Rotary – First visit to another club

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Being new to Rotary, I’m learning as I go along. I decided that one way I can learn quickly the best way to carry out my role within the club (Chair of Service Projects Committee) is to visit other clubs and find out how they do things.

When a club is formed there is a sponsoring club, and our sponsor club is the Rotary Club of Canterbury. They were formed way back in 1922 and meet on a Tuesday Lunch time. For me, I could never regularly attend a lunch time meeting as I couldn’t take that much time away from work. However, being self employed does have some advantages so occasionally I can be out of the office for a long lunch, so Tuesday 15th July I made my first visit to another club.

I learnt a lot about Rotary in that meeting. I’ll try and collect all those observations and condense them;

  • Firstly the welcome. Everyone was easy to talk to, keen to hear how the new baby club was coming along (they’d met a few of the members at previous meetings and some of them regularly attend our meetings).
  • Secondly, age brings with it the trappings of establishment. That’s not a bad thing, just an observation. At our Charter night (more on that later) we were given things useful to new rotary clubs by many other rotary clubs. The gong – to bring the meeting to order, a lecturn for meetings, chains of office for the president and so on. Canterbury has some very ornate member name badges stored in a sizable wooden box to keep them safe. Our club badges are on order but won’t be quite so ornate. They gave me a printed booklet with all their members contact details – it’s already been useful as I met someone that couldn’t make morning meetings but was interested in joining a lunch time Rotary club. As our club develops we are getting more and more of these trappings which should help us to work more effectively.
  • Thirdly, they are all a lot older than our club. I get the impression that people rarely leave Rotary so the club’s average age gets older and older. That can start to cause trouble recruiting as there starts to be a generation gap.
  • Fourthly, I spoke with a Rotarian who was very candid with his opinion of the club. In essence, he said that he found the club ‘stuffy’ and not like the first rotary club he joined in a different area. However, when he moved he wanted to continue within Rotary, at lunch times, and this was the only club that met his availability. The working style of the club was far less important than the activity of Rotary within the community. This I found most impressive, the attitude I’m finding as I meet more and more Rotarians is they are not their for personal gain, they really are there for the benefit of others, fostering the ideal of service as per the object of Rotary
  • Finally, the meeting was longer and more formal than our club meetings. Lunch (lamb and vegetables if I remember correctly) was served whereas we have a buffet and get our own breakfast when we arrive. On the plus side it gave me more time to talk to people around the table.

I’m planning to visit more clubs as time allows, which brings me onto my next club visit…

Rotary – Club Assembly

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So, all of a sudden it seemed Club Assembly day was upon us.

Lucy spent an evening with me planning what we would say and preparing a flip chart pad as our presentation tool. Now, you’re probably aware that I’m not afraid of doing a presentation but I generally hate every second of it. I fret all the way through, I miss bits I wanted to say, I speak far to fast and at the end of it I go over in my mind all the things that I should have done better. I can’t remember ever doing so complex a presentation as this one. Complex in that I wanted a lot of things to happen in the right way and it wasn’t just me speaking, there were parts for 4 other members.

I was taught that when presenting it is perfectly acceptable to control the room and event in order to get your message across. I sort of decided that this would apply not just to my allotted presentation time but to control of the whole assembly meeting. The week before Lucy had read the “Object of Rotary” at the start of the breakfast meeting. She stumbled upon a word or two at the end at which point John made light of it. Ours is a happy and light hearted club, so all was taken in good humour. At the beginning of our Club Assembly meeting we gave John the Object of Rotary to read…. in French. Well, seeing as Lucy is French and stumbled over the English version we thought it would be fun to get John to read the object in something other than his first language. This wasn’t done purely for fun though, I wanted everyone to remember the “Object of Rotary”. Having it read in a different language was more effective than my original plan – to get someone to give the object of rotary from memory. As I said earlier, the object is a tough set of words and no one in our club has memorised them. Much merriment later, the Assembly meeting continued in what I assume is the normal way, with each committee reporting their progress to everyone in the club – finishing with a short speech from Martin who was visiting to represent District. Poor chap, It was his first visit to us and I don’t think he quite understood our approach to Rotary.

After all the other committees had spoken, we were the last to go. The meeting was slightly overrunning so I made the decision to condense the first part of our presentation. Referring to the object of rotary I challenged anyone to stand up and say it. Obviously no one could. If I had more time I might have managed to get the gist of the object from those around the room. We had the full objects printed and taped into our flip chart so everyone got to remember what the object was, then we gave them our “Object of Rotary in 3 words” version:

Do Good Things

Having set the objective clearly, the next question is ‘What counts as a good thing?’. This is where I got to introduce Craig to talk about what Playing for Success is. Following him was Steve Auty on the Pilgrims Hopice, with Diane following Steve on how we will be helping Pilgrims by organising and running a Summer Ball and how she would eventually be getting more of us to help as things developed with her plans. I think this is the part we lost Martin from District, when Diane said with a straight face she expected us to raise 50,000. I gather that’s a large amount for a club in it’s first year but the amount itself is a side effect of knowing what we can achieve. The week before Assembly the target was 40,000 but a local farmer offered a better venue so Diane expects us to raise more.

Closing the presentation I wanted to get across two messages. Firstly, I wanted everyone to at least remember our short object of rotary (Do Good Things) if they weren’t going to remember the full version. Do Good Things is something everyone is starting to say. Secondly, I wanted them all to realise that as members it’s up to them all to find the Opportunities to Do Good Things. Present the opportunity to the club and maybe someone in the club can help. Maybe we can’t, we’ll certainly not be able to help in every case but the first step is always to identify the opportunity to serve. I’m not sure I got that message across so well.

What next? Well, time start Doing Good Things…

Rotary – Meeting Steve (at Pilgrims Hospice)

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You might get the feeling that my involvement in Rotary is a lot of meetings. That might be true, but think only in the good sense of meetings. That is, the good thing of meeting people, talking and learning, rather than boring meetings that drone on forever with no aim.

Meeting Steve Auty, another new Rotarian, at the Pilgrims Hospice was another huge learning experience for me. Firstly, let me tell you what Pilgrims is and what it does. The hospice movement steps in once the NHS step out. When you have a terminal disease and you can no longer be treated, the hospice movement will help you and your family cope with that news and make sure the last stage of your life is the best it can be. As Steve said to me, as a society we rarely speak of what happens when you know you’re going to die and we should probably speak to each other more about it. While some of us will die suddenly, for others there will be a period where a doctor runs some tests and tells us there is little that modern medicine can do for us. If that’s said to you, what will you do?

The hospice movement is entirely funded by charitable donations. They will be there with specialist staff to help not only you come to terms with things, including managing treatment that can ease suffering through to the end of your life, but the hospice movement will be there for your family too. Steve explained to me that many people view the hospice movement as somewhere you go to die, but in reality only 40% of … i don’t think patient is the right word but it will do for now, only 40% of patients die in the hospice. Many make a decision they would prefer to die at home and the hospice will do everything they can to allow people to stay at home instead of in the hospice itself. While the number of volunteers at the hospice outweigh paid staff by a huge amount, some staff need qualifications and resources cost money. The hospice needs around 8 million pounds a year to run. This funding allows them to care for around 4,000 people in the final stages of life, out of around 6,000 people that deserve their care and attention in the area Pilgrims Hospice covers.

Please read this with the notation that I’ve typed these figures from memory, if they’re grossly wrong I’ll correct them but I’m sure they’re near enough. Pilgrims would very much like to expand their service to look after all the 6,000 people in East Kent and they are working hard towards growing their fund raising base to provide this.

I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve visited a lot of places through my business. I’ve seen large offices and small offices, offices for designers with no expence spared and offices for workshops with sawdust or machine oil on every surface. Visiting Pilgrims I felt straight away that every penny donated to them goes to the cause and not to the office furnishings! Part of Steve’s office was occupied by a folding bed. When I asked about it he said it had been donated by someone, along with another pile of things in another corner. His office was used for storing lots of donations, if the space was needed it was used. Steve is the Chief Executive of Pilgrims Hospice and his coffee table, chairs, desk and filing cabinets looked like they’d seen service since the 1970’s. That’s not to say there was anything wrong with the furnishings, they were all fully functional. If anything it made me appreciate even more how this charity is focused directly on it’s cause and that niceties like matching furniture really aren’t important. I can say with 100% confidence this is a cause worth supporting and definitely within the ethos of “Do Good Things”.

But what to do? Well, another new Rotarian, Diane, already has that in hand. She’s organising a summer ball to take place next May in order to raise funds for Pilgrims. Pilgrims haven’t had a summer ball before. Diane’s original target was to raise 40,000, although that’s since been changed to 50,000 because in her words “I’ve been offered a better venue than I thought I could get”.

Wow! To me those figures sound huge but the more I get to know Diane the more I just know it’s going to happen.

So, two good causes, presentation day next – how we presented it and how it all went.

Oh, I almost forgot, I spent some time with Steve talking about his past as well. He made the rank of Commodore in the Navy (that’s very, very senior officer!) and told me a couple of great stories of his time in the forces. There’s some amazing experience and knowledge in our Rotary club, the more I meet with people, the more I’m glad I joined.

Rotary – Meeting Craig (at Playing for Success Kent)

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One of our members (Craig) was working as a teacher in an organisation called “Playing for Success” which brought them to the clubs attention. Playing for Success is a scheme part funded by the Education authority locally, part funded by a special national education fund and part funded by a sports club. Why the sports club? They provide the venue and their superstar players.

The theory goes that children can be motivated to learn things outside of school within a sports environment. The program takes 14 children each evening (56 children per 4 day week) from different schools for one term. They use a session around 2 hours long to do activities with the children that will help develop their confidence and attitude to learning. Being at the sports club means the children get to meet professional sportsmen and women and that is woven into the course as an integral part of the motivation (professional sportsmen and women are always motivated people to have reached that level).

I went to see Craig on a Thursday afternoon to find out what Playing for Success Kent is and what their goals are. They run sessions at the Kent County Cricket ground. I wanted to find out if there’s any way we (as a Rotary Club) can “Do Good Things” in a focused way. Talking with Craig was interesting in itself. Craig is from Zimbabwe but had been forced to leave due to the current political troubles there. The school he was working at had a falling student roll as farms closed and people moved away so he too had to leave with his wife. He hopes to go back one day, having seen how good a teacher he is the selfish part of me would rather he stays teaching in the UK. Still, for the time being he’s teaching the children at Playing for Success and the benefits of the program are instantly visible. Seeing work of past groups and the excitement generated by meeting different cricket stars, the way he handled and motivated this group, it’s easy to understand why the scheme is in such demand. As they are outside of the national curriculum they can focus very much on those hidden skills of confidence and positive mental attitude. These are the things that you can’t measure but intrinsically know are important.

At first glance you’d think Playing for Success has everything it needs. Great venue, all the IT equipment necessary to deliver the course. Great teachers and volunteer mentors (each class has 1 teacher and 3 volunteer mentors). The organisation is itself naturally motivated to deliver this training to as many young people as it can and to increase the use of the facility they’ve been running courses outside of school term time. For these courses they have to charge which means they don’t get to choose the children that will most benefit from the course. One of our Rotarians suggested that if we raise funds to pay for the additional course then the additional spaces can be directed via the local Education Authority towards the children that would normally be targeted. This would definitely fall within the ethos of “Do Good Things” and as I write is still being investigated as an opportunity our club can work on.

After meeting Craig I next had to learn about Pilgrims Hospice, more reading here!

Rotary – Planning for Club Assembly

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Club Assembly is when the club presents to itself it’s goals and ambitions for the forthcoming year.

Sounds easy. Probably is if you’ve done it before – I on the other hand had only recently joined Rotary and still hadn’t quite organised to my satisfaction the plans for the next month let alone the next year!

Initially, I said to Jarle that I’d need at least 15 minutes to present the parts from Service Projects. That was a gross underestimate on my part – in the end it needed 27 minutes. So what did we do and why?

I’m an objective driven person. I really need to know what the aims are in order to work towards them. Rotary has aims, I copied them on this blog earlier, but they are not exactly easy to digest or summarise. When you read them closely, you realise that every word has it’s reason for being there. Still, I’ve found them awful tough to learn and integrate in my mind. I decided that before I could present my committee’s objectives, I needed to present the object of rotary in a way that everyone would instantly know and understand. Only then could I go onto to how in the first year we can achieve that. I worked out that I could put across the Object of Rotary in just 3 words. Sure, they wouldn’t carry the minute detail of how Rotary can achieve things, but it would be enough that every new Rotarian around the table could use, remember, and apply. Here it is, my Object of Rotary in 3 words:

Do Good Things

Having an aim is one thing, but we need to follow it up with actions. There were already two causes others in the club had begun work on. I needed to find out very quickly what those causes were beyond just their name so that I could stand and present them as a worthy “Good Thing”. The first was Pilgrims Hospice, the second was Playing for Success. I went to visit them both, and if you want to find out what I found then you can read on once more.

Rotary – the Fun Day

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Less than 2 weeks later, the day of the fun day had arrived.

The fun day was a large event organised by District. We got (if we wanted it, and we did) a free pitch to have whatever type of stand we wanted to. The event was open to the public and had a few large attractions, including a parachute display, a Spitfire flypast and a fun fair.

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Our stand had 2 Nintendo Wii machines with WiiFit Boards. Steve Charman works for KCC in Education and was able to borrow them from a youth club for the day. We charged a pound a go with two iPod prizes donated by Apple specialist ServiceWeb for the highest score in two different games (hula hoops and a ski slalom).

I wrote that Lucy and I set two aims for the event. Firstly that we should involve as many of our club members on the day as possible. Over half the members took part which I consider a fantastic response. Many changed their plans to turn up at some point through the day. Our second goal was to raise money for our chosen charity, we raised 163.30 for Odyssey. All in all a good day.

One other surprise was when my family arrived in the afternoon. My daughter ran across to Steve Charman’s wife, shouted her name and gave her a hug! Why? Steve’s wife Rosie is a guide leader at my daughters guide pack in Faversham. None of us knew of the connection until then.

The fun day was a great success, but looking forward, it was now just a few days until “Club Assembly”, whatever that was. Read on, if you’re still with me!

Rotary – Meeting Lucy

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I can come clean, I’m really not very good with names. I’ve found it very hard to get to know everyone at Rotary – at the time of writing this I’m still finding it hard to get to know everyone.

I’d spoken to Lucy in one of the earlier meetings but still knew very little about her. I’d only been to 12 meetings at this point and still felt very much the new boy. I gather many new Rotarians felt the same way. I thought Lucy had been there for a lot longer but in fact had only started going regularly in March too. New or not, we’d taken on a challenge to run the committee and had a pressing engagement – a Fun Day to organise. In the initial organisation chart I had been put in the Public Relations committee so I had no idea what had been going on in Service Projects. Lucy was within the Service Projects committee under the “International” section. That was a job she’s kept in addition to her new Deputy role. Our club had already set the goal of twinning with a Rotary club in Amiens, that meets at Amiens Cathedral. Lucy’s perfect English accent effectively conceals the fact she’s French, grew up in France and speaks the language fluently. Rather handy member for setting up twinning with a French club then!

In an effort to get to know her more and figure out what the aims of our committee were we met at her local pub. What could have taken an hour ended up taking all night until closing time – the functional bit an hour or so, the rest a lot of interesting conversation. Initially she filled me in on what had happened within the Service Projects committee up until that point. Only one meeting, some initial ideas on what to do at the fun day. I think it was then I discovered that we weren’t organising a whole fun day – but running a stand at a Rotary organised fun day – Phew! Lucy already had the Risk Assessments under control, another couple of members had suggested some activities for our stand to generate some revenue.

We set our objectives as

  1. Get as many club members involved in the Fun Day as possible,
  2. Raise money for our chosen charity.

The club had already chosen Odyssey as the charity.

I also found out that although Lucy was as new to Rotary membership as I was, she had been a secretary for another Rotarian when she first came to work in England. She already knew a lot about how Rotary worked, how it’s organised and what the protocols are. That knowledge has been very useful – simple things to the experienced Rotarian (like what ‘club assembly’ means) are very confusing to me. Lucy has been picking up on all the times I’ve use the wrong term preventing yet more confusion.

The non Rotary discussions covered how it came to be that a French girl acquires a perfect English accent yet has only been working in the UK for a few years. It turns out her Mum is English and every year after French schools had finished she’d visit England and stay with a pen pal, spending a month in an English school before our summer holidays. One of her brothers now lives in England too – at least for the time he’s not doing charity work overseas. Her degree studies in Paris sounded like hard work but a solid foundation to life too, one of the things I’d like to learn more of is how different education systems work and their strengths and weaknesses.

The more I get to know the other members, the more I feel able to make a difference within the club. Shorter conversations with other club members have already revealed that Karen is a couple of years younger than me and grew up in the same village and went to the same school! I never remember meeting her before, but we must have as children.

Two weeks to go until the fun day, how did it all go? Read on once more….

Rotary – Getting to work

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Post inaugeration and I was keen to see our club start to do things. There were a couple of things going on but all on a very small scale by what I felt our club was capable of. I was keen to see action, I wanted to volunteer my time and skills (assuming I have some of use to the club) but needed someone else to come up with the cause. Then, at the end of one of the Morning meetings Jarle asked me if I’d take on the job of “Chair of Service Projects”. First response: What’s that?

The club is organised for different people to take on different roles to ensure the club runs smoothly.
The club President (Jarle for our first year) runs the meetings and acts as our public face
The President Elect (Karen) will be next years president. Karen is also Chair of the Public Relations committee.
All the functions needed to run a club have a person responsible for managing that area. Without writing hundreds of words, we also have members in the roles of Secretary, Treasurer and Membership. These members also form the club “Board”. I’ve oversimplified here a little, so forgive me for not mentioning every member in every role.

The role of “Service Projects” within the club is to oversea the activities the club is involved in. As a Committee it’s the largest within the club – involving 10 members from our 28 member total after inauguration. As chairperson I would have to run those committee meetings and report to the Board. The committee includes people overseeing our clubs activities within the “Avenues of Service”, that is International, Community and Youth (the forth Avenue is Club Service).

I had to borrow Jarle’s blue book, kind of like an instruction manual of how Rotary works to read about what Service Projects was. Before saying yes I wanted to know I’d be capable and that it would fit alongside other things I do. Having read that, I was happy to say yes – at last I could start feeling useful!

There was good news and bad news in this.
Good news: The board had decided that this committee needed a Deputy to assist in it’s running and Lucy was being asked if she’d like to take this role on. Both of us would report to the board.
Bad News: I had become responsible for organising a Fun Day. That was all I knew, my first fear was that we had to organise everything, including publicity,and it was less than a month away.

Now I had the job, I had to figure out how to do it. Fellowship, a word so often mentioned through Rotary, seemed to be the key…

Rotary – Inauguration of a new club

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So far, I’ve been invited to a new club then decided to join a new club. However, the club was still in formation phase. To start a new club Rotary needs it to have a certain number of members and an infrastructure in place. The new club members need to commit themselves to the serving the Object of Rotary. They need to pay their membership fees too (yes, there is a cost to joining Rotary – it’s what pays the expenses of running the system). I’d like to explain more about exactly what hoops the club had to pass through, but the truth is I don’t really know. I’d only been going for 6 or 7 meetings when Inauguration day had arrived. Whatever we as a club had to have achieved, we’d done it and a special meeting was arranged where the whole of Rotary (or perhaps, the local Rotarians able to visit) would get to inspect us as a new club.

Wednesday April 23rd 2008 is a day I will remember for a long time. Before the meeting I saw that the Rotary District Governor* would be joining us for breakfast to officially inaugurate our club and us as new members into Rotary. I recognised the name of the District Governor. Dennis Spiller was, for want of a better word, one of the Youth Leaders who worked with me as a teenager. It was through the Kent Association of Boys Clubs (which later changed it’s name to KABC Kent Youth Trust because there was trouble having Boys in the name, even though girls had been involved for years. It’s now known as just “Kent Youth”). Dennis is also part of a group called the “County Boys Club” (CBC), they organised a range of events and activities for young people on a county wide basis. Actually, I’m still a member of County Boys Club myself but life took me away from that in other directions. One of the things they organised was a set of weekend training courses aimed at developing young people, teaching skills useful in running a youth club. Dennis was one of the several staff organising and teaching on those weekends. One of the things I learnt at those weekends (I still remember) was how to run meetings. The role of the Chairperson, the Secretary, the Treasurer (if there was one), how an agenda works, how minutes work, how to take minutes, how sub committees work, and so on. One of my first observations of Rotary was how the meetings were run the same way as the systems I’d learnt at those weekend training events with the CBC. Meeting Dennis again brought back lots of happy memories of growing up.

The ceremony itself was run like clockwork. As our club meets at Canterbury Cathedral it already made for a most impressive venue. After breakfast, Dennis made a speech about what Rotary is and how important it is that new clubs are formed. Another Rotarian then introduced all of us new members by name and profession. Dennis then made the formal statements that officially announced the “Rotary Club of Canterbury Sunrise” as part of Rotary. He finished at precisely 07:59 and 58 seconds, then the Bells of Canterbury Cathedral rang out as if to join in the occasion (they ring at 8am every morning – but I had to admire the timekeeping of the whole morning).

So, there we all were, a group of new Rotarians, founder members of a club that, if it is as fortunate as other nearby clubs, will last over 100 years. Or maybe it wont, but it’s kind of special to be there at the beginning.

Now we’ve formed a Rotary club, what happens next? Read on dear friend…

*A quick comment on the organisation structure.
Our club is a part of District 1120. The District has a District Governor who in the year we were formed was Dennis Spiller.
The District is a part of RIBI, Rotary International in Britain and Ireland, and that in turn is part of Rotary International.

Rotary – new member, new club

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I like to understand things before I make any commitment. Joining Rotary meant I had to understand exactly why I was joining and what I was committed to. Let’s be selfish here too, what’s in it for me? Getting up earlier than normal one day a week isn’t really very demanding but even so – I like my sleep!

I didn’t join on the first meeting. In fact I think it was about 3 meetings before I confirmed I’d join and completed the application form. I had to find out what Rotary was about and why. As a large organisation it does have an objective, simply called the “Object of Rotary”. Read it, and you’ll know why it took me a few weeks to understand it!

The Object of Rotary is to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise and, in particular, to encourage and foster:

  1. FIRST. The development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service;
  2. SECOND. High ethical standards in business and professions, the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations, and the dignifying of each Rotarian’s occupation as an opportunity to serve society;
  3. THIRD. The application of the ideal of service in each Rotarian’s personal, business, and community life;
  4. FOURTH. The advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service.
Based on the Object of Rotary, the Avenues of Service are Rotarys philosophical cornerstone and the foundation on which club activity is based:

  • Club Service focuses on strengthening fellowship and ensuring the effective functioning of the club.
  • Vocational Service encourages Rotarians to serve others through their vocations and to practice high ethical standards.
  • Community Service covers the projects and activities the club undertakes to improve life in its community.
  • International Service encompasses actions taken to expand Rotarys humanitarian reach around the globe and to promote world understanding and peace.

The club service element positively encourages things to run smoothly. I can appreciate an organisation that includes it’s administration processes as an integral part of its aims. The more I’m involved in Rotary, the more I see an impressive infrastructure for organising huge events by spreading the load effectively over a large number of commited people.

The “what’s in it for me?” question is also covered by the word “fellowship” in that line. The people I’ve met in and through Rotary have all been nice people. The reward for being so community spirited is meeting lots of like minded people. I’ve had interesting conversations with Rotarians in my own club and in other clubs, sharing experiences, knowledge and their opinions on the way things are. I’ve also found it interesting that so far I haven’t seen too much politics getting in the way of the Object. People have differing opinions but seem to understand the importance of of the object of service over the detail that allows things to functions. One good example of this is when I visited another club. For that story though you’ll have to read this later blog posting. For now, the summary of this post is that Rotary is an organisation I felt comfortable joining.