Don’t Miss Rotary’s Float in the Rose Bowl Parade!

Rotary's float this year was a crowd pleaser

Rotary’s float this year was a crowd pleaser

The Rotary International float in the annual Tournament of Roses Parade is undoubtedly the largest public relations project of the Rotary clubs of the United States and Canada. The famous Pasadena, California parade is seen on New Year’s Day by an estimated 300 million people via worldwide television.The annual Rotary float is not a project of Rotary International. Rather, funds for the construction of the Rotary parade entry are voluntarily given by Rotarians, clubs, and districts in the United States and Canada. The cost of designing, constructing and flower-covering a Rose Parade float is well over $100,000. Approximately 93% of the money raised goes to the cost of building, decorating, and entering the float in the parade. The balance of the funds raised pays for business, banking, insurance, and other miscellaneous costs related to the float and hosting the RI president while attending the parade and other related activities. None of the money raised is spent on professional staff.

2011 Rotary Float Rose Bowl Parade

2011 Rotary Float Rose Bowl Parade

A multi-district Rotary committee in southern California coordinates the planning and execution of the Rotary float. Hundreds of Rotarians voluntarily travel to Pasadena each year to help put flowers on the Rotary float. The theme of this year’s float will be “All the Places We Go”, emphasizing Rotary’s worldwide reach to provide services and to promote peace. It will feature a globe and gears that move. It will also have cherry blossoms and origami to make the float’s design conform with President Tanaka’s theme for 2012-2013 – Peace through Service.

Rotarians Help 6,000 People Affected by Super Storm Sandy

Even though Hurricane Sandy no longer dominates the news, it’s good to know that Rotary Project Partner, ShelterBox is still working with Rotarians to provide shelter, warmth and dignity to those in their greatest hour of need.

ShelterBox is deploying aid in the Northeast of the U.S. in addition to having teams in Haiti and Cuba.  ShelterBox has distributed more than a thousand blankets in the Far Rockaways and Long Island as well as parts of northern NJ.  The team worked with Rotary District 7500, located in the middle of the hurricane hit region, to deliver aid along the eastern seaboard of NJ.  Thankfully, tented shelter was not needed since sufficient temporary housing and shelters were available. The ShelterBox team met with officials to see what was missing from aid that they were receiving from charities around the nation and it was determined that more blankets, hygiene kits, hats mittens and scarves and other items were still needed.

In total, 6,000 people will receive assistance from ShelterBox in the Northeast U.S.

As a Rotary Project Partner, part of ShelterBox’s immediate response to Super Storm Sandy was to reach out to the most-impacted districts to check on Rotarians and learn what their communities were experiencing in the wake of the disaster. With the “service above self” ethos very much in their hearts, Rotarians have joined forces with ShelterBox to provide shelter, warmth and dignity to vulnerable families in the Northeast United States.

“For many years, District 7500 has always responded generously to disasters around the world in the form of donations to ShelterBox.  I am very pleased to see that in our own time of need, ShelterBox responded immediately.  To make a call to ShelterBox on Tuesday and to have a team on the ground on Thursday with a significant order placed by Friday is amazing.  On behalf of all of the Rotarians in the affected regions of Eastern New Jersey of Districts 7500 and 7640, we cannot thank ShelterBox enough!” –Rotary District 7500 Governor Joan Vas 2012-2013

Many thanks to ALL the Rotary clubs and districts who make contributions to ShelterBox to ensure there are supplies and trained volunteers available to immediately respond to the needs of families impacted by disaster. In addition to its efforts in the U.S., ShelterBox is actively distributing aid to Syrian refugees in Iraq, flooding survivors in Uganda and Nigeria, families made homeless by an earthquake in Guatemala and those impacted by Hurricane Sandy in Haiti. To learn more ShelterBox’s current activity around the world, please click here-

Posted by Susan Ireland, Fairfax Rotary Club Public Relations Chair

My Thailand Story

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Bangkok, Thailand, to visit my son who is currently enrolled in a study abroad program through his college.   Prior to my visit, I

Paula and her son, John in front of the Grand Palace in Bangkok

searched for an English speaking club to visit in the city.   A very helpful Rotarian named Douglas Riach of the Bangkok South club, suggested that I visit the Rotary Club of Bangkok, the oldest club in the city.  This club was established in 1930.  I made my way to their luncheon meeting at the Grand Hyatt Erawan, a beautiful hotel in a very modern section of the city.   The club members were very friendly and receptive.  Mr. Riach, who met me there and introduced me to a few of the members, also stayed for lunch.  In addition to members of the club from Thailand, several of the members of this club are international conducting business in Bangkok or, they are affiliated with embassies in the city.   During the meeting, some Roteract students spoke from a Thai school who assist students in need.  I was delighted to meet the new president of the Bangkok Club, Kallaya Leeissarapong.  Kallaya introduced me to another member, H.E. Ana Maria Ramirez, the ambassador to Thailand, from Argentina.I was moved by the service projects of both the Rotary Club of Bangkok and of the

Paula presents the Fairfax Rotary flag to Bangkok Rotary Club President Kallaya Leeissarapong

Bangkok South Club.   Here in the United States, we often lose sight of the fact that polio vaccinations are still part of Rotary service projects in other parts of the world.The Rotary Club of Bangkok has sponsored polio vaccinations in Thailand, was involved in a flood relief program which was of particular concern after the floods in the area last year and the club takes on extensive clean water projects.   The floods did affect the clean drinking water so, these projects were conducted in tandem.  Several of the Rotary clubs continue to work together on the clean water projects in the schools.  This is of particular concern in the rural areas of Thailand.  Another concern in Thailand is the spread of HIV/AIDs in the south.  Several Rotary clubs were involved in this three year project which raised awareness of the problem in two southern Thailand provinces.

Paula’s daughter Genny (left), with Paula and members of the Bangkok Rotary Club

I was also impressed with the involvement of sponsors in the Bangkok Rotary projects.  These sponsors make so many wonderful service efforts possible for the needy in Thailand.  Some of the sponsors for the Bangkok South club’s Coins on Silom project include the 3M company (3M Thailand), the Bangkok Hospital, BP and a major coffee company in the area.  Mr. Riach is the fundraising director for the Bangkok South club and is responsible for many successful projects.

Bangkok South also partners with a Rotary club from Italy and with the Martha’s

Paula receives the Bangkok South Rotary Club flag from Doug Riach

Vineyard Club in the U.S.!

As the Rotarians learned when they visited this wonderful country of Thailand for the RIconvention in May, Rotary International was introduced to Thailand through a Canadian Rotarian and is supported by the King and Queen of Thailand today.  See story below:

To broaden its role and to develop a truly international stature, Rotarian James W. Davidson of the Rotary Club of Calgary, Canada, was appointed by Rotary International as General Commissioner for the formation of Rotary Clubs in Asia. In the course of his nearly three-year odyssey, he chartered 23 clubs in 12 countries, from Turkey to Thailand.  During an audience with H.R.H. Prince Purachatra, Davidson was able to discuss the concept of Rotary.  H.R.H. Prince Purachatra was so impressed with Rotary’s ideals that he proceeded to arrange the first English speaking organizing meeting of RC Bangkok, which was held at Phya Thai Palace, BangkokH.R.H. Prince Purachatra Krom Phra Kampaeng Bejra was elected the Club’s Charter President and on November 28, 1930, Rotary Club Bangkok received its Charter document No. 3392 from Rotary International.  On December 23, 1931, H.M. King Prachadipok, Rama VII, graciously attended the banquet held at Phya Thai Palace Hotel with H.R.H. Prince Purachatra as President of the Club.   By letter received on September 15, 1955, on the occasion of RC Bangkok’s Silver Anniversary, H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, graciously consented to honor the Rotary Movement by becoming the Royal Patron of Rotary in Thailand.   It was also at this time that the Constitution and By-laws of Rotary International were first translated into Thai by Luang Sitsayamkam, Past President of the Rotary Club of Bangkok.   On February 27, 1969, H.M. The King graciously presided over the gala fund-raising dinner of Rotary Club Bangkok.   On December 15, 1980, RC Bangkok celebrated her Golden Anniversary and 50 years of the Rotary movement in Thailand at Suan Ambhorn Palace. Their Majesties King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit graciously presided over the function.  In 1990-91, on the occasion of Rotary Club Bangkok’s fifth cycle, constructed the Music Pavilion in Rama IX Garden to benefit the public and honor the Royal Patron of Rotary in Thailand, H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej who is well known worldwide for his talent in music.   H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn addressed the Rotary gathering on November 23, 1990 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Rotary movement in Thailand and graciously accepted to be an Honorary Member of RC Bangkok.

I enjoyed my visit to Thailand and will always treasure the new friends I made there.

Posted by:  Paula Kelley, Vice President Fairfax Rotary Club

As New Storm Approaches Gulf Coast, Remembering Katrina

Devastation in New Orleans from hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“My name is Nicolas Strayham. I finally have been able to track down the people who brought the ShelterBoxes to my house. We had a distribution site in the driveway of our yard and a total of 20 of your boxes were dropped off there. You cannot understand how thankful we (my community) were for these boxes. We had 20 boxes, including 40 tents. These tents made temporary homes for 40 families and friends. Since the first day we received the tents my goal was to find out who the tents came from and personally thank them. It was because of people like you that allowed us to satisfy our need for safety and shelter.”

Nicholas lived in Biloxi in Mississippi, one of the states in Southeast USA that Hurricane Katrina struck on August 29, 2005.

The hurricane force winds and a massive storm surge slammed into Biloxi and other towns along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, causing scenes of destruction and flooding.

Listed as the fifth largest hurricane to hit the United States, Katrina began as a very low pressure weather system that strengthened into a hurricane as it approached the Florida coast on the evening of August 25.


One hundred thousand homes were left without power as it crossed southern Florida and it strengthened further as it veered inland to Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, devastating areas along a 200 kilometer stretch of coastline that claimed 1,836 lives and left thousands homeless.

The storm passed straight through the city of New Orleans, carrying a sustained wind speed of around 200 kilometers per hour, destroying many lighter buildings and causing extensive damage to others.
ShelterBox sent boxes the next day with freight company DHL, which arrived in Houston on September 1, to be distributed to the affected areas by local Rotarians, who had already been supporting their local communities by providing food, clothing and shelter.

Even though homes were flattened, the majority of survivors were desperate to stay on their own property.

Biloxi Rotary Club member Tracy DeDeaux volunteered during the tragedy and coordinated the local ShelterBox effort. Her home in Diamondhead, Mississippi, had piles of rubble outside the front of it and a blue tarp was used as a roof:

“I hardly know anyone who has a house to live in, so I guess I’m lucky.”

‘All we’ve got’

One of the people she assisted was Marion Bedlington. She helped him carry a disaster relief tent and other lifesaving supplies to his truck that was full of belongings. His dog, Chew-Chew, was also happily waiting for him.

“This is all we’ve got–my wife and me,” said Marion. “I found him (Chew-Chew) a week after, running around the neighborhood. I couldn’t believe it.

“I never cry, but I almost did. The tents came through when nobody else did.”

ShelterBox’s response to Hurricane Katrina was the first time the international disaster relief charity had deployed to the United States and could not have been possible without the help from local Rotary clubs and generous gifts from donors worldwide.

Thank you

With your incredible support, ShelterBox was able to send a total of 1,320 boxes, each packed with two tents and other equipment to help shelter those whose lives had been torn apart in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Today, seven years after the disaster, there has been focus on the movement of Tropical Storm Isaac as it nears the same Gulf Coast with direct aim at New Orleans.

With its top sustained winds currently at about 113 kilometers per hour, the National Hurricane Center in Miami has predicted that Isaac would intensify into a Category 2 hurricane, bringing winds of approximately 170 kilometers per hour by early Wednesday around the time it’s expected to make landfall.

Hurricane warnings extend across 450 kilometers, from Louisiana’s Morgan City to the Florida-Alabama state line.

Isaac not as powerful as Katrina

Isaac is not as powerful as Katrina, which landed as a Category 3 storm and New Orleans’ updated levees are equipped to handle stronger storms than Isaac, according to FEMA Officials. The breaking of levees led to the devastating flooding in the area after Katrina.

The storm has already ripped through Haiti and the Dominican Republic, displacing thousands, but didn’t cause too much damage as it blew past the Florida Keys. There has been isolated flooding and heavy rains over much of Florida, with around 80,000 homes left without power.

A ShelterBox Response Team arrived in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince on Monday to assess the need for emergency shelter following Tropical Storm Isaac.

Posted by Susan Ireland, Fairfax Rotary PR Director

Polio Eradication – Are We There Yet?

Did you know Rotary’s top philanthropic goal is to eradicate polio worldwide?  Since 1985, Rotary members have contributed more than $900 million and countless volunteer hours to help immunize more than two billion children in 122 countries. Rotary has also been a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative since 1988, along with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is also a key supporter of the initiative.  Rotarians have worked to match a $355 million challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Rotary and its partners have reduced polio cases by 99 percent worldwide, from 350,000 cases in 1988 to less than 2,000 in 2008!  An estimated five million children have been spared disability, and over 250,000 deaths averted.  However, polio continues to threatens children in parts of Africa and South Asia, and remains endemic in Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan.

Rotary club members worldwide are cautiously celebrating a major milestone in the global effort to eradicate polio. India, until recently an epicenter of the wild poliovirus, has now gone for more than one year without recording a new case of the disease. India’s last reported case was a two-year-old girl in West Bengal State in January 2011. The country recorded 42 cases in 2010, and 741 in 2009.

The world must remain committed in order to achieve a polio-free world. The threat of polio anywhere is a threat to children everywhere.  If we don’t stay the course, experts say polio could rebound to 10 million cases in the next 40 years, negating the world’s $6 billion global investment.

Rotary is committed to fighting polio until every child is safe from this devastating disease.  In addition to Rotary’s fundraising efforts, hundreds of Rotary members travel at their own expense every year to join fellow Rotarians in polio-affected countries to immunize children against polio during national campaigns.

Posted by:  Dr. Laura Hills, President Rotary Club of Fairfax

2012 Marks 25th Anniversary for Women in Rotary

On May 4, 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Rotary clubs may not exclude women from membership on the basis of gender. Rotary issued a policy statement that any Rotary club in the United States can admit qualified women into membership. The Rotary Club of Marin Sunrise, California (formerly Larkspur Landing), was chartered on May 28 of that year. It becomes the first club after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling to have women as charter members. Sylvia Whitlock, of the Rotary Club of Duarte, California, became the first female Rotary club president.

The 1989 Council on Legislation vote to admit women into Rotary clubs worldwide remains a watershed moment in the history of Rotary.  The vote followed the decades-long efforts of men and women from all over the Rotary world to allow for the admission of women into Rotary clubs, and several close votes at previous Council meetings.

The response to the decision was overwhelming: By 1990, the number of female Rotarians had skyrocketed to over 20,000.

Women have served in leadership positions as high as the RI Board of Directors and The Rotary Foundation Board of Trustees.  In June 2011, there were 197,044 female Rotarians worldwide, and 91 women were district governors that year.

2012 marks the 25th anniversary for women in Rotary. Currently, women account for 15% of Rotary international membership. In North America, 22% of club membership is female.

Posted by Dr. Laura Hills, President Rotary Club of Fairfax

Today’s Youth Focused on Giving Back

I recently had the opportunity to meet a very special young woman.  She reminded me there is truly hope for the world.

That’s Hillary – third from the right, receiving an academic scholarship from the Fairfax Rotary Club.

First a little background.  My Rotary Club, the Rotary Club of Fairfax, is extremely dedicated to the financially disadvantaged youth in our community and we fulfill this commitment in many ways. We recently recognized five outstanding seniors by awarding acedemic scholarships and community service awards.  A fellow Rotarian in my club, Verne Tuininga is Chairman of the Scholarships & Fellowships Program.  He said that by assisting financially challenged but academically successful and highly motivated students, we can benefit the student, their family and our community as a whole with an educational opportunity that previously may not have been available to them.  Our scholarship program is one of our great examples of our mission of “Service Above Self.”

That’s how I met Hillary Essis.

Hillary is from the Ivory Coast.  She told us that while living there, she was drawn to its rich fabrics, extensive collection of traditional gold jewelry, and all around celebration of fashion.  She also told us that she and many of her fellow countrymen lived in unsafe conditions but strived to make a better life for themselves.  Hillary and her family eventually moved to the United States where her dad took a job as a professor at NYU.  There, Hillary developed a love of fashion amongst the fashion houses in Manhattan.  Says Hillary, “New York City, being a fashion capital, was a breeding ground for my growing passion for all things fashion.”  Knowing her vision was to eventually give back to the women in her native country, Hillary has recently gratuated from Fairfax High School will now be embarking on her journey to college.  She’ll be a freshman at VCU this fall and plans to pursue a double major in fashion merchandising and business.

This amazing young women plans to pay her dues.  Her dream is to be a fashion buyer for a major fashion company and then open fashion houses where women can work with designers to create their own garments and ready-to-wear items.  Once she has gathered all this experience, her vision is to help artisans of her native Ivory Coast open fashion houses where they can have a safe place to work while making goods that will be sold in the United States.

Good luck, Hillary, and best wishes as you make a difference in peoples’ lives.  We salute you!

Summitted by:  Susan Ireland, Fairfax Rotary PR Chair