June 20, 2018
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Top award for Rotary Club of Rancho Cotati

  • President elect Yatin Shah receives the award for "Best Club" for District 5130, group of 47 Rotary clubs from Eureka to Petaluma and East to Napa County.

By: Irene Hilsendager
June 8, 2018

*Note – Yatin Shah is president-elect of the Rotary Club of Rancho Cotati for 2018-2019 and the publisher of the Community Voice.

The best club in District 5130 is The Rancho Cotati Rotary Club that was formed and chartered about 10 years ago. There was a morning club in Rohnert Park; however, many members did not like the early morning hour and the club was getting quite large. 

It then became the goal of Rotarian President Tim Miller (2006-2007) to think about starting a sister club. Miller met several times with then district advisor, Mike Merrill and decided to take the plunge. Surveys were put out to the members to see who would like to be in a luncheon club or if there were other reasons. After the review of the questionnaire, a few thought the luncheon club would be a great conception, therefore the Rotary Club of Rancho Cotati was conceived and became a charter club in May of 2007.

Carl Leivo was very instrumental in heading out the new club and Warren Hernand became the first president of the Rotary Club of Rancho Cotati. Some of the first members were Mary Graves, Sandy Geary, Sherri Lorenz, Ira Freed, Flo Gretsky, Gabe Gonzalez and Audrey Cohn. The first year could have been very stressful; however, Rotarian Hernand was a great leader and the club managed to float along a few years before some glitches reared their ugly head. 

Being a young club with families, stress began to set in and volunteerism was down, and a rotary club cannot function unless volunteers are behind each project. Expectations were very high, but adjustments were made and the club sails along quite well. 

Regular weekly meetings are fun and informative but sometimes the board meetings become quite tense but with 13 different personalities in the room, compromises had to be made but problems usually got solved. 

The Rotary Club of Rancho Cotati might be small, but they are mighty, so says Rotarian Sherri Lorenz.

The Rotary Club of Rancho Cotati has worked on many projects in the United States, India, Kenya and the Bahamas. 

In 2007, a water project began in Kenya when the Rotary International humanitarian grant along with the Rotary Club of Nairobi Parklands were able to build three separate sites in Kenya. As of today, the wells are still providing fresh drinking water.

Another project that the club is very proud of is the beginning of Rotary Telemedicine that was started in Nigeria when a Global Offsite Care opened a site at Yenogoa Hospital. With the involvement of the Rotaract at Sonoma State University and Eleuthera, a second site was opened in Eleuthera Bahamas and a third in Nepal.  Through Rotary telemedicine a doctor’s exchange was made with Singapore to study pediatric cardiology in Northern California which was partially funded by the Rotary Club of Rancho Cotati. Rotarians Xioaling Zhang and Elena Wharton will attend, along with Monica Morales and Mary Graves at the Global Offsite Care ceremony June 9 in Sebastopol to accept the award for the Chinese telemedicine doctors. Telemedicine requires a Rotary or a Rotaract Club to sponsor a weekly streaming of medical lessons to a group of doctors.   

The club has been involved with eradicating polio. 

In 2017, RCRC received a district grant that allowed three Sonoma State and two Eleuthera Rotaractors to visit Nigeria to immunize children against polio. The immunization trip included Tasia Henderson, Amal Ahmed, Rotarian President Alice Kibwaa and Rotaractors Shapreka Clarke and Kenwood Cartwright. The polio project is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who matches all donations. 

Despite the many projects and volunteer efforts, many times, you hear someone say, “What is a Rotary club and what do they do?” 

A Rotary Club is a group of local businessman, professionals and women who form part of Rotary International, a community service organization founded in Chicago in 1905. Members of a Rotary club are Rotarians. The purpose of a local Rotary club is to connect people who work together to solve community problems, provide humanitarian aid and promote goodwill and peace. Rotary clubs exist all over the world with 1.2 million members. A rotary club is also committed to ethical practices in business and holds high ideals for personal behavior. Rotary clubs all over the world ask the same four questions. “Is it the truth?” “Is it fair to all concerned?” “Will it build goodwill and better friendships?” and “Will it be beneficial to all concerned?” If the answer is yes to all four questions, the action, speech or thought is considered ethical. Rotarians will use the four-way test in their business and ask themselves will this hurt anyone and is it ethical?

About seventy-five percent of the members of the Rotary club of Rancho Cotati are Paul Harris fellows. The Paul Harris Fellow recognition acknowledges individuals who contribute or who have made contributions in their name of $1,000 to the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International. Paul Harris Fellows receive a certificate and pins and are also eligible to purchase a Paul Harris Fellow medallion. The Paul Harris was established in 1957 to show appreciations for and encourage substantial contributions to what was then the Foundation’s only program, Rotary Foundation Fellowships for Advanced Study, the precursor to Ambassadorial Scholarships. Many notable figures have been named as a Paul Harris Fellows such as President Jimmy Carter, Astronaut James Lovell and Jonas Salk. 

The RCRC has always donated to scholarships for the local high schools; however, this year they donated three vocational scholarships to the NextGen Academy, which was created to inspire and develop a new generation of leaders that could not only affect progressive change throughout their respective communities, but who also embodied the principles of compassion, altruism and love. Through a rigorous training curriculum and leading autonomous projects, the participants develop the skills and capabilities to design, develop and implement their own unique contributions to the betterment of society. The training from NextGen empowers youth to not only have a vision, but also guides them through working with a team to make that vision happen and have fun while doing it.

Many Rotary members attended the District Conference that was held at McClennan Air Force Base near Sacramento. It was praised by all, including the District Governor Bob Rogers for Sebastopol. D.G, Rogers had a few words to say and said this was a working conference where Rotarians rolled up their “mental” sleeves and collaborated together to identify critical areas in our communities. Rogers said his most memorable moment of the conference was when the group did a hands-on project assembling some fundamentally basic prosthetic hands for amputees in developing country. He said, “the fact that I was actually doing something that was going to make a big difference in someone’s life, someone I have not nor ever will meet and it hit me like a ton of bricks but in a very good way.”

The Rotary Foundation represents the core of what we stand for in helping individuals and community achieve better living conditions and better futures. When you give to the Foundation you know it is one of the most well-run foundations in existence. During the past 100 years, the Foundation has spent $3 billion on life-changing, sustainable projects. With the help of each Rotary club you can make lives better in your community and around the world. 

The District Governor goes on to say that our health is everything, yet 400 million people in the world can’t afford or don’t have access to basic health care. We believe good health care is everyone’s right.

Disease results misery, pain and poverty for millions of people worldwide. That is why treating and preventing disease is so important to us. The Rotary clubs set up temporary clinics, blood donation centers and training facilities in unserved communities struggling with outbreaks and health care access. 

“We design and build infrastructure that allows doctors, patients and governments to work together. Rotarians combat diseases like malaria, HIV, AIDS, Alzheimer’s multiple sclerosis, diabetes and polio,” says DG Rogers as he is very passionate on the polio eradication. Rogers is a polio survivor. Prevention is important which is why Rotarian focus on health education and bringing people routine hearing, vision and dental care.

Rotarian Alice Kibwaa is the president until July 1 when debunking takes place and the Rotary Club of Rancho Cotati will install a new president, Yatin Shah.

Kibwaa said, “This has been a great year for the Rotary Club of Rancho Cotati. My goal, as president was to get everyone involved and have fun doing it and I feel that we have accomplished that. Our club members joined difference committees and worked together on their projects. I feel that each avenue of service did their best to set up and accomplish their projects. This was also a year of collaboration with other clubs both locally and internationally. Our club members showed up at the weekly meetings where we had informant and fun programs. I especially liked a new program started by Kristine, ‘get to know your fellow Rotarian in the club’. This helped us meet or chat with one other Rotarian and report three new things you learned about that fellow member that we never knew.” 

Kibwaa also noted, “Not only did we do projects both local and internationally, our club members volunteered to do fundraising with joy and delight such as family fun day, the farmers market, ride 4 polio day and a spectacular golf tournament. Everyone shows up to work and we just do it. Our club has always gotten involved in international projects. This year we did two, one in Brazil with two other clubs and received a global grant to buy computers for two schools in Brazil. The ¬¬club did a DD grant on top of that and sent two Rotarians and two Rotaractors and in addition to that they also helped set up a new tele-medicine hub there in a local hospital. 

Second, we collaborated with the Rotary Club of Phoenix and are doing a $200k water grant in Maasai village.  Our donation plus a donation from another charitable organization was $10k towards the Global grant and other clubs participated to make this happen. Rotarians are going to visit this water project in August and all are welcome.”