Category Archives: Club Reports

A Very Successful Open House at Charles Co. La Plata

Past President, jeweler, and super Rotarian Josh Joson wowing the guests at the Charles County La Plata Open House by telling his Rotary story.

Rotary membership seems to be floating to the top of the list lately as I ramble around District 7620 in my usual dazed and clueless fashion.  On Monday evening I attended Membership Chair Darrell Nevin’s terrific seminar on membership called, From Yawn to Wow!  (I will be writing about Yawn to Wow in the next Ready, Fire, Aim.)  What made it even more interesting was that two weeks ago I attended an Open House by the Charles County La Plata Rotary Club, and it went so well you would have thought they had attended Nevin’s seminar.  Now that I think about it…..they did.  And therein lies the beginning of my tale.

It turns out that Club President, Jamie Reidy, and President-Elect, Jim Cook, DID attend Darrell’s seminar last year, as well as attending all of the District training and conferences.  They reached the conclusion that it was time to do something about the fact that the club’s membership had fallen from a high of 50 members to a low of 39 members.  (Sound familiar?)  So, they took the idea of doing something about it to the club’s Board, and the idea for doing an Open House was born.  Notably, two long-time members, Dr. Barry Aron and Josh Joson took the lead on the project.

Here’s how they did it.  First they came up with an announcement to the local business community that the club was having a “Rotary Awareness and Appreciation Night” to be held at the Green Turtle restaurant.  The invitations were nicely printed formal cards.  Then they HAND DELIVERED the invitations to small businesses in the area.  As I understand the story, Aron and Joson dropped invitations off in the local business district while other club members invited people they knew and other business folk they met at local business networking events.   (Note:  Back in the days when dinosaurs walked the earth and I was a District Trainer, I used to tell the story of a club president who wanted to do an Open House.  To make a long story short, in my narrative I said the invitations would be mailed to local businesses.  A few years ago, Past RI President, Ray Klinginsmith, follows me to the podium and tells everyone not to mail the invitations, but to hand deliver them.  At the time I was thinking, “you may be a past RI President but you are nuts.”  Now I’m thinking, he was right…and I was wrong…..again.)  But I digress.

As a result of the inspired leadership of Aron and Joson, along with the participation of the rest of the club, they had between 15 – 20 guests show up during the course of the evening.  It’s a beautiful evening on the deck of the Green Turtle, the Rotary signage is prominently displayed,  the food is good, the drinks are flowing.  The program was Yours Truly talking for less than five minutes about Rotary International and the Rotary District,  followed by three different club members telling their Rotary story.  They were very compelling.

L-R: Dr. Barry Aron, former Rotarian and guest Ray Dickerson, Lee Bridget, son of Dennis and Becky, Dennis Bridget, his wife, Becky Bridgett, and Richard Smyser, all enjoying a lovely evening.

What was the result?  How about two new members and two who are likely to join any day now!  My math stinks, but that’s about a ten percent increase in club membership due to one successful membership event.  AWESOME.

When asked, PE Jim Cook tells me they are now snowed under with planning for the club’s upcoming Lobster Fest, which is the club’s signature event where about 1,300 guests show up for all the lobster they can eat.  There will  be a “What is Rotary” table at the event as they combine some great PR, a great party, and a fundraiser that netted $63,000 last year for the Birthing Center for the University of Md. Charles County Regional Hospital.  (Note:  I just paid $12 for a four ounce tail along with my filet.  All you can eat?  Lobster? Really?  Linda and I will be there on the 28th to check it out.)

So, here is some completely unsolicited advice for the La Plata club, offered in the context of a teachable moment for all concerned:

Make sure you get the names of everyone who attended, everyone who said they would attend and didn’t, and all of the Rotarians who were their hosts, and create a spreadsheet with all of the information.  Follow up is key!

Next time you do the Open House have someone from the Hospital as a speaker talking about what Rotary means to them.  This is a great idea direct from the Darrell Nevin storehouse of amazingly good membership ideas.  Apparently having the charities that benefit from your work tell everyone how important you are to them is the most moving tribute to Rotary you can get.

I know you are busy planning Lobster Fests and Dictionary Projects, but put your next Open House on the schedule now.  Six months from now should do it.  Don’t lose your momentum.

Concentrate on integrating your new members into the club.  Make sure you do their Fireside Chat and have them follow the New Member Checklist.

Dear District 7620 Rotarians, the La Plata club is just one of several clubs in the District successfully running Open Houses and growing their clubs.  You can do this!  You CAN DO THIS!

Congratulations to President Jamie and PE Jim for taking the initiative to bring this to the Board and getting the troops “fired up.”  And congratulations to the rest of the club for taking action.  We don’t call this blog, Ready, Fire, Aim for nothing.

More on membership next week…..

Nice crowd. Nice evening. People kind of flowed in and out after work.



“Do’s and Don’ts” of the DG Club Visit

DG Bill Fine and First Lady, Kathlene Graves, in their official portrait.

DG Bill Fine and First Lady, Kathleen,  in their official Rotary portrait.

It is that time of year where Rotary Clubs must fulfill one of the few duties that is actually required by Rotary International, which is to host the District Governor for the official District Governor club visit.  This is a time of great anticipation for Rotary clubs, since hosting the District Governor is THE highlight of their Rotary year.   Truth be told, the DG visit often raises a certain level of anxiety in District 7620 because there are strict rules of protocol for the DG visit and the amount of pomp and circumstance required to properly pull off the meeting without a scandal can be daunting.

Never fear, my RFA readers, because I took a moment to discuss the “do’s and don’ts” of DG visits with 7620 DG Bill Fine.  Bill is about to embark on the journey of visiting all 64 Rotary clubs in the District.  I am happy to share Bill’s expectations for how he will be received in your club.  Notably, Bill says that these requirements were passed by resolution in the recent Council of Legislation for all Rotary clubs worldwide and can be found in the Rotary Manual of Procedure.  Pat Kasuda, who is our District’s COL representative, was an enthusiastic supporter.

Music:  There does not seem to be a detailed explanation of how many herald trumpets are required for the DG visit.  Apparently your club should provide at least four herald trumpets, but it is notable that bigger clubs often have as many as a ten musicians on hand.  Here is an example of the Peter Kyle’s greeting at the Rotary Club of Frederick last year:

Rose Petals:  Rotary specifically asks Rotary clubs not to throw rice at the DG while he or she is making a grand entrance on the red carpet that is required to be rolled out for the DG visit.  The rice can actually be dangerous if it hits the DG in the eye.   Instead, Bill suggests that your club throw rose petals.  If you would like to learn more ideas of what to throw at the DG when he arrives at your clubs, read “instead of throwing rice” on Pinterest.  The link is

Grapes on entry:  Again, the COL is not clear on this subject.  Apparently some clubs elect to feed the DG grapes while entering the club on the red carpet while being showered with rose petals.  Other clubs simply feed the DG grapes once he or she has arrived at the table.  DG’s are highly trained in the social graces as part of their DG training, and the proper etiquette for grape eating is actually a separate class for DG’s on their junket, er, I mean training trip, to San Diego.  Here is a DG demonstrating proper grape eating etiquette:

To put club’s at ease during this year’s visits, Bill has asked me to pass along to clubs that this year they don’t need to worry about providing nubile dancing girls for the grand entrance.  Also, he would like to skip waving palm fronds this year and dispense with the ritual “attachment of the robe of power” that often precedes the DG walk down the red carpet, while trumpets are blaring AND they are being showered with rose petals AND being fed grapes.

As you can see, DG Bill is a laid back kind of guy and we shouldn’t worry at all about meeting our club expectations for the DG visit.



South County Rotary… All They’re “Quacked Up” To Be


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If you know that this winning duck is dressed up like a character from a TV show called Duck Dynasty, AND you know the name of the character, then you might be a redneck.

Please do not blame me for the title of today’s RFA.  That dubious honor goes to Rotarian, Cort Vitty, a proud member of the Rotary Club of South Anne Arundel County, who obviously has a questionable sense of humor.  (I was helpless in the grasp of this startling display of wit.)  The “quack” in the title comes from the club’s recent successful fundraiser, called Quacks for Backpacks. This unique fundraiser involves getting businesses and residents to sponsor plastic ducks that “race” according to the wind and the tide where the winner is determined by pure luck.  One race featured 43 ducks sponsored by local businesses at $200 per duck.  And the children’s race had 175 ducks at $10 each.  The net result?  They raised $12,000 and more than 200 people attended the event and had a great time (see pix below).  Yup… some folks in town might have learned a thing or two about Rotary in the middle of all that fun.  

However, the real winners are AA county school children because 100% of the proceeds of the race go to the club’s Bountiful Backpack Project, where children in need get a backpack stuffed with food to sustain them for the weekend.  Club members shop for and buy the food and then work with the schools to distribute the backpacks to the kids every week.   AWESOME.  Word is that this might be their “Rotary Day” event for next year.

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All together now….Awwwwwwwwwww, that’s so cute!

But your intrepid RFA reporter didn’t attend to learn about duck races.   I earned my free breakfast by doing my Rotary Foundation song and dance as the club program.  Once again I was in danger of “talking past the sale.”  Why? Because on a per cap basis the South Anne Arundel club is THE most generous club in District 7620 .  This year the club’s per cap giving number is over $450 per head!  It was gratifying to hear from Club President, Chris Asher, that our meeting with the Board after the club meeting was productive  and the best practices we reviewed about District Foundation giving ideas will help South County to sustain their Rotary Foundation giving in the future.

What else?  The club is well managed.  You can see it from the number of projects they are involved with both locally and internationally.  You can see it from the boards they hang on the wall showing their progress towards meeting various goals.  A strong hint might be winning the Gold Club Award from District 7620 AND the RI Presidential Citation, WITH DISTINCTION.  And you can also tell by talking with the club’s leadership.  They have that air of confidence that comes from leading clubs that have a pretty good handle on how to go about their business of doing good in the world.  The club is very active in the District scholarship program.  Several members serve on the District’s PR committee (special shout out here to Katie Blyth.)  And last, but certainly not least, this club is the home of venerable, esteemed, and sometimes feared, Area Governor, Larry Leahy.  All I can say is that there is a pretty good chance that Larry is typically behind the scenes giving high quality guidance to club leaders.

Next stop for this club?  You guessed it.  MORE MEMBERS.  A club this good should be twice the size.  What goes on here is just too good to keep it a secret.

If you are in the vicinity of the Killarney House Restaurant in AA County on a Thursday morning and you could use a make up, stop by for breakfast.  They pass my laughter and volume test.

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Club President, Chris Asher, doing the announcing
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Yours Truly addressing the troops
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L-R: AG Larry Leahy, Cort Vitty, Robin Hatfield, Yours Truly, President Chris Asher, PE Joe Van Dueren, John May, Lee Derrick

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A Culture of Service

Career day attendees from Hammond High School getting a photo before attacking the snacks on table just behind them.


One of the amazing things about Rotary is all of the service work we do that never makes it into the “stats.”  It’s hard to measure the value of the sweat equity from the service work we do in our communities.  Whether its volunteering at hospitals, food pantries, career days, junior interviews, elderly communities, or “other,” Rotarians put up phenomenal numbers.  And yes, sometimes as a District Leader I tend to quantify service in terms of how much money a club raised in a fundraiser, how much they distributed to non-profits during the year, or how much they gave to the Rotary Foundation.  Let’s face it, that is only part of the story.

When we volunteer our time and energy there is a connection to others that we simply don’t get from selling tickets or writing a check.  Not that writing a check isn’t an extraordinarily valuable thing to do for our local and international community, but I’m guessing those Rotarians who role up their sleeves and dive into a service project feel just a little differently about the value of service, and about those we serve.  Writing about it here is a little bit of “preaching to the choir” as I suspect my RFA readers already know exactly what I’m talking about.

Doing service work does a lot more than make you feel better about yourself.  It turns out that clubs that have a culture of service, meaning that they have a long list of service activities for club members to get involved in, have a much better record of member retention.  (OK…I just made that up, but I’ll bet its true.)  These clubs seem relevant because they give Rotarians a chance “to engage Rotary.”  In addition, there is NO BETTER networking then working beside someone while you are serving others.  Sure…you can go to a networking event.  But for developing business relationships it doesn’t hold a candle to working side by side helping others.  Relationships built on community service are the real thing and not the product of some cocktail hour verbal mumbo jumbo.

The photos here are from a recent career day at Hammond High School where Rotarians from the Columbia Patuxent club volunteered their time to help some high school students better understand their options for college and careers.  It wasn’t newsworthy to anyone but the kids and those of us who showed up.  This kind of event goes on all over our District in different clubs EVERY DAY.  Hopefully this is a good reminder to make some time for our service work.  After that…..PLEASE write a check to the Rotary Foundation.

Note:  If  your club has a “hands on” service project that you are proud to be a part of, send some photos and a two paragraph description to me at and we will feature it in the District’s Rotary blog, under the direction of PR Chair Dawn Wittfelt.

L-R Fearless leader, Interact Chair, Kelly Leggo, and Laurie Reuben
L-R Rotarians Doug Dribben and Pete Kunz
L-R, Pete Kunz, Darren Easton, Laurie Reuben, Dave Lerer, Yours Truly, Brad Meyers, Sherri Brogan, Doug Dribben  (You had to be there as Easton described parents as “Goobers.”)


Talking Past the Sale at Potomac Rotary

“Nuts!” – General Anthony Clement “Nuts” McAuliffe (July 2, 1898 – August 11, 1975) was the United States Army general who was the acting division commander of the 101st Airborne Division troops defending Bastogne, Belgium, during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge. He is famous for his single-word reply of “Nuts!” in response to a German surrender ultimatum. Nuts is also the speaker gift from the Rotary Club of Potomac.

Last week, prior to going to the District Conference, I had the pleasure of visiting the Rotary Club of Potomac to do my talk on the Rotary Foundation.  To put this talk into better perspective, the Potomac Rotary is consistently one of the most generous clubs in the District in terms of per capita giving to TRF.  Last year this twenty-five member club gave over $8,000 to the Annual Program Fund and AN ADDITIONAL $10,000 to Polio Plus.

With that kind of prior giving record I was worried about “talking past the sale.”  As anyone in sales can tell you, “talking past the sale” occurs when someone says they are ready to buy a product or service and the salesman keeps talking about it until they say something that changes the mind of the buyer.  I’m pleased to say that early reports indicate that I didn’t “talk past the sale” at the Potomac club last week and they are on track to write some big checks to the Foundation as we get to the end of the year.  I certainly hope so, because this club, like many clubs in the District, waits until year-end to turn in their contributions to TRF.  Their year-to-date giving is $105!  YIKES.

(NOTE TO ALL CLUBS THAT DO APF GIVING AT YEAR-END:  Come on people!  Let’s try to make this happen before the last month of the year where paperwork gets fouled up and everyone is trying to jam their contributions in at the last minute.)

I might add another relevant observation about the Potomac Rotary Club.  Our current District Rotary Foundation Chair and Esteemed Past District Governor, Claude Morissette, is a member of the club.  It is somewhat nerve wracking to do a Foundation talk in front of the boss!  If I would have messed up Morissette would have been reminding me about it for months (maybe even years) to come.  Fortunately he said I did OK.  Thanks, Boss.

Potomac Rotary recently changed venues to be a breakfast club, and President Don Harrison tells me that since they made the move there is a new energy in the club and a few new members in the pipeline.  Interestingly President Don shared with me that this is one of the few clubs I’ve visited that doesn’t do a fundraiser.  Apparently that is one of the things on the “to-do” list for this club’s resurgence going forward.  I can’t wait to see how they do.   (Special shout-out to Morris Gevinson who always goes out of his way to make me feel especially welcome. )

One last note….whatever else you want to say or not say about Potomac, they have one of the coolest speaker gifts ever.  Thanks, Potomac Rotary.  You were wonderful hosts and I appreciated the opportunity to talk about the Foundation!!!

L-R: Jenny Bartolomot, Marjorie Rothschild, Jean Bullock, Jan Brose, Sarah Torrence, Morris Gevinson, DRFC and PDG, Claude Morissette
L-R: Howard Lerch, Jim Harris, Pam Heir, Mark Gollub, Chris Goode
Yours truly and Club President, Don Harrison


Foundation Night at Pikesville-Owings Mills


L-R:  PE David Hess, Cynthia Pace, Tony Rubino, Aleli Frias, President Sonia Neumeier, Yours Truly

There are good problems.  And there are bad problems.  When I walked into the Pikesville-Owings Mills Rotary Club meeting last Thursday evening it was pretty clear that the club members and their guests would soon need to move to a bigger restaurant for their meeting.  Too many Rotarians?  Now THAT’s a GOOD PROBLEM!  Thankfully, the Double Tree Hotel has a larger space to accommodate them and the switch to the larger room is forthcoming.

I was there to help celebrate Rotary Foundation Night, a presentation of four Paul Harris Fellow awards to deserving club members and “soon to be” club members.  Aleli Frias, Michelle Mendez, Cynthia Pace, and Tony Rubino were the awards recipients and it was my privilege to lead the award ceremony, and then have the opportunity to say a few words about the Rotary Foundation.  To say the Pikesville Club is engaged in international service is an understatement.  Eleli Frias takes the lead on the club’s Mobile Clinic Project to deliver medical care to impoverished villages in the Philippines.  Michelle Mendez is a Rotary Peace Scholar and Peace and Conflict Resolution certificate graduate from Chulalongkorn University in Thailand (not to mention Georgetown Law), Cynthia Pace is a “Leadership Guru” and club leader for their medical mission to the Philippines, and Tony Rubino is the club’s “Environmental Guy” and long-time club activist.  All in all a pretty distinguished group!

After the meeting I chatted with club President, Sonia Neumeier, about some of the best practices for Foundation giving around the District.  For example, many clubs use Foundation points as an incentive for Foundation giving, so instead of giving first time Paul Harris Fellows 1,000 points they might match the first $500 of a member’s contributions.   We went over the Club Recognition Summary report for the club (found in Rotary Club Central) and discussed those members with lots of individual PH Recognition points that, with the contributing Rotarian’s permission, could be used for a year-end incentive program.  And finally, we discussed that if the club had only two Paul Harris Society Members contributing $1,000 per year to TRF that would meet almost 50% of our new goal of $200 per cap giving for the District.

Full disclosure….the conversation with Sonia took place while I was in receipt of several envelopes full of generous Foundation contributions from the club, club members, and even guests.  To say that I was in a good mood was an understatement.

So come on, Pikesville.  You are located in one of the busiest and well known communities in Baltimore.  It’s time to make use of that additional space and share with the rest of the community the great stuff going on in your club!

L-R, Michelle’s mom, Margarita, Michelle Mendez, Rotary Peace Scholar, Yours Truly, and Aunt Cecilia



It’s Different here in La Plata


From L – R, Melissa Tyner, Byx Bullock, Daniel Smyser, President Charlie Burch, Jim Cook, PE Jamie Reidy

If you listen to La Plata Rotarians tell the tale, somewhere on journey south on Route 5 / Branch Avenue, as you head past Clinton and Waldorf on Crain Highway, something happens.  I’m not entirely certain what it is, but Rotarian Byx Bullock jokes that the “laws of physics are actually suspended down here in Charles County.”  I suspect that they are referring to their perception that La Plata is a small town where everyone knows each other and “it’s impossible to get lost,” and so the laws of the  “Big City” universe are somehow suspended in their community.

I can’t speak for the town, but I am pleased to report that the laws of successful Rotary Clubs are certainly NOT suspended in the Charles County La Plata Rotary Club.  Here is a loud, rambunctious group of 40 members who clearly enjoy each other’s company.  They pass my favorite “healthy Rotary club” test, which is lots of laughter can be heard at the Green Turtle on Wednesday mornings.  I was pleased to do my dog and pony show about the Rotary Foundation yesterday for them, and also pleased to meet with their Board, as well as Rotarians Andy Colevas and Steve Cumberland from the Upper Marlboro Rotary Club, the night before.  THANK YOU to AG Jimmie Gorski who did a superb job organizing the event at the Olive Garden Restaurant.  (Sorry foodies, but you just can’t get too much better than the family style salads at Olive Garden.  Heck…what do I know….I’m always grateful when I go to a restaurant and the salad has something in it that I recognize.)

Here are a few other things I noticed about the La Plata club.  They have a great mix of younger and older Rotarians, and both groups respect each other immensely.  Rotarian’s Greg Cockerham and Jim Di Misa caught me after the meeting to let me know they are sticking around the club “just to keep the youngsters on track.”   Club President, Charlie Burch, and President Elect, Jamie Reidy, are doing just that.  Here’s just a few things on their list after our Foundation discussion Tuesday evening: 1) Make sure that they do a fireside chat with new members that eliminates any confusion about the Club’s Foundation and the Rotary Foundation (sound familiar?), 2) consider adding suggested TRF contributions to the dues invoices, and 3) get more involved with process for obtaining District Grants.

Here’s what I think.  The Rotary Club of Charles County La Plata is positioned to suck the air right out of their community in terms of being a MAJOR positive force for good.  This is a small town where everyone already knows Rotary because of the club’s signature fundraiser, the Lobster Fest, which raised more than $60,000 last year!  (According to Club President Burch, “They come for the beer…not the lobster.)  All that’s left is for this club to launch into aggressive membership mode where they target 50 – 60 members as a start and then take aim at Lexington Park…the big boy even further South.

If you are headed south on Crain Highway on a Wednesday morning, and you notice that the laws of physics are becoming distorted, I highly recommend you find your way to the Green Turtle for a make up.