WEEK 4 – Prince Albert, Melfort, Nipawin and Hudson Bay

DG Ed spent the last week of July and first few days of August visiting Rotary Clubs in Prince Albert, Melfort, Nipawin, and Hudson Bay. Besides meeting with the board members of each club, and then with the club members, DG Ed was also treated to golf games (in Prince Albert and Nipawin), a tour of the many Rotary Club projects in town (in Melfort, Nipawin and Hudson Bay), and a dessert evening with Nipawin Rotarians at the home of DGE Pat Chernesky.

Peter-Laser-Vienna-Dist-of-ColumbiaA surprise at the Melfort meeting was the arrival of a biker, Rotarian Peter Laser, from the Rotary Club of Vienna in the District of Columbia, who was driving his motorcycle back to Washington, DC after having driven it to Prudoe Bay, Alaska and noticed the Melfort Rotary meeting sign along the highway. His goal was to raise money for a women’s microfinance organization called Five Talents and for Rotary Youth Exchange. Melfort Rotarians left a total of $200 on their tables for Peter’s projects. PDG Brian Cocks and wife Darlene were among the club members taking in the DG meeting in their club.

RC-Hudson-BayThe highlight of Week 4 for farm boy DG Ed was the quarter section of canola that the Rotary Club of Hudson Bay was growing to share the proceeds with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. The quarter section is rented from a “retired” farmer in the area, who prepares the land and plants the crop. Donations for inputs (like fuel, fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides etc.) are provided by international and local suppliers  - as well as the retired farmer. When the crop is ready to harvest, an announcement is made over the local radio station that the harvest will be taking place the next day Local farmers, most of whom are not Rotarians, leave their own fields and rush over with their combines to the Rotary field to take part in the harvest and then be treated to a barbecue afterwards. Last year, harvesting the crop on Rotary’s quarter section with the 11 combines that showed up took only 51 minutes.


WEEK 5 – St Boniface-St Vital, Winnipeg Assiniboine and Winnipeg North

President-Kathy-Olson-of-the-Winnipeg-AssiniboineThe DG’s agenda had 5 clubs to visit in Winnipeg in the week of August 6-9 – but only three were “home”. DG visits to the “away” clubs were rescheduled. Members of the Rotary Club of St Boniface-St Vital were a high spirited group. A comment from a young member who said that, being a farmer, his “standards were lower” drew additional gales of laughter. A warm reception (and some fine desserts after the meal) awaited DG Ed at the Winnipeg-Assiniboine Rotary Club which is the home club of Past District Governors Ed Hollaman and Harold Law. The Winnipeg North Rotary Club, struggling to maintain its membership, came out to the DG meetings with the Board and club members in rather impressive numbers – and expressed an interest in being the first club in Manitoba to engage their members in organizing a Ribfest.

WEEK 6 – Yorkton, Dauphin, Swan Valley, RYLA Camp & Minnedosa

Dauphine-Mud-Run-participantsCentral Western Manitoba (and Yorkton, SK) was next on the District Governor’s list of Rotary Club visits. DG Ed arrived in Dauphin on Sunday, August 10th, just as the Dauphin Rotary Club’s First Annual Manitoba Mudrun (10 km, with 20 obstacles) was finishing at the Selo Ukraina (where Countryfest is held). Six hundred and twenty people had registered for the run, of which only 30 chickened out by not showing up on the day of the Mudrun.

A pleasant trip from the Gilbert Plains campground to Yorkton was briefly interrupted by the sight of a house, wider than the highway, being transported towards the car being driven by DG Ed. Cars had to pull off into side roads as the house approached. In the Yorkton Rotary board and club meetings, DG Ed learned of the friendly rivalry between the cities of Yorkton and Dauphin (along the lines of the rivalry between the towns of Dog River and Wullerton in the TV series “Corner Gas”).  A visit to St Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Parish revealed a huge painting on the inside of the church dome and some interesting history.



DG Ed was pleased to hear reports of the various committees of the Dauphin Rotary Club, but the report that generated the most excitement at the meeting was from Rotarian Kevin Steinbachs, organizer of the hugely successful 

Yorkton Board Mtg with Ed

Dauphin Rotary Club’s First Annual Mudrun. The event raised $43,000 in pledged donations to the MS Society and an additional $30,000 to the Dauphin Rotary Club. Girl guides (who provided parking services) and the local Kiwanas club members (who operated the bar) also earned around $3000 each for their organizations. 

The Rotarians at the Swan Valley Rotary Club were a friendly bunch and claimed to have four co-presidents. One of those four presidents, John Lumax, agreed to be the point man for incoming e-mails from the DG and to share information with his co-presidents. This appeared to greatly gladden the heart of DG Ed, who was also pleased with the support of Past District Governor Dave Theunissen who is still actively involved with the club.

 RYLA 2013 Participants

The trip through the Riding Mountains National Park to Minnedosa included a lunch stop at the Rotary Youth Leadership Camp on Clear Lake. DG Ed delivered a brief message of advice based on his own lessons as a student and young worker to the students (including an exchange student from Finland, bottom right corner in picture) assembled at the RYLA camp. Following this, he joined the RYLA students in hearing young Ayla Gray from Russell talk about Kids Helping Kids, an organization that she started to get funds to help Filipino children join their parents who were employed as low-skilled workers in Russell.  

Rotary-Suspension-BridgeIn Minnedosa, some board members warmed slowly to the idea of the Vibrant Club Award, but were much more enthusiastic after DG Ed’s presentation to the members about Rotary’s work on eradicating Polio, Rotary’s challenges and strengths and suggestions on increasing club membership. After the meeting, Rotarian Colleen showed DG Ed some of the local Rotary projects and tourist attractions – Rotary’s electronic billboard for announcing community events, Heritage Village, Rotary’s Art Wilson Memorial Suspension Bridge over the Little Saskatchewan River and the Bison Park. A stop at Wasagaming for some ice cream and a beautiful sunset over Clear Lake brought Week 6 of DG visits to a close as the hail-pockmarked Subaru Impreza made its way back to the campground (next to the golf course!) in Gilbert Plains.

WEEK 7 – The Pas, Flin Flon and Thompson

TubingRotarians, relatives, friends, the beautiful Grass River and the stops at My’s in Wabowden (driving to and from Thompson) made DG Ed’s week in the north very special. It was also the first time in his life he went tubing. In The Pas - a 4 hour tour of the Tolko plant following the process from wood chips to kraft paper on a roll, a walk on the Caves trail, a visit to the home of PDG Rick Hubbs and Fran, fishing, tubing, finding purple sand on a beach of Clearwater Lake, and supper at the Kikiwak Inn – gave DG Ed even more of an appreciation of this part of his district.

Wheelhouse-FlinFlonIn Flin Flon, DG Ed had lunch with the board members of the Flin Flon Rotary Club and dinner/supper with members and their guests in the Rotary Wheel House. In between those meetings, President Bill Fulford and wife Susan entertained DG Ed with a boat trip across Lake Athapapaskow, a tour of the legendary Camp Whitney, a brief visit to a seagull-covered rock in the middle of the lake and a quick tour of the city of Flin Flon.  At the Rotary club meeting, awards were made for “Flin Flon’s Rotarian of the Year” (Alex McGilvery), a non-Rotarian Paul Harris Fellow (Tom Therien, a member of the Kinsmen, for his work in the community) and a Rotarian Paul Harris Fellow (Bill Morrell).

WolfBefore the board meeting, Thompson Rotary president Keith McDonald showed DG Ed some of the features of the area. First on the agenda was a drive to the Grass River near Pisew Falls to view the Rotary Suspension Bridge (with donor’s names carved into the boards). Back in Thompson, DG Ed was shown an 86 foot high mural of a wolf, a Bailey bridge, colorful wolf statues along Thompson Spirit Way, and Rotary’s Splash Park. At the club meeting in Rotary Centre at Rotary Place, appetizers and buffet items prepared by club members were served. During the meeting, a member of the Board referred to DG Ed’s Vibrant Clubs Award as a game for the Board, or a “board game”.

Week 8 – Brandon Rotaract, Brandon, Brandon Sunset and Neepawa

A severe thunderstorm watch resulted in a change in the location of the evening meeting with the Rotaract Club of Brandon from Dinsdale Park to The Dock on Princess Avenue. DG Ed sought assistance in locating a person to set up a geocaching course at the University of Manitoba for Interact and Exchange students attending the District Conference May 9th and 10th. In response to a question regarding conference content for Rotaract clubs, DG Ed pointed out that the presentation by Debra Fine on “Small Talk” would be valuable for all young people starting out on a career. Brandon Rotaract President Amy suggested a 15 minute session for the three district Rotaract clubs to inform conferees on their club projects in their respective communities, and a breakout session along the lines of “growing membership in the Rotaract Clubs”.

Brandon Mtg

The Brandon Rotary Club board and club members meet at Canad Inn’s The Roadhouse. DG Ed was quite impressed with the displays that the Brandon Rotary Club has set up in the Brandon Ag Centre, to which Canad Inns is attached. Brandon Rotaract president Amy attended both meetings to learn more about the Vibrant Clubs Award at the Board meeting and about Rotary’s challenges, strengths and suggestions for attracting and retaining members at the luncheon meeting with club members.

Induction-of-Karla-Struthers-Brandon-Sunset-250pxThe meeting with the Rotary Club of Brandon Sunset, which took place at Mum’s Family Restaurant at the Wheat City Golf Course was a fun event chaired by President Rob Bellmont.  Karla Struthers (sponsored by Theodora Agoawike) was inducted into the Brandon Sunset club at the meeting attended by DG Ed.  In his best ministerial voice, President Rob began the induction with “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here “….. and when he asked “Who has the honour of proposing Karla for membership in the Brandon Sunset Rotary Club?” Theodora answered “I do”.  There were no objections to Karla joining the club. DG Ed was asked to take part in the ceremony by reading an induction speech.

NeepawaThe last club visit in the month of August was the Rotary Club of Neepawa, which meets at noon in the Viscount Cultural Centre. There was a large turnout for the lively meetings with the DG. After the meetings, AG Bob Durston and his wife Carolyn provided a tour of Neepawa, which included Riverside Cemetery (a tourist attraction with the multitude of flowers planted on each gravesite every year) and Rotary projects like the Neepawa Rotary 5550 baseball diamond and a Rotary Park (developed in 1958) to which a Nature Trail and Bird Sanctuary were added in 2000-2001 as a Millennium Project.

WEEK 9 – Winnipeg East AM, Winnipeg Downtown and Winnipeg West

Christine-Bonnett-forgives-Pres-Dan-Wpg-East-150pxAfter having learned about the point value of fellowship at their 7 PM board meeting on Tuesday evening, the Winnipeg East AM Rotary Club was gung-ho at their Wednesday 7 AM club meeting for some golfing fellowship on Thursday morning. There was even discussion about including blind club member Christine in the golf game, but not being a golfer, Christine gamely responded with “I’m busy. Thanks!” Every member was expected to have some happy dollars when the Sarge came by. One member was happy for having been visited by UFOs – Ukrainians from Ontario!

Wpg-Downtown-Boad-mtg-250pxMeetings with the board and club of the Winnipeg Downtown Rotary Club took place at the Convention Centre on Wednesday morning after the East AM club meeting. A serious group, the board members listened intently to DG Ed’s presentation on the Vibrant Club Award. A suggestion was made to have a Fireside Chat to get members of the largest club in District 5550 up to speed on accessing rotary.org and Clubrunner. DG Ed was pleased to see Past District Governor Eva Vida present at the meeting.

The Canad Inn Polo Park was the site for meetings with the Winnipeg West Rotary Club. The board meeting revealed that member access to Clubrunner and rotary.org is an issue. Through the efforts of member David Deane, the club’s luncheon meeting was a well-orchestrated event – with recorded piano music accompanying the singing of O Canada and Rotary Grace at the beginning of the meeting and God Save the Queen at the end of the meeting. During the meeting, a slide show on a huge screen welcomed visitors and provided information about the club, the day’s speaker and upcoming events.

Week 10 – Kenora, Dryden, Sioux Lookout and the Goodwill Weekend

The Kenora Rotary Club appears to have a custom of awarding BIG cheques (along with smaller ones that the banks accept more readily). At the meeting that DG Ed attended, cheques were awarded to the World Community Service ($1000 to Ripple Effect in honour of the DG’s visit) and the Lake of the Woods Arts Council (for help with the Lobsterfest). In addition, at the same luncheon meeting of the Kenora Rotary Club, a pin from Belgian Rotary Exchange student Kenora chequeEmily Poucet was given to DG Ed, a Paul Harris Fellowship was given to former Kenora Rotarian Donna Friesen and Kenora resident Garnet Bennett was made an Honorary Rotarian for his work with poor people in the community. DG Ed also got a tour of some of the Rotary projects in Kenora. These included a walking-jogging track and a “Rotary Room” in the Kenora Recreation Centre, the Rotary Goodwill Geyser, a wheelchair ramp to the Curling Arena, the paved Rotary Way Trail, a driving range at the Kenora Golf & Country Club and a multi-panel mural at the Best Western Inn on the Lake (where the club meets every Monday at noon). DG Ed was pleased and surprised to see Past District Governor Brian Cocks and wife Darlene at the Kenora Rotary Club meeting – they were passing through on the way home to Melfort, SK and just HAD to hear DG Ed’s presentation a second time!

Dryden DonationAnd speaking of big cheques, a tour of several projects that received HUGE donations over the years from the Rotary Club of Dryden was a lesson on what a smaller community can accomplish with radio bingos and internet auctions. Tour guide and Dryden Rotary Club president took DG Ed to see the Dryden Rotary Park with its skateboard park and soccer field, plaques showing the club’s Platinum level support of both the Dryden Regional Training and Cultural Centre and the Dryden Regional Health Centre, and of a donation of $100,000+ towards the purchase of an MRI at the Dryden Regional Health Centre. DG Ed’s visit to the Cultural Centre (aka Dryden Performing Arts Centre) happened upon a performance by a BC rock group – Mindil Beach Markets - entertaining and educating some students about the ocean-friendly seafood we eat.

Sioux Lookout Meeting

While the Sioux Lookout Rotary Club normally meets at the Legion, unbeknownst to DG Ed, the board meeting location was changed to a board room at the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre and the club was meeting at the restaurant of the Sioux Lookout Golf & Curling Club, where volunteers were needed to prepare the curling rink for the upcoming weekend’s Lobsterfest. A phone call to Club President Gord Hill set things right and board members who had been waiting patiently since 4 PM were no doubt pleased to see DG Ed arrive nearly half an hour later. The turnout for both the board and the club meetings was impressive. Also impressive was DG Ed’s successful effort to be heard by the club members (without a microphone) above the din of the restaurant’s activities, which continued to serve their regular customers (including families with young children) during the meeting – the restaurant’s only concession was to turn off the background music!

Goodwill Weekend in Detroit Lakes

Driving by car to Detroit Lakes from the “campground” in the Dryden area (Rotarian John Borst’s yard), DG Ed arrived in time for the last half hour of the Wine and Beer tasting event organized by the Goodwill Weekend organizers. A hastily arranged reservation at The Fireplace, a restaurant on the shore of Detroit Lake, had at least 14 Goodwill celebrants from District 5550 gather there to dine and watch the sun set gently over the lake. 

Mel-Duncan,-Ann-Fischer-Non-violent-PeaceforceA highlight of the Saturday events included a presentation by Anne Frisch and Mel Duncan on the activities of Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP). This is an organization started in Minnesota and now based in New York, that provides “a proactive presence and protective accompaniment for vulnerable civilians” and “trained civilian peacekeepers work with local groups to foster dialogue among parties in conflict.” A moving story involved mothers in one village, with training and assistance of NP workers, peacefully and successfully retrieving their 26 young sons who had been kidnapped days earlier into a jungle camp for child soldiers. An interesting activity involving everyone in the crowd required groups of 6 people taking on various roles of the combatants in Syria (the President, an internally Elaine & Ed displaced person, a mother whose husband had been killed, a supporter of the President, a militant opposing the current regime and an observer from Canada. After the first round, the roles were all changed and each participant had to express how they felt about the conflict in Syria in their new role. This was to have gone for 6 rounds, but was stopped after 3 roles in the interest of time. The evening’s gala dinner was decorated on a nautical theme, with everyone going home with either a captain’s or a seaman’s hat. Everyone also was given a miniature Peace Pole to take home.

Zones 24 and 32 Rotary Institute


Several days of inspirational speakers took place at the Zones Institute in Cherry Hill, NJ, just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. These included:

  • Keynote speaker Regional Chief Jody Wilson Raybould from We Wai Kai Nation in BC who spoke on "The Promise of Aboriginal Rights: Self-Government, Partnership and Building a Stronger Canada" and then participated on a breakout session titled “Considering a First Nations Project?”
  • Robert Scott, the RI Polio Plus Chair, whose presentation “Pax Polio – a Paradox” addressed the situation of people trying to save the lives of children by eradicating polio are themselves being killed.
  • Guido Schmidt-Traub, Executive Director of Sustainable Development Solutions Network who spoke on “The Promise of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals”. The goal is to eliminate extreme poverty in the world by 2030. The initial goal was to cut in half the amount of extreme poverty in the world by 2015. That goal has apparently already been achieved. The idea is that extreme poverty produces violence, so the elimination of extreme poverty should produce peace.
  • PDG Deepa Willingham who provided insight into “Changing the Face of Poverty – One Village at a Time”
  • Rose Adams, whose moving and inspirational performance titled BREATHE, described her life from neglected infant to foster child to Legal Secretary, Law Clerk, Law Office Manager and now a Family Law and Real Estate lawyer with her own successful law practice in Barrie, Ontario.


In addition to the training sessions and the Institutes keynote speakers, there was much fellowship in the House of Friendship, at the class reunion dinners, during the evening of home hosting, as well as entertainment following some of the evening meals. DG Ed used a free afternoon to take a guided double-decker bus tour of Philadelphia. The entire experience was intense, but not exhausting.

Remaining Club Visits

Over the next three weeks, DG Ed will visit the 8 remaining Rotary clubs in his 48 club district – four Rotary clubs in Winnipeg, as well as the Rotary Clubs in Gimli, Selkirk, Portage la Prairie and Steinbach. He’s “pumped” and looking forward to representing Rotary International at functions in the District between now and when his term ends June 30th, 2014.