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Rotary Club of Oakland Civic Luncheon Meeting, October 1, 2020

Pam Claassen

Call to Order and Thought for the Day – Pam Claassen

President Ces Butner rang the bell to call our virtual Oakland Rotary Civic Thursday meeting to order.  He noted it is our 5,311th meeting in our 111 plus year history.

Pam Claassen inspired us with some thoughts from Dr. Joshua Bamberger who spoke to the club recently: Housing the homeless is cost effective…all life is of value and helping the homeless sets the standard of decency for all of us.

Linda Hamilton

Meeting Sponsor – Linda Hamilton, Stories To Last

Linda Hamilton, our meeting sponsor, started her business in 2006 to help individuals and businesses share their stories. Since then she has published over 40 books, videos and podcasts. She cited Mark Twain who observed “every life story is fascinating” and reminded us that in our everyday lives we tell stories all day long. Stories are good for our brains and can be incredibly powerful. Sometimes it takes courage to share our stories. Thank you, Linda, for being so inspiring.

Introduction of Visiting Rotarians and Guests

Past President Ed Jellen welcomed our guests who checked in: Al Gilbert, CEO of Felton Institute and guest of Kim Cohn, and Oakland Councilmember Sheng Thao, guest of Keith Uriarte.

Emily Morgan, CEO Ashby Lumber

Self Introduction – Emily Morgan

Emily Morgan led with her self-introduction. She gave a shout out to Ed Jellen who brought the couple to their first Rotary meeting. Both Emily and Bryan joined Oakland Rotary in 2017. Emily is a fifth generation Californian and grew up in Piedmont. While in school, she worked part-time for Ashby Lumber, the business founded by her grandfather.  Her mother ran the company until September 2019, when Emily succeeded her as CEO. In addition to her work duties, she and Bryan are the proud parents of two youngsters, and are expecting their third due to be born next month.

When we resume regular meetings, Emily will receive her permanent Blue Badge.

Bryan Morgan, Director of Finance - Sephora

Self Introduction – Bryan Morgan

Bryan Morgan gave his self-introduction noting that much of his story had been told by Emily. He was born in Santa Rosa and grew up in Chico. His early career was in e-commerce retailing.  Six years ago, he changed his profession and is now Director of Finance for Sephora.  He met Emily in 2016. Needless to say, he is very proud dad as he described their two adorable children – and is looking forward to the arrival of their third child.

When we resume regular meetings, Bryan will receive his permanent Blue Badge.

Kim Cohn, Director - Felton Institute

Kim Cohn – Bellringer Announcement

Kim Cohn announced she has a new position at Felton Institute as Director, Deaf Community Counselling Services. She acknowledged her new boss, Al Gilbert, who attended the meeting. She thanked members for all the support she received while working at Family Paths and through this transition.  Kim’s bellringers are noted below.

Jason Wizelman

Jason Wizelman, Membership

Jason Wizelman asked us to remember “Oct In” – and explained that in October we are holding a Guest Drive. To “Oct In”, bring a guest to a virtual meeting at least once a month.

Stephen Murphy, President and CEO - Cristo Rey De La Salle High School

New Member Induction – Stephen Murphy

Member Sponsor and Past President John Protopappas introduced Stephen Murphy with several interesting facts. Stephen is President and CEO of Cristo Rey De La Salle High School.  His grandfather and father both were Rotarians.  At age 46, he took up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, at which he excelled until his knees told his otherwise.  John has known Stephen for 23 years, and revealed that he is a former roommate of former Oakland Mayor/California Governor Jerry Brown.

President Ces welcomed Stephen on behalf of the club and announced he will receive several Rotary items including his membership pin, membership roster, Four-Way Test and a copy of our Centennial Book.  When we resume meeting in person, his membership badge will be awaiting him.

Cocktails with the President

Cocktails with the President – October 8th

On behalf of the Entertainment Committee, Past President Carla Betts asked everyone to virtually celebrate President Ces and His Roots on Thursday, October 8th at 5:30 pm. He hails from Missouri, so recipes for Missouri-inspired drinks will be sent to members to make in advance. Get this on your calendar!

The Zoom meeting link is: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/459769750?pwd=Y1NSR2RkR1grMFhLN2crWlQyb092dz09

John Holmgren

KinderPrep Update

KinderPrep Committee Chair John Holmgren reminded us that normally at this time of year, Rotary volunteers would be settling in at KinderPrep classrooms with the kids.  Planning has taken a different turn, as Virtual Learning Kits, consisting of 20 items for each child, will be distributed instead. In addition, teachers will receive gift cards so they can obtain items for their classrooms. The status of the traditional spring field trips is unknown at this time.  In the meantime, more volunteers are needed for virtual sessions with the children.  Please contact John at holmgren.johnk@gmail.com if you can help.

Michelle Starratt, Housing Director for Alameda County Housing and Community Development

Speaker of the Day – Michelle Starratt

Sonja Fitz introduced our speaker Michelle Starratt, Housing Director for Alameda County Housing and Community Development. Michelle has 20 years of experience working in housing development, much of it in the Bay Area.

Michelle Starratt provided some sobering statistics about homelessness in Alameda County.  She indicated there are 51,732 low income renter households who do not have access to an affordable home.  Renters need to make $45.65 per hour – three times the City of Oakland’s minimum wage of $14.14 per hour, in order to afford housing.  Seventy-one percent are paying more than half of their income on housing costs, compared to two percent in moderate income households.

Market rate rents have gone “straight through the roof”, and communities have to come up with helpful subsidies.  Available land is a dwindling resource, so the solution is to put as many units as possible on them, but it takes time. While tiny homes and camping cabins are an interim solution, in the end, the only solution is to live in a home you can afford.

She also shared her view that people don’t choose to be homeless, but circumstances make it happen.  Once people are homeless, then other things occur such as declining health, addiction to alcohol or other substances, etc. She also stated that services are critical – social services, health services, etc.—to help people recover.

Rotarians had many questions, which she fielded with useful information. 

To watch her video recording please click here.


David Kersten announced the following bellringers whose generous contributions further the work of Oakland Rotary Endowment:

  • Kim Cohn rang the bell twice – one for Family Paths and one for Felton Institute.
  • Ana-Marie Jones rang the bell for Kim Cohn and Felton Institute.
  • Ed Jellen rang the bell for Emily and Bryan Morgan.
  • Lorna Padia Markus rang the bell for Linda Hamilton.
President Ces Butner


In closing, President Ces Butner commented that “That’s The Way It Went” at today’s meeting of Oakland Rotary.  As he rang the bell and adjourned the meeting, he reminded us that Rotary Opens Opportunity for Service Above Self.

Rotarians Getting Outside

Take note of these upcoming outdoor activities:

  • Sunday, Oct. 11, 9 am. Bike Ride starting in Orinda. Contact Mark Rosen: mrosen@info-gate.com
  • Wednesday, Oct. 11 am. Golf Tournament at Poppy Ridge in Livermore. Contact Mike Mowery:ch.doo.mow@gmail.com 
  • Saturday, Oct. 17. 8:30 am. Kayaking at Elkhorn Slough. Contact Mark Rosen: mrosen@info-gate.com
Jennifer Jones

Next Meeting, October 7 – Joint Meeting, First Five Rotary Clubs

President Ces announced that next week we will meet on Wednesday, October 7th at 2 pm with members who make up the First Five oldest clubs in the Rotary World: Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle, and Los Angeles.  Our very special keynote speaker will be Jennifer Jones, who will become the FIRST female president of Rotary International in 2022-2023. She hails from Windsor, Ontario, Canada. 

Members must register in advance for the October 7th meeting: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYscuihqjouE9CSgU-THI9Su91EaruYidvx

Members may invite a guest and provide the above link, but do not share the link publicly on social media. Members of the public should contact Pat at executive.director@oakland-rotary.org if they want to attend.


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