Calgary Heritage Park – Doug Hood, Roger Sontag, Jim Fitzowich, Greg Smyth

Runner-Up – Fort St. John Sunrise – Chuck McDowell, Dean Thom, Gord Sandhu, Gus McLeod


Winners – Calgary West – Dan Doherty, Darren Grierson, Bill Fitzsimmons, Marvin Pawlivsky

Runner-Up – Athabasca/Edmonton West – Ross Hunter, Greg Roszmann, Dave Liddell, Darryll White

GOOD TIME CHARLIE AWARD – Gus McLeod – Fort St. John Sunrise

HARRY JEWELL AWARDTeam Mueller – Edmonton West – Annie Mueller, Karen Gibbens, Sharon Reedyk, Sabine MacLeod