President’s Message
July 2020

Dear Rotarians, Rotaractors, and friends,
This does not seem like a time for great optimism, but it has to be. Long before Rotary was founded, the world dealt with great crises that tested humankind’s ability to progress and endure. In the age of Rotary, the world has faced many more catastrophes; however, we have survived, and every step of the way, Rotary has helped the world heal.

Every great challenge is an opportunity for renewal and growth. I revealed the theme of Rotary Opens Opportunities at the International Assembly in San Diego just as the COVID-19 crisis was beginning, but these are words that I have believed for many years.

Rotary is not just a club that you join; it is an invitation to endless opportunities. We believe in creating opportunities for others and for ourselves. We believe that our acts of service, large and small, generate opportunities for people who need our help, and that Rotary opens opportunities for us to live a richer, more meaningful life, with friends around the world, based on our core values.

Governments and institutions are gaining a greater appreciation for the types of public health partnerships that are critical to our work. People stuck at home, eager for greater connections and hungry to help their communities, are now embracing the values we have promoted since our beginning.

All of this is positive news, but just because there are greater opportunities than ever for Rotary to thrive does not guarantee that we will succeed. The world is changing rapidly — and was doing so even before this crisis. People were starting to move away from regular lunch meetings and toward online gatherings. Friendships were being cultivated and revived in social media relationships even before most of our meetings moved to Zoom and Skype. Younger generations have a strong desire to serve — but have questioned whether they could play a meaningful role in organizations like Rotary or whether they might make a bigger impact forming different types of connections. Now is the time to put everything on the table, test new approaches, and prepare Rotary for the future.

The COVID-19 crisis has forced all of us to adapt. This is good, and our new Action Plan specifically calls on us to improve our ability to adapt. But adaptation is not enough. We need to change, and change dramatically, if we are to face the challenges of this new age and provide the Rotary that the world so desperately needs.

This is our great challenge, not just in the next year but into the future. It is up to us to remake Rotary for these new times — to wholeheartedly embrace the ideas, energy, and commitment of young people eager to find an outlet for idealism. We must become an organization fully enmeshed in the digital age, not one that simply looks for online ways to keep doing what we have always done.

Holger Knccak 

President, Rotary International 

Message from 2019-20 Rotary Club of North Port Central President


Craig Olson
President 2019-20
July 2019


Thank you. Before I get started, I don’t do this enough so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my wife of 32 years for her love and support and for being by my side through thick and thin. Thank you.

I would also like to thank our guests who are here with us tonight, so thank you, Rich and Nancy, Darryl, Alfred, and Karen, & Brett.

I would also like to thank many of you. Louis, this was not an easy year for you personally dealing with the loss of your mother and settling her estate. Thank you for your leadership of this club.

Maria, thank you for your continued role in this club as our treasurer and for your work in getting us compliant with the IRS as a 50l c 3 nonprofit group. That will pay big dividends in our fundraising future.

Helen, thank you for your leadership role as our secretary. I greatly appreciate the time and effort you put in on behalf of the club.

Jerry, you have simply done an amazing job as program chair, and on behalf of the club, we all thank you.

John, thank you for your continued role in chairing our Dictionary Project and your service on the Board.

Nils, thank you for your role as foundation chair and for your service on the Board. Thank you for your continuing efforts to promote membership in this club as well.

Paul, thank you for your leadership role on the Board and for your continued volunteerism.

Dean, I thank you for your friendship and mentorship and for your tireless work on behalf of this club as a board director and your work on Casino Night. I cannot forget the image of Dean running around the hall during Casino Night trying to sell 50/50 tickets.

During this past year, as I attended the various president-elect trainings, I was asked to identify and outline 3-4 goals for our club next year. So please allow me to briefly go through those with you.

First and foremost, our number one goal is membership. That is also the number one goal for Rotary International this year. To paraphrase John Hewko our past General Secretary of Rotary International, “Our organizational priority is and must be membership…without new members, there would be no Rotary. If we can achieve so much with the clubs and members we currently have, think of what we could do if we had more?”

North Port is the largest city in Sarasota County. It is the fastest-growing city in the state. We currently have 16 members of this club, with approximately 12 who attend our meetings regularly. It is my goal to realistically add 6 new members this year and, idealistically, double our club membership.

When people ask you ‘What is Rotary?’, how do you respond? We should be responding “We are a leadership organization, made up of local business, professional and civic leaders, who meet regularly, get to know each other, form friendships, and through that, we are able to get things done in the community.”

Based on research, approximately 36% of new members join Rotary because they feel the local club makes a local impact. 30% of new members join for the friendship and camaraderie. When asked why Rotarians stay involved with the local clubs, over 38% stay because of the friendship and 36% stay because of the local impact. Those 2 reasons are by far and away the reasons why folks join and stay. I believe we are a friendly group to have lunch with once a week, so I want us to focus on making more of a local impact as I believe that will help us obtain and retain more members. In order to make more of an impact locally, we need to do more fundraising events or larger events, which brings me to goal #2.

Fundraising. This past year we had another successful Casino Night. We made a little money on the Concert in the Park but learned some lessons which should enable us to pursue this in the future. But I would like to add several more events and schedule them throughout the year. Thanks to Paul, we will be participating in the Freedom Festival on July 4th at the Braves Stadium. Thanks to Jerry, we will be hosting our first of what I hope will be an annual Car Show. I don’t know if we are big enough to do large events like a golf tournament, but I would like to explore working with another club in co-hosting large events. If you have an idea, please let me know. I would like us to be in a position of offering $3-$4-$5 thousand dollar scholarships to graduating North Port seniors or offering $5 00-$1000 grants to other community non-profit groups who need our support.

Our third goal will be to increase our club presence in the community. Beyond fundraising, I would like us visible in this community. I would like to look at doing at least 2 community service projects, like volunteering at Habitat for Humanity or assisting at various food banks. I would like to have the community see us at work in this community.

In order to do that, we need to focus efforts on publicity and increasing media exposure. Jerry has done a great job with updating content on our website, but I am looking for someone to send out press releases and contact the newspaper, taking and sending photos from our guest speakers, our fundraisers and our community service projects.

What I need from each of you is one thing: your positive and enthusiastic participation. I need you to embrace the goals and work with me in making these goals a reality.

Rotary is a lot of things to a lot of people, locally, nationally, and internationally. One of those things is generous. There are 2 parts to generosity: the compassion that fuels a desire to make a difference, and the commitment that turns that compassion into action. Rotary takes action. We act on the idea of supporting the community that supports us.

I look forward to our journey.

Message From Maria Kalapati, Rotary Club of North Port Central Treasurer

mariaBe a Gift to the World –   This is Rotary International President K.R. Ravindran’s theme for this coming Rotary year. He is a member of the Rotary Club of Colombo, Western Province in Sri Lanka and his message is simple. “All of you- have been given so many gifts. And you have now been given this great gift: one year to take all your talents, all your gifts, everything that you are and can become – and Be a Gift to the World.

In a world consumed with self-centeredness and self-gratification, we, Rotarians stand out as a special breed of people. We joined Rotary because we wanted to take the focus off of ourselves and do some volunteering work at the local, district and international levels in a true dedication of our motto of SERVICE ABOVE SELF. As Rotarians, our club has contributed thousands of dollars towards service projects with funds raised through fundraiser events, and through the efforts and contributions of each and every one of you.

SERVICE ABOVE SELF – That is what Rotary is all about – A vision to see; the faith to believe and the courage to act. It is your spiritual salary here on earth – one that impacts our working colleagues, family, and friends- who see the difference we are making and are going to make in the community and in the world. We will bring hope this year to a hurting world – the hope that throughout this year, YOU will be giving to the many who will come in contact with you.

For Rotary to thrive, members must face current and future challenges and opportunities with “passion, enthusiasm, perseverance, and above all, integrity.”

I envision that this year our Club will boldly and creatively engage the success of polio eradication, membership, and identity issues, strengthening our club with RLI training and introduce a Rotary Minute at the luncheon meetings We will work with youth (through Interact) – our future lifeblood, and a signature fundraiser event to fund community, district and international projects.

We currently have several community projects that we will continue to fund. One of them is the Dictionary Project.

The object of the Rotary Dictionary Project is to give every student a personal dictionary of their very own that will serve them at least through elementary and middle school.

Many teachers see this as a key to better reading, speech, and writing.  These skills will improve student performance in other subjects as well.

Receiving the dictionaries from Rotary members is beneficial to students as well.  The young people meet successful adults in their community who care enough about them to purchase these dictionaries and come to their school to present them personally.

The brief explanation of Rotary service in the community and around the world gives students a lasting positive impression of Rotary and the ideal of service.

What I would like to add is the following projects:


The introduction of the Josh the Otter project to the PreK, K and grade 1 students encompasses water safety for the very young children. Tragically a large number of small children (10 deaths per day) drown each year in the safety of their own backyards. This can be prevented through awareness and action and Josh the Otter is a great first step in building awareness for children and parents alike. This project was undertaken during my first-time presidency and it was very successful, and with the members help, we can do it again. We wish to do this project in the April timeframe under the theme month of Maternal and Child Health.

HOMELESS COALITION: We will plan to work with the Homeless Coalition by providing a meal and serving it to the homeless. The set date for this year is September 29th so note your calendars for that afternoon. What better way to teach our children, family, and friends about Service Above Self.

This is what we have for local projects so far and I am sure that we will ensure that we will also provide scholarships as in the past to a deserving High School Graduate and any other local need that you as members should bring to the Board of Directors’ attention.

The 2018-2019 Rotary year offers a tremendous opportunity for Rotary International and the Foundation partnership unified and thriving through global grants, on all levels, via the six areas of focus: PROMOTING PEACE, FIGHTING DISEASE, PROVIDING CLEAN WATER, SAVING MOTHERS AND CHILDREN, SUPPORTING EDUCATION, GROWING LOCAL ECONOMIES. As a Club, we would try to give towards at least one of these areas of focus partnering with perhaps other Rotary clubs on the international level. So, let’s summarize these areas of focus. Think about this as a club and bring your ideas to the Board.

Promoting peace

Today, 42 million people are displaced by armed conflict or persecution. Through our partnerships with several leading universities, Rotary Peace Fellows develop the skills to strengthen peace efforts, train local leaders to prevent and mediate conflict, and support long-term peacebuilding in areas affected by conflict. We provide up to 100 peace fellowships per year at Rotary Peace Centers.

Learn how Rotary projects address the structural causes of conflict

Fighting disease

More than 100 million people are pushed into poverty each year because of medical costs. We aim to improve and expand access to low-cost and free health care in underdeveloped areas. Our members educate and mobilize communities to help prevent the spread of major diseases such as polio, HIV/AIDS, and malaria. Many of our projects ensure that medical training facilities are located where the workforce lives.

See how Rotary projects provide low-cost healthcare

Providing clean water

More than 2.5 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation facilities. At least 3,000 children die each day from diarrheal diseases caused by unsafe water. Our projects give communities the ability to develop and maintain sustainable water and sanitation systems and support studies related to water and sanitation.

See how Rotary is building sustainable clean water and sanitation facilities

Saving mothers and children

At least 7 million children under the age of five die each year due to malnutrition, poor health care, and inadequate sanitation. To help reduce this rate, we provide immunizations and antibiotics to babies, improve access to essential medical services, and support trained health care providers for mothers and their children. Our projects ensure sustainability by empowering the local community to take ownership of healthcare training programs.

Watch how Rotary helps bring health care to mothers and newborns in rural Haiti

Supporting education

Sixty-seven million children worldwide have no access to education and more than 775 million people over the age of 15 are illiterate. Our goal is to strengthen the capacity of communities to support basic education and literacy, reduce gender disparity in education, and increase adult literacy.

Watch how a Rotary grant helps bring tablet technology to students in Fiji

Growing local economies

Nearly 1.4 billion employed people live on less than $1.25 a day. We carry out service projects that enhance economic and community development and develop opportunities for decent and productive work for young and old. We also help strengthen local entrepreneurs and community leaders, particularly women, in impoverished communities.


No one should ever have to ask, “What is Rotary?”

We will enhance Rotary’s public image by successfully and enthusiastically marketing who we are, what amazing things we are doing, and incredibly, have done locally and globally.

With the global economy still unpredictable, Rotary must make participation affordable and “also be unfailingly diligent in efforts to ensure we spend every dollar effectively and efficiently.

Rotary will adapt to a rapidly changing world by embracing innovation within the guidelines of our tradition and values. By aggressively embracing new technologies, social media, and new opportunities, individuals and businesses will see that Rotary helps promote a good civic and public image while adding credibility to their people.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST…we will have fun working together – it won’t be all work and no play. Plans to have activities inviting perhaps other Rotary groups to have dinners (for example the Mystery Train in Fort Myers) or other ways we can create fellowship amongst ourselves will be an integral part of our year.

I am excited about this year and look forward to a successful fulfillment of all the anticipated projects – but it can only happen with everyone’s participation.

In closing, I would like to pass on a quote that I have had in my office for many years by Ralph Waldo Emerson – a 19th-century American poet, lecturer and essayist that reads…

“DO NOT FOLLOW WHERE THE PATH MAY LEAD…GO INSTEAD WHERE THERE IS NO PATH AND LEAVE A TRAIL.” This is my wish for each and every one of you – To be a Gift to the World.

Now, I would like you to please turn to the back of your program …….and say this phrase out loud with conviction


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