At the July 8th meeting, President Janet spoke about her year coming up and the state of the Ithaca Rotary club now, including introducing the current Board of Directors and talking about continuing initiatives.

The Best of Times is Now

Janet Steiner, Rotary President

I like the past-I had some really good times in the past-like last week's Pass the Gavel celebration-let's have another round of applause to thank Rich Spingarn for his year as Rotary President-and another for Joanne Lamoureux for organizing such a fun day for us.

I like the fact that we have many Rotarians in our club who have been with us for many years and bring us wisdom and experience. Our Rotary past is very important to me and that is why I will be making it a priority to obtain as many pieces of our history as I can from past Presidents and Secretaries for our archives at Cornell and to fund an archival student to organize our history-especially since our own centennial is only a few years away, it will be really important to have a full record of our club and our contributions to our community.

I like the future, too. President John Kenny's theme of The Future of Rotary is in Our Hands is a grave reminder that we cannot take Rotary for granted.

But more than anything else, I believe that the best time is now-because after all, yesterday is gone and tomorrow isn't here yet. We are what we are. You have me and I have you and together we have today. And while many of you remember yesterday's Rotary perhaps with nostalgia or perhaps a sense that we once did it better back then, and while some of you may be thinking if only we could do it differently tomorrow, or perceive that the potential of the club has yet to be achieved, let's talk about today.

Let's start with the familiar-our regular lunch meetings. Within these meetings we create the structure for getting a lot of things done. We salute, we sing, we eat, we laugh, we listen. We have our tribal customs, which, to outsiders, or newcomers might seem either strange or incomprehensible. References to Barlow Ware are lost on at least fifty new members. Some of us remember the year that it was NOT about the food; more recently, we agreed that it was NOT about the singing.

Can we set some ground rules? I'll begin the meeting on time. We will sing on alternate week. The thought for the day will be one thought, and should be one sentence long. Announcements are an absolute essential ingredient in our weekly meetings, but I will attempt to keep them short, and use the newsletter and the website for more expanded details. The kettle proceeds go to Polio, the raffle proceeds go to increases in scholarship aids, and Happy Dollars just make our budget happier.

Once the microphone is given to someone, I cannot wrestle it back, so let's agree that your announcements will be brief and your happy dollars concise. I ask that you be tolerant of guest speakers who might go over their time. And, more than anything else, can we agree that once the meeting has started, your full attention is respectfully and courteously given to whoever is at the podium.

Club members who make our weekly meetings go smoothly include our Secretary Bettsie Park, our Assistant Secretary Scott Russell, helpers Scott Wiggins, Ron Provis, set up and take down-Scott, Phil Snyder, Mike Billings and Russ Sprague, Sergeant at Arms, Joe Cassaniti, Dave Barr, our weekly scheduler for greeter, kettle watcher, introductions and the one minute thought for the day, our weekly program manager Vice president Nancy Potter, our photographer Mike Brown. And taking notes for our newsletter is Kati Torello, Brett Bossard, Dave Flinn and Charles Brundza.

Last year we conducted a membership survey on-line. One of the questions asked for specific suggestions for on how to improve our weekly meetings. Quite a few comments about singing, which I think we have addressed. Club members want meetings to begin and end on time, announcements to be brief, you occasionally want us to mix up the tables to encourage more fellowship.

And speaking of fun and fellowship, Joanne has offered to create fun events, so between my social director and my humor coach, our goal is to have everyone leave the meeting feeling like it was time well spent, that we laughed at least once, and that we can face the rest of the week with energy and enthusiasm.

And one suggestion-can we all commit to making our guests, visitors, exchange students, and especially new members feel warmly welcomed. As I mentioned earlier, an outsider walking into our club meetings may feel like they have stumbled into secret tribe with unwritten rules and rituals, family secrets and long memories. Let's remember that for them, the best time is now.

Our weekly meetings are the glue that holds us together. But what, exactly, are we all about? Here's an overview of what is planned for the next twelve months.

Larry Robinson is our Club Service Chair. Under Club Service, we will continue to support Youth Soccer, Election Day Pancake Day and Chicken BBQ. Community Grants will be given if we can find a successful fundraiser to underwrite community grants. More about that later.  We have the potential to re-start a Rotaract Club at Ithaca College, and to start an Interact Club at both ICSD and New Roots Charter School.  We underwrite the costs of sending four high school students to the Rotary Youth Leadership Academy.

Patrick McKee replaces Alan Cohen as  the Chair of the Community Service Chair-let me go through the list of planned events for the year:

Adopt a Highway,  Share The Warmth,  Salvation Army Kettle.  Pride of Ownership,  Linen Closet,  Rotary Harvest,  Flu Immunization/Pandemic Planning,  Stewart Park Carousel conceptual design,  Community Building Works,  Relay for Life and Aids Ride,  Graffiti Removal

The final expedition to Bay St. Louis/Pearlington for Katrina Relief will be led in November by Jim Johnston and Mary-Lynn Cummings. $2,000 has been set aside in our budget to underwrite the expenses of this trip.

In the event that this is not enough, the Community Service Committee can consider these ideas, gleaned from a recent membership survey:

    • Build a Rotary Park or playground
    • Partner and add manpower to the Waterfront Trail
    • Collect and ship books to needy children, partnering with the Friends of the Library
    • Assist with food collection for local food pantries
    • Mentor young people
    • Assist with literacy initiatives in Tompkins County  

Lenore Schwager will remain as Chair of Vocational Service. She will be our liaison to the BOCES for our student of the year scholarship, the Gibbs Scholarship for an Ithaca High School graduate, and the Pride of Workmanship Awards

Arpi Hovaguimian is chairing International Service which manages our Group Study Exchange, Ambassadorial Scholars, the Youth Exchange Program and chooses one international project to support. In the past our club has funded two Shelter boxes, provided funding for the education of one young girl in Mexico and contributed toward an education program to reduce the incidence of HIC/AIDS in Venezuela.

A special word here about our Youth Exchange Program. While we can afford to slip up on a few of our initiatives-maybe some things don't get done as they should-we must never forget that we have accepted the responsibility for the lives of young people for ten months. We must give this committee the manpower it needs to make sure that the paperwork is completed, the host families located, the young people have aunts and uncles in our club and are made to feel welcome in this strange land. We have lost a few key people on this committee and it must be one of our highest priorities to get this committee back to a fully functioning committee

The Foundation Committee continues under the leadership of Jim Fogel. Our goal is to raise $13,000 for the Rotary Foundation and $2,000 towards the $200 million challenge goal for world-wide polio eradication. When we say every dollar counts, we mean that. Because your contribution of even one dollar will guarantee that one child will be polio free for the rest of his or her life. That's a powerful incentive to give-as one of our past members describes philanthropy, we must give thoughtfully and proportionately to our ability to give. The Foundation Committee also recognizes new and multi-stone Paul Harris fellows.

The membership baton is being passed from co-chairs Bev Baker and George Ferrari to Karen Sharkey. Our goal this year is not to simply add members to our club. It is to thoughtful about who would make a good Rotarian, to develop the best case statement for why someone would be interested in becoming a Rotarian and to welcome and engage new members in the work of the club. It has been consistently shown that if new members are not connected and feeling valued, we will lose them within one year.

All of us have a responsibility to not only recruit new members but to ensure that their first Rotary experience is positive.

Chuck Bartosch will be continuing as Chair of the Publicity Committee and Brett Bossard continues as our web manager. The public face of Rotary within our community is positive, but there is more that we can do to spread awareness about all of the positive things that we do in our community.

Richard will chair the Nominating Committee which is charged with the responsibility of finding the club president for 2012-2012, plus at large board members. Concurrent with that committee is a new committee called Leadership Development, chaired by Jeff True. This committee will take a strategic approach to identifying and developing potential club leaders.

Bev Baker has offered to work on a badly needed procedures manual.

Finally that brings me to summarize the financial condition of our club.

The club has an operating budget of about $65,000, which is based on an estimated membership base of 190 members. Club dues account for about half of that, with the remainder of the revenue coming from various fundraisers. It is important to understand that the work of the club, as I just described, is predicated on our retaining 185-190 members.

The club carries a permanent reserve fund of $20,000. In addition, at the end of Rich's year, we had an additional $28,000 in unappropriated reserves. A few years ago, this reserve fund stood at almost $80,000, far greater than necessary, so we have systematically drawn it down and used it for community grants and Katrina Relief. The reserve fund will be reduced by an estimated $3600 in the next twelve months in order to carry out the work of the club as I have just described it.

However, there remains the unanswered questions of whether we wish to continue offering community grants and if so, how will these be funded. The membership survey which was conducted last year, had three questions relating to your opinions about fund raisers. These were open ended questions which clearly highlighted issues related to our past fundraisers, such as the Rose Sale, but also collected various club ideas about potential new fundraisers and attitudes toward fundraising in general.

We must begin son developing a fund raising committee which can consider all ideas for fundraisers and evaluate them in the light of your interest in and tolerance for fundraising. How about a used book sale-oops, already being done! What if we got a lot of MEN to swim across the lake. Or bike around the lake, Or walk in circles all night long? What if we sold things, auctioned things, or collected things. What about as spelling bee-oops! Or a trivia contest? Or a variety show? Fellow Rotarians, whatever we do , we must collectively agree to do it together, and acknowledge our responsibility to meet our budget gap in a creative, fresh and fun way.

So I conclude with some final questions: if the best time is now, where do you, today, fit into Rotary? Can you help with membership? Our youth exchange program? Fundraising? Community and International Service? Can you find yourself in Rotary? Let me know.