#WomenWednesday Rotary Profile – Tracey Hare Connell

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This week we are featuring the Rotary Club of Kitchener’s Tracey Hare Connell.

Tracey has been a dynamic and engaging Rotarian since she joined in 1997. Her natural leadership abilities were the reason she was quickly recruited to chair important Club fundraising projects and act as a mentor to fellow Rotarians. In 2005/6 Tracey accepted the role of President. Since then Tracey has continued to lead many aspects of the Rotary Club of Kitchener to success, including the upcoming In Vino Caritas ‘In Wine there is Charity’ event taking place at The Tannery on April 3rd.

Why did you join Rotary?

I was seeking a way to focus on something to marry my personal and business interests. My Father, Doug Hare, was the Past President of the Rotary Club of Waterloo (1974/1975) and my brother, Ron Hare was also a Rotarian. My history with Rotary through my Father’s and my brother’s experiences ensured that Rotary was on my list of considerations. (Those experiences included hosting youth exchange students, hosting the world junior curling championships and engaging in a number of charitable and volunteer events and activities. As I explored further, I discovered a friend who was also very involved in Rotary and gave me some perspective (in current terms) about what it was ‘really’ like.

In the process, I looked at other terrific organizations including Zonta International, two Rotary Clubs and a non-profit Board of Directors role. My choice was the Rotary Club of Kitchener.

If you had to describe your Rotary experience in one word, what would it be?

One word … rewarding! I always say that I’ve gained more than I could ever give.

Rotary Experience = Challenging. Fun. Warm. Rich. Rewarding.

Challenging? Yes!  I challenge anyone to motivate and lead a group of busy business people who are ‘volunteers’ with varied skills and motivations.  Leading volunteers is perhaps one of the most significant leadership challenges anyone can take on – in business and in life. My first Rotary leadership opportunity came in the form of a new fund-raiser. There I sat, 15 years younger than most of the folks around the table … inspiring lofty objectives, finding consensus and leveraging the skills of business owners, doctors, lawyers and other community-leaders to plan and execute a high return winter golf tournament. This brand new ‘fun and fund-raising’ event raised 150K over its lifecycle.

In short, Rotary is a terrific way to learn about and connect to my community and its challenges, developments and achievements.

What’s the best advice about Rotary you’ve ever received?

Don’t join Rotary for the food or the business connections … join Rotary because you sincerely want to learn more about your community; to give back; to get involved and to meet a diverse group of people.  The rest will naturally come.

Tell me about your values and how Rotary aligns with these?

I value people and am inspired by the power of a vision to make change in our community and in the world – one small step at a time. Rotary is the ultimate in community – locally and globally.  I value the unique contributions and varied skills and capabilities that Rotarians bring to anything. When we harness the drive, capacity and capabilities of a group of people (in this case Rotarians), we can accomplish much.

What Rotary initiatives are you passionate about? What keeps you coming back every week?

Interestingly, I’m one of the *new* Rotarians who can’t make the weekly meetings due to business commitments and travel,  however,  I’m passionate about helping Rotary raise funds to support its charitable causes, such as Kidsability and Women’s Crisis Shelter. This keeps me committed to continue to lead and participating in Rotary fundraising activities. With financial resources, Rotary can help locally and internationally. Matching grant programs allow us to compound our money – a small seed contribution can be doubled and tripled through this process.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment or take the greatest pride in? Did your experiences with Rotary aid you in this?

Accomplishment: Successfully balancing a challenging business /work life and marriage for over 25 years.

Rotary has been part of my business and family life for many years.  A dimension of Rotary kept me connected and engaged to a diverse group of professionals and a terrific social and business network here and abroad (even before social networks were online!)  As a bi-product, both my personal and business life has seen benefits.

What do you consider your greatest Rotary moment?

I truly joined Rotary more so to become a committed ‘foot-soldier’ vs a member of an executive team. (I had the good fortune to have this opportunity in my working life.) Despite this, my greatest moment came in my year as President. In particular, at the end of my year as President. With my past Rotary President father looking on, I was able to thank an outstanding group of dedicated Rotarians for helping us raise >100K; for clearing community trails of garbage; for hosting two international exchange students; for sponsoring a Rotary Ambassadorial scholar to the University of Waterloo from Japan; for supplying medical and community care facilities in Africa to fight Aids and to help us erect a sculpture at the Rotary Peace Park in Waterloo to symbolize Rotary’s mission to promote goodwill and friendships around the world.  I proudly accepted a Presidential Citation and reflected on an incredible year with a fantastic Board of Directors and committed group of Committee Chairs and Rotarians. People who can make these things happen are the kind of people you want to spend time with.

If you could tell another woman one thing about Rotary membership, what would it be?

This is a personal undertaking. Do this for no one but yourself and if you do get involved, be prepared to contribute all of the skills and abilities you have to offer. In family, business, and Rotary, we succeed when we do our best.  A fellow Rotarian (Louise Gardiner) always told me that the order of priorities was family, business and Rotary. I agree. Despite that order of things, the magnitude of Rotary’s collective achievements is enormous -locally and worldwide.  This used to strike me at every Club Board meeting. Just when I thought we were ‘standing still’, I’d listen to each Director deliver a ‘report’ and highlight progress, achievements and challenges … a track record that many businesses would be proud of.

Do you think Rotary membership adds positive value for woman?

I do believe that Rotary adds positive value for women – locally and worldwide. It’s another opportunity to operate on equal footing – in some cases with men who don’t work with women in their executive peer group. I’d suggest that the learning goes both ways.  This can be a terrific opportunity to learn and exercise leadership and organizational skills and an excellent opportunity to network with a diverse group of business people and community leaders.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Sure … there are some stodgy and old-fashioned stuff of Rotary … such as toasting the head of state and singing Oh Canada at every meeting.  I’ll admit that this can feel a bit ‘uncool’ and un-current at times, however, Rotary is also an extremely modern organization in so many ways. It’s the people of each Club that will determine the future and that’s an exciting thing to be part of.

For more information about the wine tasting and auction event, In Vino Caritas, check out their Facebook page. To find out more about Rotary and how you can have an impact locally or globally, contact us by email at RotaryKitchener@gmail.com or visit our website, our Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter.

Tracey & Dad

Proud daughter, Tracey Hare Connell, poses here with her father, Doug Hare, a Past President of the Rotary Club of Waterloo.

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