#WomenWednesday Rotary Profile – Jennifer Jones

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Jennifer Jones, Rotary International Director 2015-2017

Jennifer is the President and CEO of Media Street Productions Inc., a television production company in Windsor, ON. She is a proud member of the Rotary Club of Windsor-Roseland and is a Past District Governor of District 6400.

In Rotary, she is the Chair of the Strengthening Rotary’s Advisory Group and has served as the Moderator of the 2013 RC/RPIC Institute, Vice Chair of the RI Communication Committee, North American RPIC Coordinator, the Advisory Board for Rotary Canada and the RI Promotions Committee’s for Lisbon and New Orleans. She is serving a third term as Seminar Leader at the International Assembly 2014 and has been a featured speaker at this event on three occasions.

Jennifer also contributes much of her energy to local organizations. She is the Chair of the Board of Governors at the University of Windsor and the immediate past Chair of the Board of Directors at the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce.

She has been recognized with many awards and recognitions including Rotary’s Service above Self Award, the YMCA Peace Medallion, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and Wayne State University’s Peacemaker of the Year Award – a first for a Canadian.

Jennifer is happily married to Nick Krayacich, a local family physician. They share a love for many things including travel, cycling, golf and relaxing at their family cottage. They share a thirst for adventure and reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa in January 2009.

As champions of The Rotary Foundation, they are members of the Arch C. Klumph Society, the Paul Harris Society and are charter members of the Bequest Society.

Meet Jennifer…

PDG Jennifer Jones has been selected to serve as Rotary International Director in 2015-2017. As of December 1, 2013, she is officially our Zones 28-29 Director-nominee.  What a great time for all of us to get to know Jennifer as she begins her preparations.

What are two of your most memorable Rotary experiences?

How do you select just two…. there are so many Rotary experiences that have framed the way I think, feel and act. I think for most of us it’s the intimate, shared experiences as a Rotarian…the joys and the sorrows of life are that much richer when you walk alongside those who you cherish.

A day I will never forget was being a club president on 9/11. By about 10am I began receiving emails and phone calls asking if we would be cancelling our meeting. I knew this was an important time for us to be together and share our feelings…so the meeting went on, but certainly not as had been planned.

Our members all arrived that day and as Canadian’s we stood belting out the Star Spangled Banner and weeping with our neighbors to the south.  Rotary punctuates more than anything that we exist without boundaries and borders and that day as human beings we were all united.

A second memorable experience that I have been recently reflecting upon was being the Host Organizing Chair of the Rotary World Peace Summit in April 2008 in Windsor, ON. It was a dynamic, three-day event in which over 1000 people attended including 400 young people. Rotarians came from far corners of the world and we opened the doors to the community to attend. More than 3500 people participated in a parade of flags along the Detroit River and an outdoor opening ceremony. It was breathtaking.

There were many notable speakers including UN Ambassadors, Nobel Nominees, Rotary Senior Leaders and on Sunday morning a “spirited” keynote address from Robert Kennedy Jr.

What first attracted you to Rotary?

I first attended Rotary because I was asked. It may sound cliché but I think this is the case for so many Rotarians. I was 27 – had just started my business and didn’t have a family history in Rotary. I really didn’t have much of an idea of what I was getting into at first but once I walked through the doors and saw like-minded people, some who I knew and some I didn’t, I was hooked. Right away I was asked to chair our club’s big Lobsterfest fundraiser. While terrified, I agreed. Ahhh…youth! It was a great lesson for me about engaging new members in Rotary. You have to give them something meaningful to do.

 How has Rotary changed your life?

The most profound way that Rotary has changed my life is how it’s affected my family and my circle of friends.  My husband Nick is a Rotarian, as is my mom. As a matter of fact, the last official act I performed as a District Governor was installing my mom into Rotary.

The embarrassing part of this story is that I am not the sponsor of either one. Sometimes we look right past what is in front of us and miss the opportunity to share service with those closest to us.

They both had the opportunity to serve as club presidents last year. We all attended PETS together.  Nick doubled the size of his club and my mom hosted an incredible international Rotary Peace Walk.

As of late, we have reflected upon how our membership in Rotary has deepened our marriage – making this life journey even more special by sharing in service.

What are your goals for service on the Board of Directors?

While the role of the Director is one that governs the organization at large – I think there are opportunities to continue to grow relationships within our paired Zones – everything we do needs to be focused on improving the club experience …and this is a theme that is central to all of my thinking.

We are truly entering into what will be one of our most historic times as an organization with the end of polio and strengthened brand communications.

However, our biggest task in North America is to continue to focus our attention on the North American Membership Plan and make it real to Rotarians so they are able to take action.

And finally on a more personal note, I’m quite excited to work with President Nominee Ravi Ravindran. I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with him over the past several years and he is an outstanding Rotarian, incredible business mind and a progressive thinker.

What do you see as Rotary’s biggest challenges?

Membership is definitely our biggest challenge. If we don’t have Rotarians we don’t have Rotary and then nothing else matters. We can’t rely on the same old business model and expect things to change. Albert Einstein once said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

What about you would surprise your fellow Rotarians?

While attending University for a degree in communications, I worked full time in radio at AM800 CKLW. This is the station that launched all of the Motown greats including Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and so many more.

I began as the world’s worst overnight disc jockey and then transferred quickly into the newsroom where I found my passion. I loved being an anchor and reporter and breaking news as it happened. These were formative years and the most profound lesson learned was about the power of story telling – a skill that I now rely on daily in sharing Rotary with others.

There are many other things that people wouldn’t know but one other memorable surprise would be that I starred in a movie called “The Gift of Time”. It was shown nationally and was sent to Hollywood to qualify for the Academy Awards. It was a cute little flick but as you can see, I kept my day job! As I reflect upon the name of the movie – isn’t that what Rotary is all about!


#WomenWednesday Rotary Profile – Patricia Dimeck

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“I am a part of all that I have met”.  Alfred Lord Tennyson

I joined Rotary in 2006 with great excitement in my heart because, having been a volunteer all my life for our church and community I had not claimed one specific volunteer flag under which I could fly. Now I work under the Rotary flag and I am grateful every day for the opportunity to change a life. This is how I will change the world, one person at a time.

I was born and raised in Liverpool, England – the third daughter of a big and boisterous family, born of parents who always looked for more. MORE! Their immigrant adventure brought us to Canada from a city where music was so big and so were crime and economic struggle. The natural beauty of Ontario took my breath away and I am proud to now call it my home. I raised two amazing kids in rural Ontario and loved the grass roots contrast to living the urban life in England.

My Rotary introduction was first made by a superlative Rotarian, PDG Doug Vincent; and I knew I had discovered something special in this organisation. I joined Waterloo RC whose members provided a positive and rich environment for my own launch. I subsequently came to know other parts of this whole canvas called Rotary as I moved from Bruce-Grey to Waterloo.

Quickly I became involved in International Service; that had been my dream for many years as my adult children left the nest. Back then I had only a small comprehension of the amazing work that has preceded me, and the needs which are so huge. Hence Rotary presented me with impressive history, goals, and the opportunity to achieve them as I explored northern Mexico via project work. The people I have met on my travels are too many to count, and yet they have each enriched my life. The Rotarians with whom I have worked in northern Mexico continue to amaze me as they work tirelessly in their impoverished community. They are grateful, hardworking, dedicated to their community and to each other and they welcome visiting Rotarians with immeasurable warmth! In Agua Prieta, as they celebrate 70 years of Rotary in their city, they continue to impress me with their spirit of community and family.

My work for a tour company takes me all over North America and it is as fascinating as it is challenging, and always satisfying. As a writer waiting to carve out my name, I document my experiences as I travel and enjoy the endless variety of people, scenery and events that unfold before my eyes.

I continue to strive to deserve the honour of being a go-between from the richness of Ontario to the poverty of the Sonora desert.   It is a privilege to receive donations from the hands of generous Rotarians in Canada and then hear the ‘Gracias’ of the resilient people of Agua Prieta. I bring back with me so many difficult, uplifting stories every time I visit, and leave behind a part of my heart.

I am without doubt a part of all whom I have met.

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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.

#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.

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

What are you waiting for—join today.

KS Twitter header - lrgRotary Profile – First Local Woman Rotarian, (Groundbreaker) Kathi Smith 

Advice from Kathi Smith…

Throughout the past 25 years, Rotary has taught Kathi Smith many things. Along the way, she has experienced friendship, fun, change that makes a difference, found opportunity to network and gain valuable leadership skills.  When she advises other women, “what are you waiting for—join today. There is something for everyone”, she knows of what she speaks.

When she arrived in Kitchener from Burlington to work with Junior Achievement, Kathi joined Kitchener Rotary because some asked her to join. Kathi and Pat Talman were asked to join Kitchener Rotary Club as the first women in the area (actually the District). She as attracted to Rotary through its work locally and internationally.  The local clubs were also strong supporters of Junior Achievement. Becoming a Rotarian facilitated Kathi’s pursuit of her passion, making a difference in the lives of children in our community and making a difference in the lives of children around the world.

During her tenure as a Rotarian, Kathi has served chairperson of the Youth Exchange, treasurer and attended district conferences on an annual basis to gain a fuller understanding of Rotary. A clear focus of her Rotary activity has been her involvement as a Group Study Exchange Team leader.

In 1999, Kathi led an exchange team to District 2660 in Osaka, Japan. She returned determined to see a Pease Monument erected somewhere in KW. As such, it was a proud moment for Kathi when the Rotary Peace Park in Waterloo dedicated.

Five years after leading the exchange, Kathi returned to Osaka to attend an RI Convention. This afforded her the opportunity to visit her host families. It also left her awe struck by the opening ceremonies at the Osaka Dome where 50,000 people were in attendance. These experiences have inspired her to attend many more RI conventions: Chicago, Salt Lake City, LA, Copenhagen, Montréal and New Orleans.

Kathi continues her involvement in training at the Zone Level for GSE/Scholars prior to leaving the country.  Time conflicts at noon caused her to transfer her membership to the breakfast club of Kitchener Grand River, where she has served as a director and President.

While accompanying Kathi on her many Rotary-related ventures, her husband Ray takes great delight in correcting the assumption that he is the Rotarian by quipping “Kathi is the Rotarian, I am the Rotary Ann”.

Kathi’s involvement has led to receiving several Paul Harris awards.  She attests to the richness and variety of the Rotary experience.  From her perspective, Kathi believes that Rotary is not just one thing. “It is a great organization to help you fulfill your dreams of making a difference on a local or global scale or both; of networking; of developing leadership of making friends; of learning more about yourself and realizing just how small our world is”.

To find out more about membership, and the leadership opportunities in Rotary, contact us by email at RotaryKitchener@gmail.com or visit our website, our Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter.

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.

Rotary and Beyond

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Rotary Profile – Cheryl Ewing

Cheryl Ewing can be described by anyone who knows her as passionate, determined, and dedicated.  And it is these traits that have helped her make a marked impact both locally and internationally!

Though born in Kitchener, Cheryl spent her formative years in the small railroad and mining town of Capreol. She raised a family in Kirkland Lake, but eventually made her way back to Waterloo Region. Working with the Elora Festival, Cheryl was invited by a local graphic designer to a Rotary meeting.  There she met a group of professionals active in their community.  Cheryl was intrigued by the fellowship and the opportunity to network with people outside of the arts. She joined the Rotary Club of Fergus but, when she launched her own business two years later, she transferred to a closer club, the Rotary Club of Kitchener.

And she got involved straight away!

“Rotarian Carol Wiebe told me to get involved in committees and I took it to heart,” said Cheryl, “and I am glad I did. That is where my true friendships came from.”

When, then District Governor Doug Vincent, invited volunteers to join him to see a ‘shoebox project’ taking place in Nogales, Mexico (a joint initiative between Pantano Club in Tucson and the Rotary Club in Nogales), Cheryl jumped at the opportunity. Cheryl had always been interested in learning about people in other parts of the world and felt this trip could help accomplish this. But what she found was way more than she bargained for.

“When I took my first trip to Nogales I finally truly understood the power of Rotary. The willingness of strangers to put us up and help us get to the project—the diversity among us, but at our core, common values— it was overwhelming.”

The project, now entitled “Shoebox & Beyond”, brings much-needed aid to two impoverished Mexican communities – Nogales and Aqua Prieta.  The program provides shoeboxes filled with necessities such as groceries, blankets, warm clothes, backpacks, hygiene supplies, and textbooks. Through the project they have also been able to provide the community medical supplies, firefighting equipment, educational fire safety colouring books, and one year, even an ambulance!

After four years with the project, one of the Nogales Rotarians said, “Cheryl, you keep coming back and we trust you because you do so.” Cheryl realized that her real success had been about building relationships with the Rotarians of Nogales; getting to know the people her work was helping on a deeper, richer level. Today she says the project is as much about going to visit friends as it is about doing the work of Rotary.

“It’s about sustainability; not necessarily in providing things, but in building sustainable relationships. By building these relationships, you truly know the people you are working with and helping, and they feel they can be honest with you about the needs of their community. Even better, understanding how much alike we are in our hearts, that this is where change takes place. That is the power of Rotary.”

Today Cheryl leads a District/US team of over a dozen volunteers to make the annual trip to Mexico. “Seeing the changes in the community as a result of our work, and being a major part of that, is something I am deeply proud of.”

In January of 2013 the Shoebox & Beyond project celebrated its 15th anniversary. And it shows no sign of stopping!

But Nogales isn’t Cheryl’s only Rotary accomplishment.  She has spent time with the Rotary Youth Exchange programme and even hosted an exchange student; she worked successfully with fellow Rotarian, Barry McLeod, to secure an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant proposal for the Peace Park at Waterloo RIM Park; and was Club President in the year that the club launched its inaugural strategic planning process. “I learned a lot about our club and our membership that year,” said Cheryl. “I was proud to be able to prepare the foundation for our first strategic plan.”

In 2012 Cheryl worked with the City of Kitchener staff to assemble a small fundraiser as part of the City’s elaborate New Year’s Eve celebrations. She worked quickly to assemble a team of volunteers, and as with most of Cheryl’s projects, it was a success. At the end of the evening, the City invited Cheryl and her team back for future years.

Beyond the modest dollars it raised, the event gave Rotary a very visible presence in the community. “It’s great when people see our Rotary signage and come up to thank us for what we do in the community,” said Cheryl.

This past year some of that gratitude spilled over onto social media. “It was nice to have the local politicians and City recognise us online; but when we started getting tweets and Facebook posts from the public…well, that was very cool.”

Today Cheryl provides that same sage advice she received to new Rotarians: get involved.  “You have to be open and willing and put yourself forward. Find what makes you passionate and know that you will have a group of committed people helping you”.

In addition to her busy arts consultancy, a full and rewarding Rotary life, and family, Cheryl always finds time for her other passion—dance.  “My love of dance has bridged the lack of a common language in my Rotary trips. In Brazil it led to a wonderful morning of dance with breast cancer survivors. A shared experience that words cannot transcend.”

And, as much as Cheryl has given to Rotary, she feels that she has been a recipient of its generosity as well. “The end of my year as Rotary President a member of my family was severely injured. I was stretched incredibly thin. But members visited him, asked about him, and offered their support to me. I was incredibly grateful for my Rotary family and humbled by their thoughtfulness.”

Shoebox & Beyond project, 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.

Rotary – A Family Affair


Rotary Profile – Louise & Michelle Gardiner

Louise Gardiner spent her first decade in Montreal Quebec, but her parents’ decision to move to Kitchener would be a fateful choice. It’s where she would meet her future husband Graham, raise three great kids, Michelle, Matthew, and Trevor, and join—and eventually become the second female president of—the Rotary Club of Kitchener.

A member of the Kitchener-Westmount Rotary, her husband quickly got his family involved with the Youth Exchange program. Already a ‘Rotary household” Louise decided to join Rotary, but opted to forge her own path by joining the Rotary Club of Kitchener.

“Graham opened our ski shop, Select Sports, before we were married and became a Rotarian not long after as a way to give back to his community,” said Louise. “In our home, Rotary values were practiced daily.  You could say our household motto was ‘Service above Self’”.

And the decision of her parents to become so involved with the Rotary community would be a fateful one for Louise’s daughter, Michelle, as well.

In her early twenties, Michelle not only followed in the family’s Rotary footsteps through her work with the Waterloo Rotaract Club, she forged her own strong identity. She held roles such as Vice President, Camp Enterprise Rotary Liaison and eventually President.  In her role as President she worked closely with Mayor Brenda Halloran of Waterloo to ensure that ‘community’ underscored all Rotaract’s activities. The strong relationship between the municipality and the club continues today.

“We’ve always been a Rotary family,” said Michelle. “Both of my parents are past presidents of separate clubs in the city. This allowed me to see how different clubs function, but more importantly, it also showed me how they can work together—and the incredible energy that happens when they do.

Michelle credits her childhood Rotary experiences for shaping her into the young professional she is today.

“The three exchange students we hosted during my youth helped me understand and appreciate the differences between cultures. My parent’s community work showed me how fortunate we were to have a healthy, strong family and to live in such a supportive community. But my parents always reminded us of the importance of giving back. To make time to help those who weren’t as fortunate.”

Louise’s own Rotary path has been varied as well.  She served on or led almost every committee over the last two decades.  She joined the board early on and served for eight years.  In 2002, she took on the role of President.  That same year she was nominated for the KW Women of the Year award for her philanthropic activities.  She has since received three Paul Harris Fellowship awards, one as a result of successfully securing a donation of 19,000 books from her fellow co-workers through the Sandals Foundation to fill the shelves of seven parish libraries and schools in impoverished Jamaican communities.

Professionally, Louise’s proudest achievement was her promotion to Senior Director Operations & Technology Solutions North American Leisure for Carlson Wagonlit Travel.  In the role she oversees 150+ branch locations across Canada with over 800 personnel as well as the North American leisure technology needs for both external websites and internal intranet sites.  She credits Rotary as a huge asset in her career development.

“Having been President gave me the opportunity to interact with very successful leaders in our community. This most certainly assisted me in my quest for advancement in the business world.”

When promoted to a national position within Carlson Wagonlit Travel, Louise suddenly had a daily commute to Toronto to contend with.  More challenging than the drive, was the expectation of making her Rotary lunches. But her fellow Rotarians encouraged her to stay.

“Members support me and continue to respect my priorities,” said Louise, “and I am a better Rotarian for it.”

In 2013, Louise elected to lend her leadership capabilities to the board once again. She rejoined the Board of Directors and has great aspirations of what she might accomplish in her second act with the years of experience, insight, and dedication under her belt. District Governor? “Who knows; maybe,” she responded coyly. “I am not ruling anything out.”

Louise’s potential for leadership was something Rotarian Clay Hall had spotted early on.  And her mentor Clay knows a little something about what it takes to be a leader. Clay was the Club President who laid the first cornerstone of the first Rotary Children’s Centre (now Kidsability) back in 1957.

His advice to the eager new Rotarian was: “family first, career second, Rotary third – keep your priorities in order and you will be a lifetime Rotarian.” And she has taken that advice to heart.

“My passion for Rotary lies in the fellowship that can be found in any Rotary initiative,” said Louise. “No matter whether I’m selling tickets at the St. Jacobs Market or cleaning up a trail, there are always great Rotary friends there to help!”

What would Louise say to someone considering Rotary membership? “Rotary membership is for everyone; if you are looking for fellowship, local community involvement, international philanthropy, vocational networking, mentoring, leadership opportunities then Rotary is for you. And don’t forget to get your family involved!

And to women who think that Rotary is an ‘old boys club’, Louise has to say: “When I joined Rotary in 1994 there were less than ten women in a club of 175. We were truly a minority. Today our club is vibrant with all different members; men, women, young, old, working, retired …. it’s the diversity that I enjoy.  A diversity that I know other women embrace as well. We’ve come a long way since the Rotary Annes!”

To find out more about membership, and the leadership opportunities in Rotary,contact us by email at RotaryKitchener@gmail.com or visit our website, our Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter.