Thursday, August 31, 2017

What Does Rotary Mean to You? Former 6990 DG Roy Gonas!

Roy Gonas is a graduate of Indiana State University and Cumberland School of Law of Samford University, with additional studies in London and The Hague Academy of International Law. Roy started the in-state International Law seminar series for The Florida Bar.  He continues to practice, and is an arbitrator in domestic and international cases. And Roy, is receiving invitations each year from European universities to give lectures on International Commercial Arbitration and American Jurisprudence-being a visiting lecturer affords the opportunity to work with fine students and have some become friends. Additionally Roy is a Fulbright Specialist grantee-International Commercial Arbitration. 

RCSM - Roy, who are what brought you to Rotary?

Roy -  When I became active in the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, the president, who was also chairman of the board (now called chairman), Ron Robison, and the executive director (now called president) Col. Tom Chegin, USA ret.), invited me to join them for lunch at the Rotary Club of Coral Gables.  I knew nothing of Rotary.  The two gentlemen (no ladies then in Rotary) encouraged my continuing attendance. My interest grew, probably from seeing my dad as a legislator and jurist and my mother as very active in community service.  RCCG membership came in January 1979 and continued to June 1991.  I was a director in the club.  History took its course.  My classification became and remained International Law.  As far as I know, only Cleve Allen, Jim Barker and I were Chairmen/Presidents of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce (me in 1982-1983) and Rotary District Governors in D6990.  Much was learned from them and CG Mayor Bill Chapman.  (Bill, in early 1980's, expressed his desire to see part of Giralda become a promenade, as it just now has become.  His shared knowledge in municipal affairs became invaluable to me.)  I became a member of the Rotary Club of South Miami in June 1991 and was immediately put on its board as a presidential appointee.  Marty Rosen was my sponsor, mentor, adviser and friend, and still is.  Club presidency was 1995-1996.  In spring 1996 the club informed me it wanted to nominate me for district governor, I accepted and was selected by the district committee that summer.  By the time I served as DG, I had served the previous eleven district governors.  (And to think I joined RCSM to be in a smaller, more intimate club.)

RCSM - What is your favorite Rotary memory?

Roy Telling a favorite memory in Rotary is very difficult. My two sons being let out of school to attend a Rotary luncheon to receive their Paul Harris Fellows is certainly one.  Another is what our (not my!) leadership team with great Rotarians did during 1998-1999 in District 6990.  The district conference set substantial attendance records. It was also a record breaking year for fundraising.  (To say D6990 Rotarians are great is an understatement.) My founding the idea and chairing the committee for the 1991 Rotary district-wide Rotary Foundation dinner with 700 attendees from four counties and GBI comes to mind.  DG Fred Anderson arranged to have the RI president and TRF Chairman speak.  (The event ran on time.)  The size of the event is believed to have been in Rotary the largest of its kind in the United States. In addition to its size, the event was a fundraising base for the year and resulted in setting a new record. Founding the idea in Rotary of a student-led ethics initiative equally comes to mind.  ("Initiative" was the word given by students. because they said its conference should be every year.)  581 students from four counties and nearly 27 schools participated in April 1999.  (After 5 years of its success, and despite the initiative receiving accolades from RI presidents, D6990 terminated its support and any participation, but it remains in the Broward County School System as an annual event.)  The initiative was deemed the first of its kind in the country.  Any of these may be deemed a favorite. Being blessed with so many outstanding, supporting Rotarians, including the best Rotary club one could imagine for support while District Governor-the Rotary Club of South Miami-makes it too hard for me to give priority. But let me conclude #2 with this: My heart keeps going to the students.  My sons know it.  Fifteen or so years interviewing applicants at club and district levels for Rotary scholarships and the student-led ethics initiative bring happy memories.  (Otto Fuentes gave me my first Rotary assignment, and it was interviewing such applicants.  Today, some of those now former Rotary scholars are close friends.)

RCSM - What would you like to see Rotary do going forward?

RoyFor Rotary's future, I would like to see more done respecting and supporting our youth. Rotary does outstanding work feeding people, building for people, providing health services and educating people. Each enhances society. Letting our youth teach themselves and watching and learning from them in the student-led ethics initiative produces wonderful, direct benefits.  It allows reaching children's minds and offering them our respect.  Adult society needs to do more of it.  It still could be a place for Rotary's leadership.  A long-time educator, when talking about the student-led initiative told me "it is the adults who are the problem, not the students".  He is right.  I saw it and still see it.

The meaning of Rotary: the opportunity to serve.

Thank you Roy for your continued exemplary service!

edited by Jeff McNabb

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

What Does Rotary Mean to You? Ellen Book's Story

This month's feature is Ellen Book, a past president of the Rotary Club of South Miami and who has been with the Miami Dade Public Library System for 30 years! Her work both as a South Miami Rotarian and as Miami Dade Public Library Branch Manager continues to serve as a source of inspiration and motivation for everyone she meets!

RCSM, "Who or what brought you to Rotary?"

Ellen, "Past President Joanna Barusch asked me to speak to the club in January of 2000.  The trend was to have Library Branch Managers participate in community organizations.  I went from speaker, to guest, to member, to Secretary to President in five years. Joanna brought me, Rotary kept me."

RCSM, "What is your favorite Rotary memory?"

Ellen, "Not favorite, but most meaningful. 9/11/2001. That traumatic day is burnt into Americans' collective minds, but when I think back to that day our club meeting replaced fear with hope.  We hosted a Group Study Exchange team. Five professionals were visiting from South Africa. Each member gently spoke about the upheaval within their country and its survival. The blood that had been spilled, the injustice that had to be overcome, the tolerance and forgiveness which had to be learned gave a possibility that what was happening on that awful Tuesday might not lead to World War III."

RCSM, "What would you like to see our club do going forward?"

Ellen, "With seventeen years of membership, I've seen so many Rotarians participate in an array of good works.  Each put their own spin on how it should be accomplished. Ed Fischer, a beloved member who devoted decades to our club would impart wisdom nuggets at every meeting.  My favorite, clicks into how Rotarians think. "Whatever you share multiplies, and whatever you withhold, diminishes." Each year there has been fresh insight into where we should focus, yet we always maintain a shared vision to solve problems and impact our community. That continues to be our club's legacy."

Thank you Ellen for your service to our community!

Friday, June 16, 2017

What Does Rotary Mean To You? Felipe Vidal's Story

Felipe Vidal, IT extraordinaire and our club President for the 2017-2018 Rotary Year, shares his thoughts on what Rotary means to him!

Felipe describes himself as a "geek through and through", he comes at everything from a technical perspective, like finding out how the bits and pieces work and is a "Big Sky" thinker. He also describes himself as a person who isn't super social, but sociable. Felipe has been happily married for the past 23 years and is a father to three daughters!

Felipe Vidal is, without a doubt, a man of boundless energy and imagination, the 2017-2018 Rotary year should be an exciting one with him at the helm!

RCSM, "Felipe, who or what brought you to Rotary?"

Felipe, "That's an easy one, it was Asaad Masoud, Sail Boat Captain, I had chartered his boat and we got to talking about computers, one day, after I fixed his computer, Asaad said, 'Come visit me at Rotary!' And he kept inviting me back and back, until I became a member, 6 months later."

RCSM, "What inspired you to join? What kept you coming back and back?"

Felipe, "Rotary's mission, that was the core thing, because there was a reason to BE in Rotary, not just being a part of a club. And, I just found the club to be full of incredibly nice, self effacing people, who were serious, but didn't take themselves too seriously.

And it was basically really the first time I got this sense of belonging somewhere, even though I was the youngest person at the time, and I felt odd, because it was not my norm. But, it got me out of an uncomfortable place of just not socializing as much as I should, with a bunch of people who made me feel at home and that's why I'm here 11 years later."

RCSM, "What is your favorite Rotary memory?"

Felipe, after a pause,"That one is kind of hard...then again..."

RCSM, "Too many memories to choose from?"

Felipe, "It's not just that, I have a kind of relativistic memory which basically means I don't recall things with accuracy. I tend to be prompted, I remember things when other things happen. It's part of the reason I got into photography, it helps me remember.

I don't know, I guess it's more a feeling. I certainly feel like the first time I went out on these homeless ventures, it was memorable because it was an eye opener. I also appreciate learning about the fact of the concept of humanizing people, where that engagement creates an opportunity for people to get out of their situation, but it's mostly a feeling.

It's being in a place where I see people, like Gabriel, ( Gabriel De Armas Jr. a Past President and a moving, inspirational speaker) where I sit here... I had one of the moments right now! I felt like I'm so bloody grateful just to associate with someone like that! This place is like my drug, let's put it that way, I can't name any specific instance where I injected myself with Rotary, but every time I do something with it, I like, 'Wow! showing up was so worthwhile!' Even when it doesn't go great, because I was there, I supported my friends and they supported me, that's just the way I feel about these things. I keep trying to think of something specific, I bet if I flip my photos I would be prompted!"

RCSM, "What would you like to see Rotary do going forward?"

Felipe, "Well for our club at least, I really like to see us get more engaged in our area of service mostly in the city of South Miami. I want us become so well known that all the merchants and the members of the local government will come to us whenever they want to solve a problem in the community. Where they say, 'We're working on this, but Rotary is going to help us make it happen!'

We're a long way from that, but I firmly believe, that's what it's going to make our club valuable in our community. And, it's going to create, then, the ability for us to project elsewhere to other countries because the network we build in conjunction with the officials, merchants and all of that stuff, will create leverage to do bigger things than we can do today. That's what I look forward to in the next three or four years, just to get us to that point and I think that will be a game changer! Want 50 people in this club? That's how it's going to happen!

When those merchants say, 'Who are those Rotary guys? They did this, that and whatever, I should go join them!' We want a nice mix, the common guy, the merchants and the government people really working together, so it's not elitist and, I think that kind of diversity is what really makes us kick butt!"

RCSM, "Thank you Felipe!"

Interview by Jeff McNabb

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Make Your Moments Matter! Gabriel De Armas Jr. on Senior Health Care!

June 6, 2017 - Our speaker for the day, couldn't have come at a better time as our previous speaker had a last minute cancellation! And so, Gabriel De Armas Jr., a club past president and current president of Home Instead Senior Care came to the rescue with what was undoubtedly the best lecture of this Rotary year!

Make Your Moments Matter!

Gabe started out his lecture with a scary statistic! Every 1 in 9 will, at some point, suffer from some form of mental impairment, some form of dementia and potentially, some form of Alzheimers! "We are all very fragile, things happen, we need to make our moments matter! We're only as good as our memories!" Gabe began.

Ways to Help!

Dementia can lead to confusion, then, disorientation and ultimately fear! The elderly can go quiet, withdraw from the world, sometimes sleeping 16-18 hours a day! As a caregiver one technique to use, while helping them to feel like they are more in control, is to present them with options. Never say, "Do this, or do that!"

Flavia Berti, our newest board Director, asked "So, how do you ask them to do things then?"

Gabe, "You give them two choices, A or B, always give them two choices!"

Memories and Music

Gabe continued noting that some memories, especially feelings, are always going to be there, these are just stored in another location, more like in the back of the mind, and, are just a little more difficult to access. However, each mind is wired differently, and it may take other varying kinds of prompts to bring those memories forward. For example, with a sports fan, you might ask them about baseball statistics, suddenly, with just a simple question, a withdrawn person, who may have been quiet and reserved, will light up, recalling astronomical numbers! 

Julia, our exchange student from Hungary working on her Masters in Music, shared her story of her Grandmother and how they were able to connect after considerable time. Gabe followed up noting Julia's remarkable sense of empathy and how she instinctively knew how to relate to her loved one through her own unique approach! 

Dr. Michael Newman observed, “Well, musicians actually have to be empathetic to be good, and Julia must be greatly empathetic because she’s a great musician!” 

There's no doubt, music itself is huge! One sure fire way to connect with a Jazz fan, even if they have lost the ability of speech, is to play a record and watch as they suddenly start moving to the grove and begin to dance!

Connections are still there!

The fact, as Gabe pointed out, some of us may lose a part of our mind as we grow older, but fond memories and feelings have no expiration date! It just takes time, empathy, patience and love, to reconnect, for our elderly loved ones are still with us here and now! We just have to find the intellectual key to unlock this emotional door! That key can be through music or, just the right question sparking the unforgettable!

Thank you Gabe for your continued service to our community! 

by Jeff McNabb

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What Does Rotary Mean to You? Mari Chael's Story

Mari Chael is one of the more vivacious, engaging, personalities in our club! Her energy and enthusiasm for her community is endless and encouraging! She's an extremely versatile architect with designs that run the whole spectrum, from walkable communities, to civic buildings, to monuments, to small cottages, to affordable housing, and the list goes on.

Mari is also a big bike advocate. In fact, she is the founder of Bike SoMi and the current chair of the Green Mobility Network. GMN is a 305 grassroots organization that looks to further enable people to bike and walk safely, ultilizing a "greener" sense of mobility, by moving away from the pollution that comes from constantly driving cars to work. It is truly is a pleasure to see her in her element especially regarding bike advocacy, for she is, without a doubt, the STAR South Miami ambassador for switching from Automobile Mobility to Green Mobility!

One of Mari Chael's restoration projects!

Rotary Club of South Miami ( RCSM ) "Who or what brought you to Rotary?"

Mari, "I've known about Rotary most of my life, my husband was a Rotarian (Victor Doyle)  when our kids were little and so I was brought up in my adulthood with Rotary, seems like forever!

When I became an activist in South Miami, I thought I should join the Rotary Club because all of those people I've known for so many years who were out there doing good deeds for their community. And, by joining Rotary, this was really another means of tapping into a wonderful, positive group of people whose mission is improving our community and our world! So, anyway, my husband was a past President and after going to a Rotary convention, I was convinced that Rotary was like an extended family. And, to just to hear their stories, it's totally, totally inspirational!"

RCSM, "What is your favorite Rotary memory?"

Mari, "Oh? That is a trick question! I love everybody. in particular I love the ladies who selflessly put together the Arts Festival. I have to say, that of all of the Rotarians who are my favorites, I have a soft spot for Wendy (Wendy Lapidus) and Doreen (Doreen Reitnauer)."

RCSM "So, your favorite memory ties into the Arts Festival?"

Mari, "Well yeah! It's our major fundraiser and these ladies work year round to put it together both for our community and our foundation, and that kind of selfless giving, I really much admire!"

RCSM, "What would you like to see Rotary do going forward?"

Mari, "Well, I think the way we're going is good! I love the volunteer programs, I love the direction of editable foods, of helping the underserved in the community, like the homeless,  of boosting our sense of place, really everything we're doing is exactly the right thing!  I would like us to eventually grow organically and also have more participation in our volunteer, community events, and also, I would like to see us eventually reach 100% Rotary participation and I think that's doable! We still have a ways to go, but I don't think that's an unreasonable expectation!"

RCSM, "Thank you Mari!"

Mari, "Thank you! That was fun!"

Interview by Jeff McNabb

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Rotary Lecture: Asha Loring, Food Deserts and Food Insecurity, Privilege, Poverty and Consumption

Our lecture for May 2, 2017 was given by Asha Loring, the Executive Director and Founder of the Health in the Hood project. Asha, began her lecture with the question, "Who knows what a food desert is?" Most didn't raise their hands... 

So, what are Food Deserts?

Asha continued. "I can't take credit for the concept, I actually grew up building vegetable gardens in food deserts, my Dad ( Dr. Marvin Dunn, renowned author and former FIU professor) was the "OG", or original gardener."However,  Asha continued, "Growing your own food, as we can see in history, isn't a novel nor a brand new concept."

Most people don’t know about these "food deserts". And yet, they do exist AND there are those people who are “food insecure”. One way to describe a “food desert “ is to break it down into three basic categories or zones, namely, A, B and C. 

These zones range from the easiest to the most difficult access to healthy food. Unfortunately, a "food insecurity" usually occurs within a “C” zone which means poorer families will have to resort to cheaper and far less healthier alternatives!  These "C" zone food deserts are where we see with these “Mom and “Pop” corner stores, these “glorified” gas stations, where choices like Chef Boryadee and or Beef Jerky, become, due to economic hardship, the only viable substitute to taking the bus to go to the nearest Publix. 

What causes Food Deserts?

The three main reasons these food deserts exist are due to a lack of finances, a lack of transportation and a lack of education. Our President Elect, Felipe Vidal, also added “lack of commercial interest” from the grocery store chains in these kinds of under-developed neighborhoods to that list. Felipe lives in a A to B food desert zone and described most of the food he sees in Publix as “crap”. 

“But, what we’re all about is #fooddesertnomore!” Asha followed up with her own unique hashtag.

Building a better Garden

What Health in the Hood does, is slightly different than Asha’s Dad’s original project, for they build these vibrant vegetable gardens in very specific dilapidated lots. These are those areas most in need and most capable of getting the best “bang for the buck” for that particular urban community! 

They do this by addressing those main concerns which lead to food desert depravity. Such as, this easier access to the food, where, with these urban gardens, the vegetables are right there near their own back door, then, through garden management, they create new jobs helping somewhat with financial stability and ultimately, where they provide a new healthier form of education for parents and kids in how not only to eat healthier, but also how to make this healthier lifestyle sustainable! Health in the Hood truly is a totally inclusive and comprehensive community led approach!

Privilege, Poverty and Consumption

Towards the end of Asha’s lecture, she gave the club this quick play on words. “Take these three words, Privilege, Poverty and Consumption, and try to put them into a sentence and how these thoughts can relate to the food injustice we see in these urban communities.” 

No one from the club was game...

Except... Asha’s mother, Andrea, who was up to the task, “Some people of “Privilege, don’t realize how much “Poverty” affects the “Consumption” of healthy food which causes a nation wide health crisis”. 

"And that, ladies and gentlemen, is an educator!" as Asha proudly beamed about her mother!

Frankly, Asha's mother, in that impromptu sentence, summed up the whole issue of food injustice and why projects such as Health in the Hood play such a vital role in rebuilding urban communities! For it will be through innovators like Asha, that perhaps, one day, #fooddesertsnomore will become a reality and not just a fancy hashtag! 

Thank you Asha Loring and thank you Health in the Hood!

by Jeff McNabb 

Monday, April 10, 2017

What Does Rotary Mean to You? Mike Sutta's Rotary Story

Mike Sutta, is our past president for the 2015-2016 Rotary year, and he was given the Paul Harris Award by the club on February 14, 2017. Mike's commitment to community service, and to his family, is truly inspiring! Mike, who is the life of any party and takes the most entertaining selfies, is, also without a doubt, a perennial candidate for Rotarian of the Year!

This former mechanic with Brahman Honda, who moved on to work with PageNet Beeper, and then a staffing company, where he found jobs for people, (which, Mike described as very rewarding), eventually got involved, through a friend, with Merchant Services (credit card processing). Mike did very well in this industry until 2006 when he had to start over shortly after the Great Recession.

Now through SuperSwipe, Mike not only helps restaurants with their credit card processing, but also partners with non-profit organizations, such as RU Charitable whose goal is with helping other charitable organizations!

"I found out in life, at the end of the month, it really doesn't matter the size of your check, what matters, is what you have done to give back. " - Mike Sutta

RCSM, "What or who brought you to Rotary?"

Mike Sutta, "John Sorgie, who was involved in another networking group with me, (Profit Inc) invited me to this other group ( Rotary Club of South Miami), and treated me to lunch at Carrabbas. I didn't talk to many people that day, I did enjoy the speaker and the people there. I decided to come back a couple more weeks and then joined right away as the Arts Festival was coming up. "

RCSM, "Tell us about John Sorgie."

Mike, "John Sorgie was one of our past presidents, who was involved with the Christmas Parade in downtown South Miami, and he was the owner of Sunset Quick Print for many years, he passed away recently.

Because of John, and the people who were involved with the club then, is why I'm here now. This opportunity to get involved with the community, to get my hands dirty, especially with the Arts Festival, and really start to understand what this group is all about, and just to learn the meaning behind what we say at the end of each meeting, this four way test. That is what got me to come back again and again."

RCSM, "What's your favorite Rotary memory?"

Mike, "My favorite Rotary memory. In my first year in Rotary, I would always get to meetings early, because I wanted to meet and get to know the people of the club, especially those who have been with the club for awhile.

New Facebook Friends

One of those meetings I met Marcos, who was from Brazil who visited our club before his trip to Chicago. Marcos found our club through an online search, sat next to me, we traded business cards and I never saw him again after that meeting, but, we became Facebook friends. Through the next year and a half, we kept in touch texting about Rotary through Facebook. And, during my club presidency, I went to Brazil for the convention, and so, I contacted Marcos, through Facebook saying, "Hey, let's meet up!"


This convention was HUGE, talking about over 5,000 people, HUGE you could see it, especially when I checked the convention stage where, from this big screen monitor, you could see rows and rows of people, and I was basically in the last aisle. I had jumped over a pair of seats to work my way in to an open seat, and as soon as I sat down, guess who turns around, Marcos! It was like a reunion of old friends! This was the biggest Rotary connection I had ever made, and we really only met once! With Marcos, I was more comfortable, I felt un-scared, texting and emailing about the fundamentals and advice about Rotary, more so, than reaching out to someone here locally.

Rotary Camaraderie

And then, after we met in Brazil, Marcos took me everywhere, he introduced me to everyone in the convention, and I ended up delaying my flight back home by a day so I could go to a Rotary meeting in Brazil. When I went to one of their Rotary meetings, it was different than our lunch because they would drink before the meeting, and this was at a Brazilian Steakhouse with all you can eat steak! So... I had about 5 or 6 Scotches in hand before I even went to sit down because everyone bought me drinks! It was just this close camaraderie that impressed me and I also met the incoming president and we're still Facebook friends today. Although, the camaraderie we have here, is just exceptional!"

RCSM, "What would you like to see Rotary do going forward?"

Mike, "I would like to see the local professionals, who are my age and younger, contribute back to the community, in Rotary's whole theme. It's not hard, it's just time consuming. And, once you learn how to structure your schedule to allow Rotary into your life, then you dedicate that part of your time.

That's how I want to see our club develop, engaging our members with their talents and abilities because everyone comes to the table with something! Just being able to tap into those things they do naturally, they might go, and realize, 'Oh that wasn't too hard!' "

Thanks again for your service, your leadership and your Rotary enthusiasm Mike!

Interview by Jeff McNabb