Posted by Editor: FDBobko
May , 2023
Annual Joint Meeting with the Rotary Clubs of Pacifica, Millbrae and South SF
Article by Stacy Trevenon
Members of the Rotary Clubs of Half Moon Bay, Millbrae, Pacifica and South San Francisco gathered this evening at the Basque Cultural Center in South San Francisco, for the annual joint meeting which involves these clubs. Half Moon Bay Rotarian and District Governor-elect Mitone Griffiths made the point that this meeting brought people together, face to face for real, no longer via a computer screen, and rang the bell to declare the meeting open.

Rotarian Half Moon Bay Past President Liz Schuck led the Pledge of Allegiance. The invocation was given by longtime Pacifica Rotarian Jack Hug, who noted that it was written nearly four decades ago by a Rotarian. The invocation asked a blessing on the meal, gave thanks “to the Heavenly Father” for the food, and sought guidance in achieving all of our individual and collective Rotary goals. 

Pacifica Club President Colleen Wright, having praised the salmon dish which along with chicken and vegetarian made up the main dishes of the dinner, declared “Let’s rock and roll!” and the meeting began. For a little while Rotarians enjoyed their meals in fellowship, and chat ranged from China to the British royal family in light of the coming royal coronation. Visiting Rotarians, guests and upcoming Half Moon Bay Rotary program speakers present were recognized: District Governor Gary Chow with his wife Cynthia, District Governor-elect Laine Hendricks,  District Governor nominee  and Pacifica Rotarian Steve Wright, Griffiths, Assistant (District) Governors Shari Teresi, Diane Campbell and more. (Whew!)

Invited to say a few words about the District Conference that 5150 just held this past weekend, Gary Chow observed how it takes a group to make things work, touched on news of talks involving the situation in Ukraine, and told listeners that we can make Rotary what we wish it to be in this world. Laine, “voluntold” to speak, seconded his remarks, said she loved the theme of connection in Rotary events, thanked Rotarian Bob Jacobsen for his work on the 2024 district conference which will draw Rotarians from Districts 5150, 5180 and 5190. Speakers promoted the theme of “better together” in the district conference, and Laine said her experience at this past weekend’s conference had been a fun one.

Steve Wright mentioned Rotary’s upcoming Day of Service on May 13, which will run from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Coyote Point. Members of his club will do a cleanup emphasizing trash pickup and plant restoration. In the past, he said, turnouts for this event had sometimes been low, so he encouraged signing up online for this one, which will include a barbecue lunch. There will also be a green element: an electric vehicle demonstration and spotlight on bicycles as transportation. It will include an environmental fair from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Colleen Wright introduced Rotary club presidents who were there: Past President Liz Schuck from the Rotary Club of Half Moon Bay, Deirdri Gladwin from the Rotary Club of Millbrae, herself from Pacifica, President-elect Kristine Baltasar of the Millbrae club who noted that it was good to see so many Rotarians at this event. Deirdri spoke of Shelter Box, the evening's topic, for which her club had raised funds and currently raised the level of their financial commitment; she and Rotarian husband Walt had actually met the founder of Shelter Box. The Millbrae club also, at Mitone’s request, is going to sponsor a Shelter Box this year, and has donated $1,000 toward that project.

Larry Harrison, of the Rotary Club of Novato, will serve as Steve Wright’s conference chair this year. 

Colleen then introduced the evening’s featured speaker: Mitone Griffiths of the Rotary Club of Half Moon Bay, speaking about Shelter Box. 

The issue at the very heart of Shelter Box, said Mitone, is help and relief for families who have lost everything due to disaster.  Such help depends on the need, such as with Shelter Kits. Innovation is key; after disasters, organizers go back and evaluate. Added improvements that come out of such evaluations have included better blankets or solar-powered lights. Imagine, said Mitone, being in the middle of a disaster and seeing nothing but rubble all around you, no roof on your home?

Hence, what has driven Shelter Box, she said, is the plight of families in conflict-torn or disaster-struck areas, and providing them with a place, and all the things needed, to call home. Key to that, Larry interjected, is partnerships, and he cited the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity and Doctors Without Borders. And one of the best such organizations around, he said, is Rotary.

Then Ukraine came up. A couple of months ago SRT10 evaluated what was needed in Ukraine, what worked there or not. Eighty-six cents of each dollar donated by Rotarians goes to Shelter Box, which has 120 paid professionals and 1,000 volunteers tasked with getting help to places not easy to get to.

Currently there are 11 Shelter deployments, to Ukraine, Haiti, Syria, and Turkey. In Syria, volunteers face conditions including conflict which has raged for over a decade, and extreme climate conditions. Mitone spoke of Shelter Box working with countries to find people who need help most, who might be far from airports etc. 

Mitone’s own Rotary story dates back to the disastrous Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 and a presentation she heard by Rotarian John Bottari about Shelter Box. Inspired, she gathered the support of friends, family and her Rotary club, and headed to the Philippines, where she saw tents set up on beaches and on boats, to house families displaced by the devastating typhoon. So she became an ambassador and fundraiser for Shelter Box, helping people left with nothing following natural and manmade disaster. 

Shelter Box, Mitone said, creates homes for displaced families, partnering with locals to help recipients rebuild their lives. She added a little about the history of Shelter Box, aided by fliers on hand for attendees to read: The year 2020 marked the 20th  anniversary of Shelter Box after it was begun by a Rotary club in Cornwall, England, as a club project. It went on to become a 501 © 3 nonprofit independent international disaster relief organization specializing in emergency shelter, that has supported over 2.5 million people around the world and communities in 100 countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. 

Attendees from the Rotary Club of Half Moon Bay included EJ Dieterle, Steve and Kathy Wilson, Heather Bodmann, Joe Brennan and his brother Allan Brennan, Paul and Antoinette Wrubel, Bill and Austin Johnston, Liz Schuck and Teri Pickle, Stacy Trevenon and Doug Mallon, speaker Larry Harrison, Ed Daniels, and Warren Barmore. As Liz put it in an email, “Good food, good fellowship, good cause (with contributions from all clubs we were able to raise about $7,500 for Shelter Box.)” Way to go, Half Moon Bay!

A few closing remarks were given about the weekend’s district convention. Next year, the Rotary Club of Millbrae will be the conference host club, attempting to top the 74 who attended tonight. “Take that, Missy!” said Colleen Wright gleefully to next year’s host club.