Category Archives: 1. President’s Messages

Rotary Membership Dues Modifications

Due to Covid-19 we’ve been unable to meet in person since March, and we’re unlikely to resume in-person luncheons before at least January. Even then, many members may prefer to wait longer to return.

Most members have been paying dues that include the cost of weekly meals, but many of us may not know that 46% of pre-paid meals are not actually consumed by members which helped fund our club’s operating expenses each year. The board recognized that continuing to charge members for meals they can’t consume is not sustainable, but we know that without the surplus generated by meals, the club would have an insurmountable operating deficit. That’s why an ad-hoc committee was formed to study this and make actionable recommendations. The committee included the following members:  Jason Beren, Jorge Hidalgo, Teresa Holmes, Jason Ilstrup, Andrea Kaminski, Charles McLimans, Mark Moody (chair), Valerie Renk, Haley Saalsaa Miller, Susan Schmitz, Rob Stroud and Rob Van den Berg.

The new approved dues structure reflects the true costs of the club and spreads them more equitably among the different types of members. Lower dues for Exempt and Life members will continue, in recognition for their many years of service and financial support to the club.  Standard members will pay $390 for dues per six months, and this is retroactive to July 1, 2020; Exempt members will see an increase in dues effective for the next billing cycle of January – June of 2021 from $185.50 to $235; and Life members will change to $225 starting July 1, 2021.

The Board acted under emergency authority to approve these changes.  Once the pandemic emergency has subsided to the point where a membership vote is possible, the revised dues structure will be put to a vote of the members.  We believe these changes to our dues structure are necessary and appropriate to assure the financial viability of the club.  We agree that the elimination of the meals subsidy was overdue and necessary, and the dues now reflect the true cost of operation of the club.

Our ad-hoc committee will hold a Zoom Q&A on August 20th at noon for interested members who have questions or want to hear more background.  A letter about this new dues structure was mailed to members on August 11, and a link to the August 20 Zoom meeting is included in the Friday, August 14 email from the Rotary office.

Jorge Hidalgo, Club President

 

Meet Our New President: Jorge Hidalgo

Hidalgo_JorgeAs we begin a new Rotary year on July 1, we wanted to share some background on our new president. 

Jorge Hidalgo joined our Rotary Club in 2014 and is president of Wilde East Towne Honda. Previously, he was a Harley-Davidson Executive.  He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and received his Master’s degree in Operations Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  He served in the U.S. Army for more than 12 years as an Infantry Officer where he was an Army Ranger and Airborne Jumpmaster.  Jorge has served on the Board of Directors and as President of the Sun Prairie Chamber of Commerce; served as Vice President of Fisher House of Wisconsin; and has been board president for the Wisconsin Heartland Honda Dealers Advertising Association.  He is a recipient of the 2016 Latino Entrepreneur of the Year Award by the Latino Chamber of Commerce and the 2019 Sun Prairie Chamber of Commerce Community Business Leader Award.

In Rotary, Jorge has served on our Strategic Planning, Welcoming and Veteran’s Assistance Committees and was elected to our board of directors for a 2018-2020 term.  He also participates in the Hiking/Skiing, Scotch Whisky and Sporting Clays Fellowship Groups and is chair of the Veterans Fellowship Group.

Jorge was born in the Dominican Republic, grew up in New York City and now lives in Sun Prairie with his wife, Andrea.  They have 3 adult children and eight grandchildren.  Here are some details reprinted from the Wilde East Towne Honda website that provide insights into Jorge:

“My favorite band:  The Eagles.
Three Words that describe me:  Duty, Honor, Country.
My childhood dream job was:  To be a professional baseball player.
If you could spend the day with one person, deceased or alive, I would choose:  My son, Daren, who was killed in Afghanistan (while serving his country in 2011).
Favorite TV shows:  “Walking Dead” and “Blue Bloods.”
We welcome Jorge Hidalgo as President during our 108th Rotary year!

Jorge Outlines His Plans for Upcoming Rotary Year:  “Respect the Individual”

I know that the current pandemic has affected all of us, and every aspect of our lives—so it’s natural that our Club has been affected too.  We haven’t been able to meet in person for a while, and the road to returning to full-Club in-person meetings will be slow, and it will be gradual. But we’re resilient and we have adapted, with committees, fellowship groups and even our Wednesday meetings taking place virtually.  It may not be ideal, but it’s a way to stay engaged with Rotary at a time when our Club needs our support. 

As your President, I plan to remind us all of why Rotary matters, and mention one great thing Rotary has done each and every week. I also plan to highlight Members in the News each week from the podium, to celebrate the active role we play in the community.  I want our meetings to be fun and upbeat; I want us to laugh more often.  I’m sure whatever problems we’re dealing with every morning will still be waiting for us when we get back to the office after lunch; let Rotary be a little break from that stress.  If our average age wasn’t 107 I’d call it recess—but even though “recess” doesn’t fit, you still get the idea.  We’ll try new things, and not all of them may work—but we’ll keep trying till we make it work!  We’ll even address members’ questions and concerns brought up on the member survey.  We’ll have speakers that address a broad range of topics, including not only social issues but also leadership, history, business, inspirational life experiences, scientific discovery, and artistic pursuits. 

There’s no shortage of things that draw divisions among people; different political and religious beliefs, different views on social and economic issues—and we absolutely MUST respect our differences, and respect each other, first and foremost, as individuals.  So to be crystal clear, my theme for this year is “Respect the Individual.”  We need to spend more time on discovering what brings us together:  I want us to get to know each other better, discover things we have in common, and celebrate our accomplishments: One of the many ways to do this is by asking a new member to introduce a long-time Rotarian once a month.  Among our members we have a Freedom Rider from the Civil Rights movement and someone who discovered a life-saving medical procedure, engineers and artists, veterans of foreign wars and Peace Corps volunteers; there’s a lot we can learn about and from each other.  And let’s not get all greedy; we need to give others a chance to be part of this great Rotary Club: Each of us should set a goal of recruiting one member to Rotary this year; just one, though if you bring in more I promise I won’t get mad at you. 

I want to thank you for trusting me with our Club’s leadership and let’s all work together to have a great Rotary year! 

Andrea Kaminski’s Reflections on Year as Rotary President

Kaminski Picture1The past year has been a whirlwind of challenge and of change, starting with my unexpected appointment as club President and ending with our Rotary Club poised to transition back to in-person meetings as the pandemic continues. It has been my honor to be club President through this time. I’ve had the opportunity to experience firsthand our Rotary Club as a place where members CONNECT, SERVE and GROW.

Since I joined Rotary in 2013, I have valued the many new CONNECTIONS and friendships that have enhanced my life, whether through committee work, the hiking/skiing fellowship, community service projects, or my time on the board and as President. I’ve found that the more engaged I’ve been, and the more people I’ve worked, sung, chatted and laughed with, the more I’ve been able to learn and grow.

In my SERVICE to the club, I’ve learned that in Rotary you never have to meet a new challenge alone. As soon as I became President, several Past Presidents stepped up and offered their support. I would have been lost without the assistance, in particular, of Jason Beren and Pat Jenkins. And I want to give a special shout-out to Stacy Nemeth for setting the stage for this Rotary year through her diligent strategic planning work last year as President-Elect. Club service is a great way to get to know people and to help make our club a better place for a diversity of community leaders to connect, serve and grow.

I have GROWN through Rotary, especially in this past year. Here are some things I had to learn as President:

  • I’ve learned that you need to hit the wider bottom part of the Rotary bell, not the narrow top part, if you want people to hear it. Not a big deal — it was just embarrassing!
  • I’ve learned there are two strong stances represented in our club membership regarding singing at Rotary. I became President just when it was decided to try cutting back on our music. I hope we have arrived at a compromise that all members enjoy.
  • The same goes for the Question & Answer periods with our speakers. That was a hot topic last summer, but I hope members are comfortable with our current approach.
  • I’ve learned some technology, in particular how to pre-record my portion of the weekly meetings, so we could continue to meet online through the pandemic. Brian Basken and Jason Beren have done yeoman’s work to develop the technology needed to uphold the professional standards our weekly meetings are known for. This month Brian and Jason moved to live-streaming the meeting from Pearson Engineering, where they work. Next month we plan to live-stream our meetings with a limited number of members attending in person, abiding by good social distancing, while all others may participate from home.
  • I’ve also learned from Teresa Holmes, Charles Tubbs and others about complex racial justice issues facing our community. I’ve learned from Karen Kendrick-Hands and Larry Hands about environmental sustainability. These are important issues we must address, and I value the opportunity to connect with people who know far more than I do.

Going forward, I believe the most important goal for our Rotary Club is that of striving to be more actively welcoming to all leaders in our community. In a few minutes you’ll hear from the Racial Equity and Inclusion committee that our intentional efforts in that area are working.  To continue that progress, we need to accept that what has been comfortable in the past is not — and was not — comfortable for everyone. Good intentions are not enough. I’ve learned that we need to actively educate ourselves and speak out when we see injustice or hate. For white Rotarians like me who have benefited all our lives from the privilege of our race, this requires some humility to understand that there is a lot we don’t understand. The hard work is still ahead of us, and it’s good that we’ll have the steady leadership and vision of Jorge Hidalgo and then Mark Moody in the years to come.

With intention, patience and kindness as we work toward change, we will come closer to the Rotary Four-Way Test and build a club that is fair, that builds goodwill and better friendships, and is beneficial to all concerned.  Thank you.

Staying Connected

submitted by Club President Andrea Kaminski

Because it is unlikely that we will be able to hold luncheons with 200 Rotarians in one room for some time to come, several of our directors, officers and committee members have been reaching out to club members to find out how people are doing and how Rotary can best serve our members and keep folks connected in the coming months. As part of this effort, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with several Rotarians about how the pandemic has affected their personal, family and professional lives, as well as how they are feeling about Rotary in this new environment.

We have not yet heard officially about any club members who have personally become ill with Covid-19. However, we have members who are working on the front lines to provide health care or elder care or to keep people safe. We have educators teaching children online and bankers  working around the clock to administer the federal government relief package to assist small businesses. We have business owners and directors of nonprofits who are struggling to maintain their workforce despite drastically reduced demand for things like restaurant meals, new cars, consumer goods and the performing arts. And of course we live in a community where many service workers and gig workers have lost their jobs.

Yet the dozen or so Rotarians I have spoken with have been generally positive despite the challenges, and they value what Rotary has to offer. Most have been viewing the online weekly meetings, and a few have participated in the fellowship groups or committees that have been meeting online.

Longtime Rotarian Karl Gutknecht said,  “Although our lunch meetings have built many friendships, I find enduring value in our Four-Way Test. When we apply our resources, abilities and energies into bettering our community and our world we will continue to make a positive difference!”

It is clear that our Rotary meetings will look different in the future because there are likely to be restrictions on large gatherings for some time. Also, we know that many of our members, for good reason, will not feel safe attending a big luncheon. The board and our executive director are looking at a number of options to address these concerns. For example, one possibility might be to have the weekly meeting at the Park Hotel with a speaker and a program, which would be live-streamed to smaller gatherings in community rooms on the east and west sides of the city. In this scenario, members who are more vulnerable to the virus would have the option to view the streamed meeting online from home.

Let us know if you have any suggestions for how to continue Rotary’s tradition of providing fellowship opportunities, excellent programs and service to the community through the pandemic and beyond. Send an email to rotaryoffice@rotarymadison.org or give me a call at 608-957-2865. I look forward to hearing from you.

New Digs for Me, New Options for Rotary

submitted by President Andrea Kaminski

You may notice as I introduce the May 6 online meeting that my background will be a little different from that of the past few weeks. It won’t be a tropical isle created by Zoom, although that sounds nice! It will be my new home in downtown Madison. Before the coronavirus outbreak, at least in Wisconsin, my husband Tom and I made an offer on a condominium at Metropolitan Place and had it accepted. When the Governor’s Safer at Home order went into effect shortly afterward, it exempted moving services so we decided to go forward with our plans.

We lived in our house across from Edgewood College for 35 years, and it is where we raised our three kids, housed their grandmother for a few years, and hosted some 30 foreign students and professional visitors. The result was an excess of twin-size sheets, plastic hangers and board games, not to mention our family photographs.

Downsizing while social distancing presented a particular challenge, in that thrift stores, Habitat ReStore, and homeless shelters were not able to accept donations. On top of that, many of the items that seemed priceless to us seemed worthless to our kids!  We have had to move things that we will donate in the future.

Then there was the moving itself. We did it in stages: 1. Close off one bedroom and a bathroom in our old house while the movers were there; 2. Oversee the placement of furniture and boxes in the condo; 3. Go back to the house and disinfect the kitchen and the main floor; 4. Live there with almost no furniture for three nights to allow for any viral contamination in the new place to die off; 5. Finally move in!

Through all of this it has been a pleasure to be able to continue to facilitate our weekly meetings, something that would have been impossible without huge assistance and support by our Executive Director, Pat Jenkins, and the volunteer technical expertise of Brian Basken and Jason Beren. In addition, our Club directors and directors-elect, who will meet online for the second time on May 4, continue to be active leaders in guiding our Club through the new challenges facing our membership and our community. And our committees and fellowship groups continue to meet online for business and fun.

LHS April 13 2020 2

Screenshot of first time ever Virtual Scotch Whisky Lew Harned Society event held on April 13.

If you haven’t yet viewed one of our weekly online meetings, I encourage you to do so. The programs have been terrific, our committee chairs have been reporting on their activities in support of our club and the community, and the live Q&A sessions with our speakers are particularly informative. Find instructions and links for the weekly meetings and other innovative, online member connections on the home page of the Rotary Club of Madison website.

For Tom and me, the challenges of moving to a downtown condo in the time of social distancing have given us a better insight about what’s important in our own lives. The same could be said for the way the Rotary Club of Madison is creating new ways for members to connect, serve and grow.  I hope every member will stay engaged, serve the community and find fellowship through our Rotary Club, while remaining safer at home.

Keep Up the Good Work

submitted by President Andrea Kaminski

Social Distance

Are your hands chapped from so much washing? Do you miss your colleagues? Wish you could hug your grandchildren? Miss seeing your friends at Rotary luncheons?

Yes? Then keep up the good work!

As community leaders, Rotarians need to practice and model assiduous social distancing to the extent that our jobs or family needs allow. In fact, without widely available protective gear, testing and, ultimately, vaccination, physical distancing is the only way to contain the coronavirus threat and minimize infection.

While we look forward to a time when we can safely ease up on the restrictions, there are lessons we can learn from this experience. And I’m not just referring to my enhanced ability to connect with people online!  For example, while I have at times been frustrated by the difficulty of shopping or ordering groceries online, I’ve learned that the brands we normally buy are less important than the actual family meals in our house that bring together our kids and granddaughter.

For life to go back to “normal” we will have to keep social distancing for the foreseeable future. We can’t let our guard down before our first responders and healthcare professionals are adequately equipped to do their essential work. Here are some resources to help get us through these challenging times: