President Paul Vandegraaf closed his Rotary year by recapping the accomplishments of the club during his tenure as President.  While not normally given to shows of emotion, President Paul stopped on a number of occasions to collect his thoughts and emotions as he reflected on the achievements of the club during the past year. Paul tried to avoid a situation of deja vu for those who attended the President's Night Dinner by modifying his speech to the club members in attendance.
Paul spoke to the reality that being President of this club is not anything anyone person can achieve in isolation but is a collective effort of more than 100 people working at most times in a harmonious fashion to make a Rotary year and therefore the club successful.
Paul reflected back to his original charge to the club last July to live up to the challenge of RI President Ron Burton to engage Rotary and change lives.  He compelled us to think about that vision and asked us to change Rotary and engage lives and Engage Rotary and Change Lives and feels we rose to the challenge to accomplish both.  During Paul's initial address to the club last July he talked about the energy and vitality of the club and it is our responsibility as members to make sure the club is not allowed to stagnate and does not sit back on its laurel.  We had to challenge ourselves, do more, to be better to change more lives.   If you could not find something within the 30+ committees within our club that ignited your Rotary spirit it was your requirement to look in the mirror and ask yourself one question. What do I want to do in or for Rotary and once you have the answer you are to make it happen. Rotarian Bob Graham, a Rotarian since 1968 seized upon this process and brought forward the idea of a Rotary Spelling Bee which is in the planning stages for President-Elect Len's Rotary year.  2013/14 Rotary year saw us celebrate the 90th birthdays of 3 Rotarians, Bob Graham, Mac Smith and Ken Wormald and a celebration of their over 145 years of Rotary service.  President Paul, how lucky am I as President to have that resource in my club?
Another new initiative of the Belleville Club brought to the club by our dear departed friend Bob Michaud Jr and Birgit Wartenberg was a sweat equity project entitled Kids Against Hunger.  A Rotary initiative in other clubs, this idea was first presented to our club over 2 years ago and under Bob and Birgit's leadership and through community support of the Hanley Family and McDougall Insurance, the project moved forward.  At Loyalist College 15,000 meal packages for families of 6 were put together with 10,000 heading to Haiti and 5000 to the Gleaners Food Bank.  A perfect example of Engaging Rotary and Changing Lives but also changing Rotary and Engaging Lives.   An example of the kind of work the club does every year.
When asked on President's Night about his highlight of the year he could not think of anything that he could single out as the highlight of the year as we do so many good things, but that is when he realized he was not actually listening to the question but only hearing the words.  The answer to him was obvious, the highlight of the year for him was the synergy that members have when it comes to whatever project that is important to them individually and collectively.
Paul talked about leading the club and that it is indeed a very fast moving club akin to a bobsled hurtling down the course at 100km an hour.  Paul had been advised that the club really runs itself and he would change that to it really races itself and it is truly full time work to just hold on as the club moves forward let alone steer it.  Paul provided guidance to those who are considering becoming President or have been tricked into signing up and that is try to keep the sled between the lines and try not to bump the walls too much, again using the bobsled analogy.   We have all seen those ugly bobsled crashes on TV and as we see the finish line of our Rotary year, there have only been a few bumps against the wall and no crashes.
This success he credits to the club and the thank yous to follow.  But first he wanted to talk about leadership and his approach and he used a quote from Nelson Mandela who we also lost this year but bears repeating that "It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front especially when you celebrate victory  when nice things occur.  You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership".   That to Paul defines how he has tried to lead, from behind allowing others to celebrate the many Rotary victories this year and only taking the front for our weekly Monday meetings.  Paul spoke to our efforts to change lives this year through fundraising efforts such as RLK, Diners and Duffers, RTA, Waterfront Festival and Trip of the Month.  These funds were allocated to our committees through the budget deliberation process and then the committees received requests for those funds and made tough decisions knowing that some very worthwhile requests could not be accommodated. Some of the highlights from our year in terms of support, was $5,000 for shelter boxes for victims of the Philippines typhoon, put forward by Bob Michaud while in the hospital and made in his honour just before he passed away.  $2,000 to help train nurses in Uganda, $5,000 to assist other charities to purchase a specialty van for a 8 year old boy with quadriplegia, $5,000 for a waste water system and build a well in Pakistan, sending 4 area children with diabetes to a camp to help them learn to deal with this disease, many children from low income families were afforded the opportunity to attend YMCA programs, people in the Quinte area can enhance their reading skills through the donation of 3 computers, the Kids against Hunger initiative, grade 8 and 12 students were better dressed for grads and proms through the support of the Prom Project, individuals with disabilities were able to ride horses or sail on the Bay of Quinte are just a small example of the programs that were supported by our efforts during Paul's Rotary Year.
To facilitate all of this, Paul thanked the club at large for accepting the challenge and staying engaged and changing lives.  Paul praised the board for their efforts in making the year so successful, to the committee chairs who lead the club to achieve everything from fundraising to fund spending.
Paul concluded his retrospective by wishing President Elect Ken his board, and all committee chairs all the best for the upcoming Rotary year and to be prepared for another wild ride.  Paul thanked the club for making this 94th year of Rotary in Belleville so memorable for him and advising we lived up to the challenge of Engage Rotary and Change Lives.
Paul closed as he had in his President's Night address with a quote from Dr. Seuss "Don't Cry Because it is over. Smile because it happened".  He was still smiling, but this time there was also a tear or two as his year came to an end. The club thanked Paul for his leadership with a rousing standing ovation.  Well done President Paul.