Knowing What Matters: Kitchener Rotary’s First Female President

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Rotary Profile – Carol Wiebe

Carol Wiebe is clearly a leader with vision, enthusiasm for Rotary and very few regrets. If she has one regret, it is that her late father-in-law Abe Wiebe who was a very early member of Kitchener Rotary, did not live long enough to see her become president of the same Club. “The opportunity to become President of our Rotary Club was a wonderful moment for me; and to become the first female president was an added bonus. I know that he would have been very proud.”

When Carol joined the club in 1995, she was eager to “meet people in the community who shared similar values”. She found her involvement enabled her to combine her professional skills and to help others.

Although originally from Toronto, her university days at UW and her husband Carson’s family business connections created a sense of belonging in the community. Through her many years as a member and chair, Carol met numerous dedicated people in the local Waterloo Region community and abroad.  This provided a rich base for her presidency in 2000. When Carol first joined she became involved in the club’s major fund raising event the car draw. She was also active on the environment committee and eventually chaired both committees.  Her focus was to increased enjoyment to the Rotarians involved in initiatives.  One aspect of Rotary that Carol specifically enjoyed was the ability to involve her entire family in events.

A particular family involvement for her family was hosting exchange students.   According to Carol, Rotary afforded her family many affirming lessons about “giving back tour community, about making lifelong friends through Rotary, about realizing that people have to help each other and not become too self-absorbed in yours own issues.” Over the years, the Wiebe family hosted many exchange students with whom they continue to stay in touch.

One exchange student left a particularly lasting impression on the Wiebe family. She was being sent home due to infractions with Rotary rules. The young woman acknowledged her mistakes and took ownership of the situation.  During the five days needed to arrange a flight for her return to her home country, Carol and family determined that despite their disappointment with the young woman’s behaviour, they would do everything in their power to make her remaining time in Canada as positive as possible. It was their hope that she would remember Rotary and Canada in a positive light. After her return home, her father sent a heartfelt letter thanking the Wiebe family and expressing the incredible impact their care and attention had on her.  Without dwelling on her mistake, the gesture of kindness made a huge difference. She went on to study hard, become a nurse and maintains contact with the Wiebe family to this day.

While Carol’s current work commitments prevent her day to day involvement in Rotary, she actively supports fundraising events and “would encourage any woman to get involved in Rotary–it is such a diverse and interesting organization and very welcoming”. Carol goes on to state that in her corporate life, when “I meet people through business who are Rotarians, I immediately have a higher opinion of them”.  This speaks to Carol’s ongoing commitment to the ideals of Rotary and her connection with people of like values.

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