Posted by Editor: FDBobko
MAY 30, 2024
District 5150 Governor Elect Mitone Griffiths
Article and Pictures by Stacy Trevenon

With President Liz absent because she was attending Casey Sample’s memorial Mass service, Past President Susan Kealey opened Thursday's Rotary Club of Half Moon Bay meeting

Susan introduced today’s speaker, our own Mitone Griffiths. She set the tone by talking about the recent District Conference involving Districts 5150 (including us), 5180 (including the East Bay) and 5190 (including Mammoth, the eastern Sierras and part of Nevada).   

Since Liz wanted her to talk about the conference involving the three districts, Mitone humorously mentioned the distances involved going from one to the other. She likes multi-district conferences because they feel like mini-International conferences where you see Rotarians and their projects in the House of Friendship. 

She spoke of the conference focus on mental health, as highlighted by RI President Gordon McInally. He pointed out how, for example, when you say “How are you?” that question should be, “How are you really?” because while we typically answer “Oh, I’m good,”  “How are you really?” gets to the heart of, “What is happening in your life right now?”

Mental health, or mental wellness, is not something we talk about much due to stigma, but recently it’s become more open. It’s something we should take seriously, and discuss more as a club, because the statistics are “staggering” not just for adults, but for our youth. It goes beyond “are you sad or depressed” to “are you thinking about taking your life? or harming yourself?” Those statistics are “incredibly saddening,” she said.

Mitone handed out printed information, and mentioned NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) which provides education and awareness. There are many in our lives about whom we don’t know what’s going on privately. 

Mitone said that while she had previously attended Rotary conferences focusing on membership and service; mental health affects every one of us in different ways.  She mentioned caregivers and caregiving: their mental health may be affected but you may not know the extent. In our community, we should do more around mental health awareness.  

She asked if anyone’s aware of “988,” a still-largely-unknown number that you can text for help in a mental health crisis. Warren asked if this was like a suicide prevention line? and Mitone said yes. She described a fun – though sobering – breakout session at the conference featuring a standup comedian who focused on depression and suicide from a community perspective. Doug remembered the presenter saying that comedy changes your chemistry and opens you up to receiving information. 


The next presenter proposed using five pertinent questions including, how does your depression make you feel, physically? Many said they could feel depression coming on like a cold; and you could tell a spouse or partner, Get ready, tomorrow I’m probably going to be in the depths.  Mitone noted that those who are depressed are often aware of the symptoms.

The five questions continued: 2) What do (other) people do that make it worse? 3) What do (others) do that make it better? 4) What do you do that makes it worse? 5) What do you do that makes it better? 

There were some amazing answers. Among the presenters were comedians who had been officially diagnosed with depression and were likely taking medication or in therapy. Whereas such Rotary sessions are typically strictly timed, these ran long and people stayed, which Mitone said indicated the level of interest and the need we have for information, services and discussion. Touch helps: just gently laying a hand on the sufferer can help calm them, depending on the person and what they need. Some just need to be left alone. 

Mitone said that was a “great” presentation, and then spoke warmly of Scottish RI President Gordon McInally and his wife. Next came a Parade of Presidents to the tune of bagpipes, followed by assistant Governors and Governors. 

Overall, she said, her experience at the conference was “wonderful,” starting with the five-hour drive she took with our exchange student Suzanne Perrett to get there. They listened to Taylor Swift albums – enough to feel like they were in a Taylor Swift concert -- and Suzanne sang along! Driving  back, they listened to Taylor Swift and One Direction (a boy band) and Mitone also suggested 80s and 90s music. Suzanne was “such a pleasure to be with,” Mitone said, hinting that Suzanne may go to a Taylor Swift concert in London; tickets are cheaper there ($100 per ticket.) Someone observed that here, hotel accommodations and plane fare to get to a concert are still cheaper than one concert ticket. 

After recapping the conference, Mitone added that she really wanted to bring back the Bingo games we used to enjoy in our club.  Many remembered that, and Mitone suggested adding them into a social or holding a Bingo night as a fun community activity. According to her research, the HMB Brewing Company has a successful weekly trivia night, and Cameron’s Inn has an open mic night; there’s nothing on Mondays, so maybe there’s an opportunity for us? Mia needs activities, she laughed  … 

Susan Kealey recalled that Senior Coastsiders may still have Bingo equipment. We could do it there, though Mitone suggested Bingo games in a cool place, open to all ages, for which Mitone would look around. Warren suggested the game room at Blue Ocean Brewing, and Mitone suggested checking out the Brewing Company’s Trivia Night in their bar full of people. Rotary Bingo would be fun: Mitone has details of trivia, Bingo and other fun activities like a wheel you could spin to win a new car (read: a Hot Wheels)!!! There’s also a Grab Bag with prizes. Mitone mentioned the fun, fellowship, camaraderie and visibility in the community in events like this. We’re always fundraising – this could be FunRaising. 

John Evans asked if Mitone could give insight into what’s involved in being a District Governor.  So she described the path to becoming a DG: She was club President in 2013-14, with a focus on membership. She got involved with Shelter Box and then decided she could be more effective as an Assistant Governor, for a couple of years. Then she was tapped for the Chief of Staff position under Sue Rokaw in 2020. Occasionally she was asked to apply for the District Governor position, but she didn’t want to do that until Ayla was out of high school, since it’s so time-intensive. Once you’re selected, you have a year of training as a DG Nominee, which means more club visits to observe; and then training in how to bring clubs together to increase membership or promote awareness of the Rotary Foundation. Then she started to build her team. 

She is ending her Nominee year this year, and then she will be District Governor-elect starting July 1, when she will solidify her board, District Leadership team and Assistant Governors who help clubs to grow and be engaged. For an example, she pointed to the Membership Chair who comes up with ideas to help clubs reinforce their membership, or the International Chair, Community Service Chair, a big Grants Committee and Rotary Foundation Committee. This year, she is helping train district Presidents to be effective and successful, how to read a budget, make sure clubs are solvent, and engage new members. This will take up the majority of the year coming up – training incoming club presidents and solidifying her district leadership.

John Evans asked, did she have a focus for her year? She said that her focus is on engagement, since engaging members leads to retention. “Our clubs don’t have a recruitment problem with membership, we have a retention problem,” she said, “because we don’t engage our members as much.”

So, her focus is going to be on engagement: “Engaging individual members as they are the most important, and engaging clubs in their activities. However … we need to help them to stay engaged, that’s going to be my focus. At the end of my year, I want to celebrate that.”

We do a lot of things, she said, that we need to celebrate. For example, our club has 12 Rotarians of the Month, but we don’t recognize them at the end of the year, and she wants us to “have more recognition of our efforts” individually as clubs and collectively as a district. We raise so much money for the Foundation, and we get a lot of money back (i.e. DDF funds) but, she said, tell me what our projects were this year? “We need to know what we did with the money we put in; so I want more emphasis on that. I want us to really own how much we’ve done, how much we’ve contributed. Not just to our local communities, but to our world communities. And celebrate that. We don’t do enough celebrating of ourselves.”

Her year-end conference is going to be about celebrating, with lots of 80s music. “So that’s what I want – I want engagement, because that’s what we need,” she said. “People want to be Rotarians. They need a reason to stay in Rotary.” And part of that is fun. “Bingo! This town needs Bingo!” 

John said he imagines a room of Governors and past Governors, and he mentioned an age demographic. Mitone pointed out that that’s one thing that’s cool about this district – DG Laine is younger than her, she said. In the leadership line, we have calls to talk about what our strategies are, so that we have forward momentum. Governors don’t work alone; they’re pushing their initiatives together; she and Laine and Steve (Wright) are on calls together, so they know how to support each other, and move the district together. 

She has an advisory board of past Governors, who give her feedback, past and present. “Being a Governor is a five-year commitment – three years before, the year you’re Governor, and the year after you’re Governor.” She thought about what this would mean to her kids; Ayla will be gone by her heaviest year, which starts in July.

Asked about her Chief of Staff, Mitone said his name is Mark Watson, an attorney out of Burlingame, from the Rotary Club of Foster City and in his second year as Assistant Governor. What she likes about him is that “he’s very good at checking me” and has worked with the Boy Scouts so he has a broad nonprofit perspective that she wants to tap. 

Delighted applause saluted Mitone’s talk. 


With President Liz absent, Past President Susan Kealey opened Thursday's Rotary Club of Half Moon Bay meeting.

Pledge of Allegiance   Paul Wrubel led the Pledge of Allegiance 

Inspirational Thought  Warren Barmore gave an invocation borrowed from Walt Disney, which summed up that “all our dreams come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” 


Home Rehab Day is coming up on Saturday, June 8, starting at 8 a.m. Instructions will be emailed to those who have signed up, and if you haven’t done so yet, go to the Senior Coastsiders Web site.

The Coast Pride awareness training, a good chance to learn about current pronouns and sensitivity training, will be at the library on June 27.

Big Lift is looking for recycled materials; Heather Bodmann has a list of what’s needed, that you can bring to the library.  

Drew Gamet from the school district said that fact-finding will be ongoing for the next couple of weeks, and that new Superintendent, Amber Lee-Alba, coming from a small school district in Richmond, northeast of Sacramento, will start here on Monday. Paul offered to help with any needed negotiations for that.

John Evans noted that exchange student Suzanne Perrett from France found to her delight that because of efforts by Pres. Liz, she is going to walk in the high school graduation ceremony and will receive a complimentary diploma, which is unique for exchange students (apparently Fie Gossart was the last one to do so, John said), but members pointed out how it looks strange if a graduating student isn’t in the ceremony.

Visitor Doug Mallon pointed out that Suzanne had been noted for athletic participation and has a high GPA. But he also passed along sad news: current Half Moon Bay Mayor Joaquin Jimenez had just lost his son in a motorcycle accident. A sympathy card has gone from the club to Joaquin’s family.

Members spoke of Casey Sample, who had catered Half Moon Bay Rotary lunches for years; today, there was a memorial Mass for her, and a gathering is planned at Cameron’s Inn in her honor.  

Happy News 

John Evans, after acknowledging that he is no “Facebook voyeur,” said he’d seen former exchange student Fie Gossart online where she looked “really happy.” She has one more test to pass before she becomes a physician. What did the club think? Delighted “Wow!”s and “Fabulous!” came from those present in answer to that question. 

Social media watchers probably saw that Mitone’s daughter Mia graduated from college this weekend, for which her family went to San Diego. There was a graduation ceremony for local athletes on Friday, followed by a Mass on Saturday, which Mitone said was like a blessing to send the students off into life. Mitone said she was “most moved” by the athletes’ graduation, the Mass and the blessing. She recalled how her daughter was part of a swim team of nine young women whose families bonded after traveling to meets together. When she got home after the 11-hour drive, she said, she was exhausted and “done!” with all that! But her girls are home and she’s happy to have a full house again – until Ayla graduates high school next week.

Drew’s youngest daughter Sophia Elliott will graduate from UCSB with a 4.2 GPA, having finished in three years. She wants to work in conservation, with parks, water, or animals. 

Warren Barmore and family were at a big (“500 students”) graduation in Denver; where his daughter Grayson graduated in biochemistry. She is now in Alaska at a roommate’s home, awaiting a delayed passport, and will fly home next week. She plans to be a lab tech in Colorado.

Marble Game 

The marble game came next; Pat Roma’s number was drawn, but she got a green marble, argh!!!   


Next week’s speaker is Arlae Alston, brought to us by Barbara Nielsen, and she will speak about Puente.