President Greg rang the Rotary bell following Tom Strode’s beautiful piano prelude.
Inspiration: Aleia MacDonald gave a stirring Inspiration centered on the work of United Way, and what it means here and in the cosmos. Emphasizing the philosophic and ‘can do’ spirit shared by Rotary and United Way, Aleia wove the Four Way Test throughout: “The Four Way Test is not just here on Earth.”
Song: Jim Irwin and Tom then led us in an impressive rendition of Jim’s “There’s Nothin’ To
Do,” written to the tune of “Peggy O’Neil.” It charts the separation anxiety of someone from “my laptop, my pager and phone…Please don’t tell me I left them alone!” Eventually, though, the epiphany occurs, and our narrator no longer yearns for “the noise and the smell of the cars…[and] the crowd in the restaurants and bars,” but awakens to “that whisper in the trees…gentle sound from southern breeze.” And the end is just right for those of us northern bound — “I should focus on what nature brings, I must be stronger so I’ll stay much longer, ’cause THERE’S SOME-THIN TO DO! Ahaaaaaaaaaa!”
Regaining the podium, Greg greeted all Rotarians and guests. He turned to Jim, ostensibly to thank him: “Thanks, Jim, for your song. (If you can call that music.)” Laughter and good-natured boos filled the room. Rotarians introduced their guests: Barbara Eichmuller introduced Rickia Rand; Carol Sennef — Sherry Camfurd; Matt Boylen — Dr. Carl Edelman; Burt Voss — Dave Skoff; and Peg Talburtt — Mike Rein.
Rotary Picnic: Shelley MacMillan came up to remind everyone of the Rotary Centennial Playground Celebration Picnic on Sunday, June 23: “This weekend there IS something to do — the Rotary picnic will take place Sunday, from 4-7 p.m., in the Fast Shelter, which is located near the UAP. And it WILL be good weather! We need 55 to come (we have 52), so there’s still room. The price is $17. It’s summer, so come celebrate with us!” [Note: Shelley won out. There was indeed something to do, and it was magnificent. The weather even bent to her will. Sixty or so Rotarians, friends and family members had a wonderful time talking, relaxing, catching-up, eating. President Greg was toasted for his dedication, hard work, and of course, humor, and president-elect Rosemarie Rowney received a hearty ovation. Huge congratulations to Susan Smith and her Social Committee for pulling this off without a hitch!
Glacier Hills Rotary Meeting: Friday, June 21, 9:45 a.m. Guest speaker: fine art photographer Howard Bond will speak to “Photography As a Fine Art.”
Greg then recounted the groundbreaking for Fisher House Michigan. “Many of you attended
on that beautiful day,” he noted. “As you know, Fisher House is like a Ronald McDonald House for our veterans. This project got started during Ashish Sarkar’s presidency, and [was spearheaded] by past president Karen Kerry and Brad Chick.”
Golf and Tennis Outing: Greg asked Ashish to come to the podium for a GTO announcement. “The success of this depends on you,” Ashish began. “The goal is to raise $50,000 net profit. Golf and tennis goes from noon to about 4:30, then cocktails and dinner — and John U. Bacon will be our guest speaker. He’ll [highlight information from] his latest book, Overtime: Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines at the Crossroads of College Football. But we need volunteers. We have four for the golf course; we need 16. Please let me know, or someone on the GTO Committee.”
“Ashish, Norma, would you please stay up here,” Greg asked. Ashish, who was halfway to his table, turned and said “Why?” Greg quickly revealed the reason: “Ashish and Norma were prime organizers of the World Peace Conference. They secured many donors, [the speakers] — it was a great event. They themselves were major donors. I am delighted to present the
Major Donor Award to Ashish and Norma Sarkar.” A great ovation expressed the thanks and admiration of the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor.
News You Can Use: Steve Schram came to the podium to deliver his much-acclaimed “Noon hour edition of the Ann Arbor Rotary Club ‘News You Should Know.’ In treanding headlines at this hour…In Lansing yesterday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer rallied with teachers to push for a sizeable boost in school spending,” citing “worsening educational outcomes for Michigan kids…The Defense Dept. announced yesterday it is deploying 1,000 more U.S. troops to the Middle East ‘for defensive purposes’ amid growing tensions with Iran…President Donald Trump returned to…Florida…to ask Americans to give him another four years in office, claiming he has kept the promises that helped sweep him into office in 2016…In a drug bust of epic proportions, investigators in Philadelphia continue to search cargo ships where they found more than 17 tons of cocaine…in what’s being called one of the biggest drug busts in U.S. history…Locally in our town: the continued presence of PFAS in the Huron River means Ann Arbor is going to keep installing new filters to remove the harmful chemicals from the city’s drinking water…What would you do with sunshine all the time? Residents on an Arctic Norwegian island with 69 days of constant light in the summer say they want to go ‘time-free’ and be more flexible with school and working hours to make the most of long days….” A thankful sigh went up at the conclusion of Steve’s report; thanks for his steady, hopeful tone, and for providing the one news broadcast that doesn’t make you want to reach for a straight razor.
Speaker: Toastmaster extraordinaire, Barbara Niess-May, gave a warm introduction to our speaker. “Pamela Smith has been the President/CEO of the United Way of Washtenaw County since 2012. As a nonprofit executive she is dedicated to strengthening the community through philanthropy, collaboration and community engagement…Her vision and leadership guides the Equity, Diversity and Justice work of the United Way of Washtenaw County. After moving here from Colorado she began her local nonprofit work at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. She has served on local nonprofit boards, as a UM guest lecturer, and on local advisory teams…Her development and fundraising skills have made her keenly aware of the intricate balance of the diverse needs within the Southeastern Michigan community…She has inspired me. Ladies and gentlemen, Pamela Smith.”
“It’s great to be back,” Ms. Smith began. “Truly, when you talk about Rotary and Service
Above Self, you’ll see this in United Way and my presentation. First, I’d like to thank some Rotarians who have contributed so much of their time and talent to United Way of Washtenaw County — John Eman, Bob Mull, Bob Buchanan, and Peg Talburtt.” Pam then asked her audience a succession of questions: “Any Rotarian who has served on the United Way board, would you please stand up? Now, anyone who has donated time to United Way please stand up.” The number of standing Rotarians was impressive. “Thank you. 2021 will mark 100 years UW has been in the community. Thanks Aleia for that inspiration!” Looking at her listeners, she then said “We don’t know each other, but I wanted to thank her.
“Coming from Colorado, this was the only place I wanted to move to. That said, is there poverty here? YES. We’re recognized as one of the best cities in which to live, yet there is poverty.” Then, citing the effects of poverty, particularly of an inferior education, Pam declared “Your zipcode should not determine your future.” She then offered a sobering fact — “If you’re born into poverty in Washtenaw County, you are more likely to remain in poverty the rest of your life. Life expectancy is dramatically different for a black man in Ypsilanti — 20 years less — than for a white man in Chelsea.”
Resources? Pam described the 211 call center service: “It’s a 24/7 help line designed to connect people with resources in the community. The centers get from 5-8,000 calls a year.” On the screen she showed a breakdown of the types of calls received. “Everything is accessible on the website, just click the data portal.” Then the big take-away about 211 — “It’s a barometer of neighborhood health. Two years ago the big need [among callers] was for emergency dental care. Today, it’s for domestic violence.” She cited SafeHouse and Barbara Niess-May’s leadership in addressing this acute problem. Another interesting fact Pam brought to light was that, regardless of the County’s 150 food pantries, they are of little benefit to people of limited mobility. “United Way was informed by people that ‘if it’s more than two blocks away, it might as well not exist.'” The reasons — people who have to walk (often with children), and who can grocery shop only once a week, can’t carry what they need.
Another problem is that many students are having to do remedial education before entering college. “They’re using their Pell and other grants just to get to the starting line.”
She concluded by citing the “big community impact” of the University of Michigan as well as the huge success of United Way’s VITA Free Tax Preparation Program. Again she named Bob Mull, Bob Buchanan, and Barbara Eichmuller for their dedication here. The chart said it all: 1,181 returns prepared by volunteers in 2019; $1,876,302 REFUNDED to people. She also urged her audience to consider donating their time and expertise: “Please go to volunteerwashtenaw.org: there are over 400 volunteer opportunities to choose from…It really strikes a chord when it’s an individual person who needs help. Contact your elected officials; it’s better when they hear from you as opposed to nonprofits all the time.” She then gave what could be taken as the slogan of her speech: “Do what you love — for others.”
Greg thanked Pam warmly, then offered his penultimate Thought of the Week: “Any definition of a successful life must include helping others.”