After 11 years, District office manager Rene Cavanagh leaving for a position with Habitat for Humanity


Office manager Rene Cavanagh at her District 5370 office desk

There have been times when Rene Cavanagh felt her job was “kinda like riding a surfboard.”

“The job moves with whatever the focus is on at the District level. It moves with the waves,” she says of her 11 years as office manager for our District. 

“Some years, I have worked diligently with special events and projects for governors. Other years, I have worked more internally, supporting whatever the club people need. It depends on where the push is.”

Rene has found that to be part of the appeal of the position, which she will be leaving on December 6 to become the community and volunteer engagement co-ordinator with Habitat for Humanity.

“One of the most interesting parts of the job is getting to know each of these great leaders that I have worked with—all the governors I have worked with—as well as I do, and hearing about their passions and hearing where they want things to go and being able to support them. That’s part of the excitement of the job,” she says. 

“I like the new [Rotary] year. I like the change. I like meeting the new governor and supporting them.”

During her tenure at the District office, she has gotten to know 13 District Governors, from David Taylor (RC of Camrose) to Tracey Vavrek (RC of Grande Prairie After Five).

“I started in April 2008. David was governor at that time,” Rene says. “During my first full year, the governor was Ross Tyson (RC of Edmonton Northeast).”

Current DG Tracey says that she has been surprised by all that is part of the office manager’s role.

“I didn’t understand the level of responsibility associated with this position until I began to work with Rene,” Tracey says.

“I appreciate Rene’s dedication and her capacity to do what needs to be done to keep the operation of the District office running smoothly,” she says. “I see where she has built the office management as the District has grown.”

During Rene’s tenure, the position of office manager has expanded. Initially, it was a part-time position, which for a time was combined with an administrative support position with the Rotary Club of Edmonton, making the combined duties the equivalent of a full-time job.

“I did that for a few years. Then it was determined that I wasn’t able to do all the work required, so the District took me on full time,” Rene says.

As office manager, Rene has been part of two office moves.

“When I started, the office was on Stony Plain Road. Then we moved, two years later, to the Boys and Girls Club and then we just moved to the Orange Hub last year,” she says.

Now that her time as the District’s office manager is winding up, Rene is looking forward to her new job with Habitat of Humanity. 

“I feel that being the community and volunteer engagement co-ordinator is something I will really be able to feel so comfortable doing—engaging and working with communities to help with the Habitat for Humanity causes,” she says.

“It just seems to check all the boxes for where my interests lie and there will be a lot of interaction with people and working on a team, which will be great for me.” 

Meeting and working with other people is something Rene has enjoyed about her current position. 

“That is the part of this job I have enjoyed the most,” she says. “Meeting the Rotarians and making sure they are getting what they need, to do what they want to do.

“The conference is always a highlight, because I get to see the Rotarians that I hear from throughout the year. It’s great to see people face-to-face and make those connections and build those relationships.”

Rene says she hopes to maintain the relationships she developed while working for the District.

“I don’t feel like I’m leaving. I feel that have relationships and connections I will have my whole life. I know I will be connected with Rotary. I’m looking forward to the future with both Rotary and my new position with Habitat for Humanity. I’m looking forward to having all of that in my life.”

With Rene’s pending departure, DG Tracey has reached out to two members of the Rotary Club of Edmonton Northeast to lead the recruitment process to find a new office manager.

“Edith Martin and Brenda Tyson have been meeting with Rene to learn about the responsibilities of the job and what skills are needed,” Tracey says.

A job posting is available online.

Use of technology reduces travel requirements for presidents-elect participating in Learning & Development events

Distance training or online training conceptThe District’s Learning and Development Committee is using technology more often this year to reduce the expenses and travel expectations for Rotarians who will be leading their clubs in 2020-2021, while providing even more training for incoming club presidents.

“We have created ways to have continuous ongoing support for presidents-elect in a way that respects some of the challenges that we all face in terms of distance and time and travel costs,” says Learning and Development Committee chair Donna Barrett (RC of Edmonton Sunrise). “Technology has really supported us in doing that.”

Donna is also the District Governor Nominee and will serve as District Governor in 2021-2022.

The first session for presidents-elect, held on Saturday, November 4 was completely online.

Three one-hour webinars are planned for presidents-elect between December and May. Each will focus on a different aspect of club operations. Presidents-elect are also encouraged to take advantage of training resources available on the Rotary International website.

“Rotary International has developed a lot of independent learning tools that are available at the learning centre,” Donna says. “They have sort of led the way in providing flexible access to learning.”

In previous years, the presidents-elect and other club leaders attended two leadership assemblies, one in the fall and the other in the spring. These sessions were typically scheduled in Edmonton, although a year ago, a second fall session was held in Grande Prairie a couple of weeks after the assembly in Edmonton.

“One of the things we learned from that experience is that people— particularly people who live outside Edmonton—really like the fact that we brought the training to them, rather than them always having to travel,” Donna says.

She notes that for one session they were able to use technology to involve a presenter who was unable to attend in person.

Screen Shot 2019-11-19 at 1.04.35 PM

District Governor Nominee Donna Barrett

“Sean Hogan (from BC’s lower mainland) did a great an online presentation, which we then facilitated with dialogue. That in part is what got us started thinking that we don’t always have to have speaker in the room,” Donna says. “We could actually have these presentations online, as long as we have facilitation.”

The November 4 session, which was attended by representatives of more than 40 Rotary and Rotoract clubs, was recorded and that recording is available to the presidents-elect who were unable to attend.

Ensuring that the session stayed on time and that all the topics were covered was important to Donna and the other presenters, District Governor-Elect Jim Ferguson (Rotary E-club of Canada One), Youth Services Chair Tamara Larson (RC of Edmonton White Avenue) and PDG Jackie Hobal (RC of Edmonton West).

“It took a great deal of preparation to actually get through the material in a short period of time. We did a number of rehearsals to make sure that things went together smoothly,” Donna says.

“The big thing with this is to figure out how to provide the right kind of information and also create opportunities for interaction,” Donna says. 

To encourage interaction, the presenters created a poll to which participants could respond and provided a chat box so that people could ask questions, to which the presenters responded.

Additional sessions are planned for Saturday, February 1 and Friday and Saturday, March 20-22. Donna says that the February 1 session will be a “blended” model.

The session will be held at Edmonton’s Orange Hub, where the District Office is located, with the presentations to be broadcast to Rotarians who will gather in Grande Prairie and possibly other locations across the District. 

The committee hopes that the presidents-elect will be able to work with their assistant governors, who have been asked to contact the presidents-elect of their clubs to determine where to gather.

We want people to be in groups, working with their assistant governors, so they will have a chance to debrief the presentations and make sense of them and make plans for their clubs, with their colleagues,” Donna says.

“When we have small-group work, the assistant governors will facilitate those conversations and then there will be an opportunity for people to share back from the different locations, so we will have some interaction across the locations.”

The day will consist of four modules: leadership, growing vibrant clubs, The Rotary Foundation and community impact, and telling Rotary’s story (public image).

“For each module, there will be a mix of presentations and opportunities for small-group discussion and interaction,” Donna says.

The spring assembly on March 20-21 will be similar to what has occurred in previous years. “The Spring Leadership Assembly will be open to all Rotarians and Rotoractors,” Donna says.

“We will be inviting the presidents-elect to bring their teams together and we’ll really be focusing on team learning and bringing your whole group together to make concrete plans for the upcoming year.”

Information about the Spring Assembly will be available on the District website in the new year.

District Office now located in the Orange Hub

Screen Shot 2018-10-18 at 11.51.19 AM

District 5370 has a new home.

At the beginning of October, the District office moved to the Orange Hub, a building which previously housed the fine arts programs of MacEwan University.

The building at 10045 156 Street NW is now owned by the City of Edmonton, which describes it on its website as “a centre for non-profit groups that offer programs and services in the arts, recreation, wellness and learning.” 

The District Office is located in room 402.

Prior to the move, the District rented from the Boys and Girls Club, which will be moving its offices into the space vacated by the District.

Donna Nicoll (RC of Edmonton Northeast), who as the District’s administration chair co-ordinated the move, is pleased with the new office space.

“It is bright and clean,” she says. “The staff at the Orange Hub have been great to work with.”

Preparing for the move involved sorting through material accumulated over 10 years in the previous location.

“As with all moves, there was way more stuff in those cupboards than we ever expected there to be,” Donna says. “We purged and purged and purged.”

Donna arranged for the space to be painted and new carpet installed before furniture was moved in.

“We brought over a few things, such as the boardroom table and chairs,” Donna says. The District also purchased a few pieces of furniture, but benefited from the university’s decision to leave furniture in the space, which formerly was occupied by the dean’s office.

“This saved us thousands of dollars,” Donna says.

Office manager Rene Cavanagh, who is also a member of the Rotary Club of Edmonton, feels her new work space is “fabulous.”

She says, “I’m excited about being here. It’s a better working atmosphere. More professional.”

Rene believes there are many positives resulting from the move. Being in the Orange Hub will raise the profile of Rotary. “There seem to be some key non-profit groups here.”

She also will never find herself the only person working in the building, as was the case at times in the previous location. 

“I have been able to meet some of the other tenants in the building,” she says. Many of these people will be in the building every day.

Another advantage of being in the Orange Hub is that office is now accessible to all. An elevator is located just outside the District office.

It’s now easier to travel to the office, too. The building is on or near several city bus routes and eventually the west extension of the Valley LRT line will pass by the building.

There’s lots of parking, both for free on the street and paid in a parkade.