With the sun shining brightly in Rohnert Park Fri. afternoon, the Rancho Cotati Rotary Club was bustling around inside Somo Village preparing for the first ever humanitarian award event. The volunteers were making sure everything was in place, flags were properly positioned and the decorations were placed on each table.
A large crowd meandered into the event room buzzing with excitement as no organization ever had given a humanitarian award in Rohnert Park. The aroma from a delicious dinner was wafting through the rooms of Sally Tomatoes.
Rotarian President Yatin Shah led the Pledge to the Flag with all of the guests joining in. Shah also led the Rancho Cotati Rotary Club pledge which conveyed the message of when we all work together; we can transform our communities.
Rotarian Elena Whorton gave a warm welcome to the throng of people and introduced Rotarian President Shah who spoke about the very first humanitarian award to be given during the evening to selected nominees.
Rotarian Rosemary Mojica introduced the first nominee, Tim Danesi, who has been a figure in the Rohnert Park community for many years. Tim has held the RP Historical Society together for years and is always eager to volunteer for some event.
District Governor Rotarian Barb Spangle was the first speaker for the evening. She described the warm feeling she has felt when helping with Rotoplast in Myanmar. Rotoplast is a program that provides doctors, nurses, health care workers and everyday volunteers while children are being treated without charge while having cleft palates repaired. Barb said although Rohnert Park and Nepal are 7,000 miles apart, everyone still works together as humanitarians.
Rotarian Claudia Smith introduced the second nominee, SoCo Kindness, with Kia Gast and Julia Turner accepting the award for the group. SoCo Kindness was a bright thought of an intelligent young lady, Leah Gast. Instead of having a birthday party for herself and receiving birthday gifts, Leah organized a party with her friends to do 10 random acts of kindness. These acts of kindness have escalated in the past year. With the help of Kia Gast, Julia Turner, Deb McCampbell, Kim Olson, Nicole Hindmon and Michelle Miller, this group has organized a juvenile diabetes research walkathon in Petaluma May 5 in the Schollenbger Park. Their logo is “Sprinkle kindness everywhere like it is glitter!”
Rotarian Peggy Rogers, community service chair was unable to attend, therefore Rotarian Whorton spread the seriousness of Peggy’s message on domestic violence. Domestic violence has increased in the last few years and Rogers has formed a committee to attend meetings to find out what could be done in the community to slow down the domestic problem.
President nominee, Rotarian Maria Lemus introduced the third nominee, Mark Pippen. Pippen, owner of Innovative Printing has been a staple in the community. He is always a soft touch when asked for donations and is always eager to donate bicycles, t-shirts, jackets, caps and cloth products. The annual fishing derby and “Fence at the Top” are other projects that are near and dear to Mark’s heart.
Rotarian Jennifer Strong, District Grant Chair spoke passionately about the trials and tribulations during the Lakeport fires. She reported on the loving merging of community along with many strangers and rotary clubs throughout the nation. Donations poured in, bikes were donated to 200 children, trees were planted and District 5130 formed LARCA where all funds have been distributed to the neediest. Houses were gone, possessions were lost but the community stood together to console each other. Monies are still being donated to LARCA to help during any other disaster.
Rotarians Saylor and Spangle handed out the awards to the following winners. SoCo Kindness received a check for $1,000 plus a three night stay at Sea Ranch, Mark Pippen, was given $750 and Tim Danesi also was given a check for $500.
It was a very poignant evening for everyone and especially for the Rotary Club of Rancho Cotati being the givers of such generous prizes. Jewell Shields provided the back ground music for the evening and Cliff Mills was the roving photographer.