Inaugural Speech - President Len Kennedy

 
 
 
Rotarians, honoured guests, family, friends -- it is truly an honour and a privilege to stand before you today as your new President. I accept the trust you have placed in me and pledge that with the strong, experienced and compete‎nt board that is your leadership team, we will steward the club’s resources well, represent the Rotary mission and values and the 4 way test to the best of our abilities, and make this the service club that people want to get into!! 
It is my particular pleasure to welcome many members of my family here today, as well as some special guests. Starting with my mother, Marie, who in raising a family of 10 children, and now presiding over the Kennedy clan of 22 grand children and 3 great grandchildren with another on the way, coupled with a full career as teacher and educator, knows a thing or two about Service above Self! A special welcome to my Aunt Helen Gaffney and my sisters, Lorrie Lunny, from Etobicoke, Theresa Williams and her husband, Peter from Ottawa,my brother Terry and his wife Ann, from Ottawa and Erinsville, where they are enjoying their retirement lifestyle and John and his wife, Sheila, from Toronto. Unfortunately, my daughter Kelsey who works in Manhattan, is unable to be here today due to work commitments.
 
I also wish to acknowledge past RI President, Wilf Wilkinson who has always been an inspiration to me from the moment of joining Rotary; newly appointed Assistant District Governor to our Club,  Grant Southwell, and my very dear friend Dr. Jinni Demine, also from the Trenton Rotary Club, who has been a tremendous support to me in preparing for this role over the past several months. Thanks to all of you for joining me for this special occasion! And I also wish to recognize our own Assistant District Governor Ken Dickson- best wishes for your year ahead too!
 
At this point, I’d like to introduce the 2014-15 Board and ask them to stand and remain standing until all their names have been called:
Kelly McKinney, Pres. Elect
Vice Pres. and Treasurer, Shannon Neely
Secretary Bill MacKay (new)
Past Pres. Paul VandeGraaf
Directors: Andrew Bandler, Tracy Bray, Chris Finkle, Nadine Langlois, Judy McKnight (new)
Doug Peterson, John Sherratt (new), Birgit Wartenberg
 
I also wish to thank and acknowledge your Committee Chairs, Team Leaders and function overseers- too many to mention individually today, but you will find their names on the inside front cover of the new green roster- so please take a minute  to be familiar with, and know who to go to for information and answers.
 
 
The Kennedys are a family of gatherings and as many of you know the Red Roof Cottage, and the Kennedy Compound at Calpin Lake, Erinsville, north of Napanee, ‎my home community, is a place where we love to celebrate- any reason is good enough for a get together- the more the merrier. My family and my place there continue to be a tremendous source of support, renewal and inspiration, enabling me to step forward each day and try to make a difference, in my family life, in my work, and in my community.
 
The journey here has been a long one, but as I stand before you today, it all seems very worthwhile!  ‎Over the past year or two there have been dozens of board meetings, 3 days of Rotary leadership institute, several District meetings, district conferences and assemblies, President-Elect training in Oshawa and Evanston Illinois, several club budget committee meetings, a club planning session, an international convention, which by good luck was in Sydney, Australia last month, and numerous discussions with Directors and committee chairs...so yes, the training and the development is all done and if, with all that input, I screw it up, it's not for lack of preparation!
 
I joined Rotary in 2001, just a year after arriving in Belleville to run the local CAS. I had never been involved in a service club, but I thought it might help get me established in my new community, and the CAS was looking to be a bit more engaged in the community at the time. I attended a number of meetings- checked out other service clubs and organizations too, but ultimately was attracted to Rotary as the club that was known in this area for making things happen, for getting things done. I also liked the concept of the 4 way test and the emphasis on fellowship, or social events, while doing good work in the community.
 
I remember after I applied and attended a few meetings, Dr. Joe Demeza met with me to give me an overview and orientation, and before long, I had my red badge. I have never looked back and have done my best to embrace many of the opportunities Rotary has to offer whether at the local, district or international levels, including 5 RI Conventions. and numerous District Conferences.
 
We are all called to be ‎active in service, and I encourage each of you to seek out your own role and way to get involved, and then pursue it with passion and enthusiasm- we rely on that to keep the club vibrant and active in our community. In particular, I encourage you to take advantage of training that is provided-and yes we pay for a lot of it!  It’s a great way to add to your leadership skills and networks; and by knowing more about Rotary, you will find new ideas and will keep our club renewed and on the leading edge of the district.
 
I want to comment a bit on the ‎theme of this new Rotary year. As I mentioned, I had the good fortune last month, with your support, to attend the Rotary International Convention in Sydney AU along with 19,000 others. There we met our new President Gary C.K. Huang, from Taipei, Taiwan, the first ever Chinese President of RI.  We were ‎introduced to his theme- "Light up Rotary", and encouraged to let our Rotary light shine wherever Rotary is involved.
 
And we have lots here in our own club that's worthy of shining a light on, not the least of which are the major fundraisers coming up in the next few days and weeks- our waterfront beverage service, managed by Director Andrew Bandler and President Elect Kelly McKinney and, of course,the outstandingly successful Rotary Loves Kids Golf Day, chaired this year by Kelly McKinney and Greg Knudsen. The funds from these events will enable us to help countless children and families in our community and further afield, impacting positively on their quality of life. Making a difference in lives, in particular for children and vulnerable populations- that's worth shining a light on!
 
RI President Huang set out his 4 priorities for 2014-15:  
1. Eradication of polio- through a $525 Million  5- year plan ending in 2018, focused on the 3 remaining countries of Nigeria, Afghanistan and ‎Pakistan.
 
2. Membership - he wants to grow Rotary to 1.3 Million from our current world level of less than 1.2 where we’ve been stuck for years, a daunting task for sure, but one we need everyone's support for. Invite a friend or colleague for lunch, ask them to join; and help them feel welcome and engaged when they do! Without extending those invitations, we will not grow and we can each make a difference by simply making the effort. I ask each of you to make it a point to invite at least one guest to a lunch this year, and to follow up to explore if they would like to become a member! President Huang also encourages us to talk to our spouse or partners about joining. There’s no reason not to.
 
3. Supporting the Rotary Foundation to enable our projects worldwide to continue. We in our club have an enviable track record of supporting Every Rotarian Every Year...but let me encourage each of you to fulfill that commitment.- right now we are at about 70%.  Also I encourage you to think about a donation to create a Paul Harris fellowship- for yourself or someone dear to you....you don't have to be a longstanding Rotary member to get started...every contribution to RI’s annual fund, Polio Plus, and so on, counts towards a Paul Harris,  and the worldwide mission of Rotary depends on support of all members all over the world.
 
4. Getting the Rotary story out...we, at all levels, need to promote the Rotary brand, tell our stories, educate our communities and show in all media, including social media what a difference we make, what an impact we are having. Rotarian Arie Korteweg and others have done such great work in this regard- but we need additional support in getting our messages out, including local media, social media etc, so if you can assist, please see Arie. And for social media, talk to Laura Brasseur. Here I want to mention the “Rotary.org” website which was updated last year. How many of you here have logged into “My Rotary” within the past month?If you haven’t, please take a few minutes to check it out, set up your member’s access and learn more about RI initiatives, check out the updated logo and brand resources, and read some of the stories of the great work that Rotary is doing around the world.
 
At the District level, next week we will welcome new DG Brian Thompson, of the Whitby Club, as he starts to make the rounds to his 55 clubs. I’ll leave it to him‎ to run through his goals for the year, but they will include promoting the District conference in TO this October as a great chance for fellowship or social events and learning at the District level.
 
Our club is seen as one of the flagship clubs in the district, on a number of measures. We are the 3rd largest club after Cobourg at 144 and Toronto at 186 members and so it should be no surprise we are the 3rd largest contributor to the Rotary Foundation. As such, we should be generating leaders at the District level and providing leadership to initiatives at the local and District levels- so I encourage you to look for those opportunities and get involved to the fullest degree you can..
 
Finally, I want to mention some goals at the local level, right here at the Rotary Club of Belleville- where your donations and volunteer efforts and fundraising initiatives are making such a difference for so many children and families.
 
You approved our club budget a couple of weeks ago‎. With that in place, we will maintain the various local and international grants that are in place and will be able to support many initiatives and at the levels of the previous year. I’ll highlight a few of them here, but as the year goes along, we will report on progress and be accountable to you for how your money is being used.
 
The Rotary Music Festival, chaired by Rotarian John Chisholm, is a vital part of our community.  A unique opportunity, each spring for local students to receive instruction and compete for prizes in front of world class adjudicators, who now are asking to participate in our festival. What a great feature for our club and our community!  And let's try to get more kids from nearby communities to participate so they too get to share in the benefits of this remarkable event!
 
Harold Brennan and his Community Grants Committee, Darrell Smith and his Special Needs Committee- they thoughtfully review and support countless children and individuals with limitations to live a more fulfilled life and in doing so they work in close partnership with many groups and organizations in our community.
 
Every November we give CAS and Quinte Children’s Foundation a cheque for 10% of the proceeds of Rotary Loves Kids golf event ...that financial support goes directly to bursaries promoting post secondary education for kids who never thought they’d even finish high school. We know education helps break the cycle of abuse and neglect and RLK is changing life opportunities for dozens of local students as they open doors and become engaged and positive contributors to society instead of ending up as lifelong consumers of services.
 
Our own Dr. Ruth has been such a committed Rotarian on our behalf travelling to Africa every year to volunteer in a clinic and check on the progress of our projects. Through a Global grant, we are shortly to complete the renovations for 6 classrooms at the Matangwe  Primary School, a kindergarten to Grade 8 school in Western Kenya. The school was built at the start of this century to house 100 students but it now serves 500 students, 97 of whom are AIDS orphans. All the students receive free uniforms and a hot meal at lunchtime, for many their only meal of the day. Ruth’s work there is supported by Caring Partners Global, founded by Stephen and Sylvia Scott, a couple who lived in the area and now live in Kitchener/Waterloo.
 
I also want to highlight a couple of new initiatives I hope to move forward this year through your committees. The District has been encouraging us to do more on an interclub level to help raise awareness of Rotary across communities, and to support each others efforts. With that in mind, we have a number of ideas that the 3 closest local clubs- Trenton, Quinte Sunrise and ourselves are exploring…with other nearby clubs also showing interest.
 
First is a spelling bee…Past Pres. Paul mentioned this a few weeks ago as an idea that Rotarian Bob Graham had suggested last year… But Trenton is well ahead of us with much planning already done over the past year, led by Dr Jinni Demine. Now, with the leadership of our Literacy Chair Sharon McConnell, we have recruited members to an inter club planning committee who will be developing the concept and hopefully with the support of local schools, it may come to fruition in early 2015. This could one day have the far reaching impact of the music festival and be a great boost to our profile in the community while supporting an important literacy goal.
 
Another new development is a sweat equity project under the leadership of Brenda Snider and her committee’s banner of Strengthening Community. Both Belleville and Trenton Rotary Clubs have committed funds in support of a partnership with Habitat for Humanity to promote Rotary Build Days in both communities with Rotary volunteers rolling up their sleeves and swinging a hammer or a pushing a paintbrush to help build an affordable home for families who otherwise could never afford to own one. I would like to see at least 2 Rotary Days in Trenton this fall and 2 in Belleville next spring, at Habitat build sites, offering all Rotarians and their families a chance to contribute directly to improving living conditions for children and for families in our community.
 
We are also encouraged to make plans for a Rotary Day in our community, on World Understanding and Peace day in February commemorating the founding of Rotary. Here in Belleville, we will add celebrations for our 95 years of history, marked as it is, by so many contributions to our city and its people, so many projects and initiatives. And with our own Centennial only 5 years away, its not too early to start thinking about how we want to mark our hundredth birthday in 2019-20
 
Its time to wrap up for I also want to respect your time as busy men and women so you can keep up with all the facets of your lives.  I’m sorry I have not been able to pay tribute to each of you individually in today’s comments, but I will try to make a point of mentioning leadership and special efforts made by members as the year goes along.
 
The Board has a retreat later this month and from that and the input at our planning session we may have further comments about short term priorities to make later in the summer.
 
In closing, let me say that as a club we have tremendous assets- our people, our brand, our stable financial picture. But we can’t for a minute assume we can rest on our laurels, I ask each of you to think of how you will make Rotary a little brighter this year, how you will shine your light on a project or initiative to make it more successful, how you support and attend Club events- because that’s how you brighten up everyone else’s world.
 
President Huang likes to quote that old Chinese proverb- it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness…so let's start lighting those candles; let's shine our light brightly around our community and keep making a difference; let’s bring out the star quality in each of us make our 95th year one to remember!
 
Thank you!
 
President Len