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Joint Club Meeting Of The First Five Rotary Clubs, October 7, 2020

Call to Order and Thought for the Day – Ces Butner

President Ces Butner called the meeting to order and commented on the historic meaning of the day. Not only would we be welcoming Jennifer E. Jones, Rotary International’s first female president in 2022-23 as our guest speaker, we would also hear about new joint campaign among clubs who were the first five Rotary clubs founded in the world.

Pres. Ces introduced Erik Cempel, president of the Chicago Rotary Club, to chair the meeting on behalf of the newly formed Rotary First Five Collaborative consisting of Chicago #1, Seattle #2, Oakland #3, San Francisco #4, and Los Angeles #5.  He welcomed First Five members as well as Rotarians from throughout the world who were invited to Zoom into the meeting, noting an audience of several hundred Rotarians from at least seven countries.

Thought for the Day – Marga Hewko

Chicago Rotary President-elect Marga Hewko shared the familiar observation that “a virus is a great equalizer.” She invited us to visualize what life would be like if we were forced to live 24/7 in an outdoor urban environment, with only a sleeping bag and a few possessions to our name. She asked us all to open our hearts and our ears to humbly listen to the need and to take action.

President Erik asked leaders of the respective clubs to provide progress on the Collaborative work to identify a new project.

Marshall Schmitt, Past President - Rotary Club of Chicago

How One Idea Grew into a Collaborative

Chicago Rotary’s immediate past president Marshall Schmitt told us that the First Five Rotary Collaborative is “a child of the Covid-19 Pandemic” and also the brainchild of just one Rotarian who last April envisioned Rotary clubs coming together on a single project to help those hurting. Through meetings with each club’s leadership, program chairs and members, who in May participated in break-out sessions, it became obvious that helping the homeless was an area that needed Rotary’s help.

J.T. Forbus, President - Rotary Club of San Francisco

Our Focus

San Francisco Rotary President J.T. Forbus shared details on the plight of the homelessness, and facts our club members know firsthand thanks to President Ces’s chosen focus on homelessness during his presidential year. There are many agencies serving the homeless and the majority approached to date are glad to have Rotary’s assistance and can-do approach, given its amazing track record on Polio Plus!

Matthew Ball, President - Rotary Club of Los Angeles

Our Joint Project and Launch

Los Angeles Rotary President Matthew Ball announced on behalf of the Collaborative that our new project will launch in conjunction with Homelessness Awareness Week, November 15-22 in the United States. It will focus on health hygiene and we will distribute 10,000 kits containing basic hygiene materials. Each club can also add items to the kits, if desired. The Collaborative has been working with various suppliers to obtain the materials, and with agencies serving the homeless who have agreed to help distribute them. More details are forthcoming.

Jennifer E. Jones, 2022-23 President-elect of Rotary International

Speaker of the Day – Jennifer Jones

President Ces had the honor of introducing our distinguished speaker of the day, Jennifer E. Jones, 2022-23 President-elect of Rotary International.

Jennifer shared with us how very honored she is to be the first female president of our organization. She is pleased to be a part of an organization focused on ensuring greater diversity and inclusion and certainly plans to do her part in that respect in terms of diversity, including beyond gender.

She congratulated the five clubs on our collaboration and our very special focus to help the homeless.  She shared a quote from a loved one who once told her “in order to live in the kind of society you want, you have to help build it.” Noting that the power to collaborate is often greater in its results than the efforts of a single person or club, she is looking forward to following our work and seeing the success of our project.

Building partnerships with organizations outside Rotary is a hallmark of our success in getting things done, and has attracted funding to our causes and logistical help when needed. Examples include the major funding Polio Plus received from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the help we received from the World Health Organization and local agencies as we distributed and administered the Polio vaccine around the world. She learned from a friend that Mother Teresa, with whom the friend had worked, had a favorite saying which was “just do the work, the money will follow.” We have seen this truth in Rotary International and its clubs, and she hopes it continues.

After a question and answer period, Pres. Ces thanked Jennifer for her participation by indicating that a generous donation had been made in her honor to the homeless project.

To watch her video recording please click here.

Jeff Borek, President - Rotary Club of Seattle

Rotary’s Beginnings

To close this special meeting, Seattle Rotary President Jeff Borek provided a brief history of how and when each of our first five clubs were founded near the dawn of the 20th century, and the people who helped make it all happen. He also noted that women were not allowed to be members until May, 1987.

Erik Cempel, President - Rotary Club of Chicago


President Erik returned to thank all for their time and enthusiasm, saying more of both will be needed, especially with our new project. He adjourned the meeting and rang the bell. Members were invited to stay and participate in break-out fellowship sessions, and many did so.

Next Meeting, October 15 – Larry Diamond, Author and Political Scholar

At our Civic Thursday meeting at 12:30 pm on October 15, Professor Larry Diamond will speak on the current challenges our democracy faces from both external forces as well as those domestically. He is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and professor of political science and sociology at Stanford University. In addition, he is author of numerous books and will provide insights contained in his book: “Ill Winds, Saving Democracy from Russian Rage, Chinese Ambition, and American Complacency.” The meeting Zoom link is: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81023124005?pwd=MUxobytBQWNsY0FFelN4VGdBUUdVQT09

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