Caricature of Fred Collignon, by noted Berkeley artist, Stan Washburn

Caricature of Fred Collignon, by noted Berkeley artist, Stan Washburn

Welcome to 2017, a NEW YEAR.  While it’s a New Year, it’s also halfway through the Rotary year; a point where traditionally the next six months have the greatest challenges.

The list of challenges at mid-year is long. There are the current President’s projects to be completed, projects to be planned for the next club year, and Foundation grant requests to be written. Clubs review their progress toward the year’s Membership and Foundation goals. Funds need to be raised for this year’s and next year’s projects.   The President-Elect is preparing for the 2017-18 year, filling club roles for that year, and making sure club leaders get the training they need.  Our youth programs need help finding leaders for the coming year.

And in the midst of this activity?  We plan for the Spring District Assemblies, where there is opportunity for great training, and learning from each other. Of course, everyone looks forward to the fun, the inspiration, and the many rewards awaiting at the District Conference.  This year it’s in Berkeley, March 24-26. Register, and mark your calendars!  What about the Rotary International Conference in Atlanta in June?  As I said; the second half of our Rotary year is productive and busy.

 Rotary’s theme for December was Disease Prevention and Treatment. We hear often about Polio Plus. It’s Rotary’s most significant world-wise health project. But our District does so much more in disease prevention and treatment.  At home, many clubs are supporting Rotacare clinics.  Various clubs mount health fairs and education booths as part of community events. We work with the police and schools to make sure teenagers understand the risks associated with alcohol and drugs. We provide nutritious meals and referrals to physical, social and mental health services as we work with the underprivileged in our communities. Abroad, our District clubs are mounting major projects in different countries; seeking to prevent cervical cancer and create Public Health programs in rural areas of countries where any medical infrastructure is lacking, and also working on clean water and sanitation to prevent disease.

 Vocational Service, the January theme, by contrast, is something we often think less specifically about.  However, we practice our vocations each day in our work, performing at our very best, following our best ethics and the 4-Way test – truly our major form of vocational service to the community.  And we do so much more.  The many clubs with youth programs are certainly engaged in such service. We work with schools and local colleges, helping youth and young adults to understand different career options. We help them to understand the disciplines and skills needed to pursue them.  As well, clubs also are doing vocational service when they fete club members or community members for their vocational work. It’s done when we honor an employee or business person of the month, or ask a club member to speak about their career or business, or mentor young working members as they learn particular business skills. We practice vocational service when we help members network with each other and learn about each other’s work and business. Simply giving newer members club roles in planning a service project or performing a key club task is also a form of vocational service. We all know that performing such tasks gives one a chance to stretch our own management skills.   Many of us admit we were much less comfortable with public speaking, with persuading and motivating people of different ages and backgrounds, and with our leadership skills before we got the practice that Rotary affords us in our routine club work.

 So here’s to January. Celebrate your own vocation, use your own skills to further Rotary’s cause,  and be thankful for your fellow Rotarians who have made similar commitments to do exactly the same.

With a grateful, service-filled, joyous Happy New Year to all,