Hello Rotarians!  I hope you are having (or had) a terrific Easter Break and that you found the time to spend the holiday with family and friends.  Tiffany and I stayed in Brookings with her family and had a relaxing long weekend.  This month, we have excellent programs scheduled.  I’m very excited.  I’d like to highlight our April programs. 
On April 2, one of our own, Dan Nelson, will bring us up to date on work in the State's Attorney's office. Then on April 9th, we will be meeting at Lincoln Hall on the SDSU campus.  Lincoln Hall was recently renovated and SDSU would like to show it off!  Lunch will be catered by SDSU (available to all who attend, regardless of whether you have a meal plan with our Rotary Club) and then we will tour the newly renovated building.  More details about parking will be disseminated at our April 2nd meeting. 
Next, on April 16th, Senator Tim Reed will visit our club to provide us with an update on bills being debated in the SD Legislature.  It’s a blessing that State Senators, University leaders in higher education, and others in leadership roles value speaking to our Rotary Club.  They visit time and time again because of YOU and how engaged you are with our speakers.  Thank you so much for your presence and excellent questions for our speakers. 
The tradition of Thirsty Thursday is still going strong.  On April 4th, we will meet at Wooden Legs Brewing Company with donations going to the Brookings Regional Humane Society.  Hundreds of animals are adopted each year from our humane society and they need our support.  Let’s come together and donate for this worthy cause! 
Then on May 11th the Brookings Rotary Club will be volunteering for the Brookings Marathon.  Craig Johnson and Van Fishback (regular volunteers at this event) tell me this service by our Rotary Club to the marathon has been going on for more than 25 years and probably longer.  We will need volunteers so make sure to add this to your calendar. 
I will end by thanking a few Rotarians for their hard work these past few months.  First, we are blessed to have Jim Gilkerson and Dave Odens helping with setting up and tearing down our meeting space each week and ensuring that lunch arrives.  Jim also is our contact person for the Brookings Marathon.  If you see them around, please thank them.  Gregg Jongeling will be taking over again this Spring with these tasks.  Gregg is our unsung Rotary “hero”; in addition, he serves on the Board and prepares the COG you’re reading right now.  Finally, Chad Vilhauer continues to make sure our financials are in good shape each month despite what must be a crushing workload this time of year during tax season.
I thank people very often in Rotary because, of course, no one needs to do anything for us.  Rotary is a volunteer organization.  The people I mentioned above are giving their time and talents without any expectation of a reward.  They embody the true spirit of Rotary.  Would you like to get more involved in Rotary?  Please let me know!  What we do can’t happen without the engagement of all of our members. 
Michael Gonda
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE APRIL 2024 2024-04-01 05:00:00Z 0


Ducks Unlimited Manager of Agronomy Brian Chatham spoke to the Brookings Rotary Club today, discussing the vital role of wetlands in preserving soil health and the ecosystem. Thanks, Brian, for a very interesting program!


Seventeen Rotarians and guests gathered at Skinner's Pub for the March Thirsty Thursday, netting $215 for Sleep in Heavenly Peace while having a great time with fellowship and friendship. Couldn't make it this month? See you in April! Watch for details...


Strength and Conditioning Coach Nate Moe was a great speaker for the Brookings Rotary Club today, emphasizing the benefits of fitness for persons of all ages and abilities. Indeed, Nate, for reminding us that "Strength Training is for Everyone!" Thanks for a great program.


Like all of you, when I first joined Rotary I started receiving the monthly issue of the Rotary magazine.  The Rotary magazine does a great job at disseminating service projects happening at the club, district, national and international level.  In the March issue, I learned about technology that can map polio outbreaks, a club in Washington that converts wine barrels to planters that attract pollinators (i.e., bees), how a Rotary club in Hungary stepped up to take over a summer camp for children with Down syndrome and other cognitive disorders, and "Harvest Against Hunger", which collects leftover farm produce in the fields after harvest for families in need of food.  I even read about a Rotary Club in South Korea that volunteers at a local animal shelter for large dogs.  Large dogs are difficult to place in homes in South Korea because many people don't have enough space for the dogs.  Not to sound trite, but these stories are truly inspirational.
As I read the magazine articles, my mind turned to opportunities and challenges we have in the Brookings Rotary Club.  First, I am excited that we are reinstating the Rotary magazine minute on a monthly basis.  This magazine review will hopefully inspire you to pick up your copy of the Rotary magazine and read it!  Second, these magazine issues are full of terrific ideas for service projects.  One challenge we face in our club is identifying ideas for service projects, specifically projects that will attract younger people to Rotary.  I think about how many of our youth love pets.  Are there projects that we could undertake with the Brookings Humane Society or Animal Shelter?  Many Rotarians are currently or formerly involved in agriculture or engineering.  Are there projects we could work on that could benefit local farmers and producers, while also helping alleviate food insecurity?
I believe we must constantly be thinking of new ideas to serve Brookings.  If we fall into a rut with the same service projects we've been focused on for many years, we risk growing stale.  As my work schedule slows down this month, I'll be thinking about ways in which we can "think outside the box" with service projects and other activities that fit within our strategic plan.  I invite you to "think outside the box" as well.  If you have ideas, please share them with one of our dedicated Board members or myself.
Yours in Rotary,
Michael Gonda
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE MARCH 2024 2024-03-04 06:00:00Z 0


Thanks to Brookings Rotarian Dr. Larry Janssen for providing us today with an update on the February 2024 Rotary Magazine. What a diverse assortment of articles! Have you read your Rotary Magazine lately? As Harry Truman said, "Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers." Great job, Larry.


Dr. Kasiviswanathan Muthukumarappan (Dr. Muthu), Klingbeil Endowed Department Head for the SDSU Department of Agricultural & Biosystems Engineering, addressed the Brookings Rotary Club today, describing the tremendous achievements of both students and faculty within the award-winning department. Focusing on the land grant institution's tenets of teaching, research and extension, the department seeks to impact the future of agriculture through engineering, precision and technology. Thank you, Dr. Muthu, for an excellent program! Club President Dr. Michael Gonda presented our speaker with a thank you gift.


The Brookings Rotary Club is grateful to the Boys and Girls Club of Brookings for hosting our meeting last week, since the Activity Center was closed for renovation! Not only did we hear a great program about an exciting new collaborative childcare effort between the B&GC, the Brookings School District and the City of Brookings, we received a personal tour of the B&GC facility. Jody Hernandez, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of the Northern Plains, presented the details of the childcare collaborative plan, which will involve innovative use of school buildings and the B&GC of Brookings to increase childcare capability. Implementation of the plan is scheduled to begin in Fall 2024 and is a multi-year plan. Special guest of Brookings Rotarian and Assistant Governor Don Norton was Past 5610 District Governor Loren Boyens (Rotary Club of Sioux Falls West), who serves on the Board of Directors for the neighboring Boys & Girls Club of the Sioux Empire.
Pictured from left, Jody Hernandez, Loren Boyens, Don Norton.

Lohr College of Engineering Dean Presents Wonderful Program

Dr. Sanjeev Kumar, Dean of the Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering at SDSU, presented a fascinating program to the Brookings Rotary Club on February 13. An excellent speaker and teacher, Dr. Kumar discussed the six departments in the College, where they are "training students for jobs that do not yet exist, to use technology not yet invented, and solve problems we don't know exist." He discussed the impact of Jerry Lohr, who graduated with a degree in engineering from SDSU in 1958 and has been a transformational donor. Thank you, Dr. Kumar, for a wonderful program about the power and influence of critical thinking!
Lohr College of Engineering Dean Presents Wonderful Program 2024-02-26 06:00:00Z 0


The Brookings Rotary Club is pleased to welcome new member John Folkerts, inducted into the Club on February 6 by President Dr. Michael Gonda. John and his wife, Vicki, who is a librarian at Mickelson Middle School, own "The Bug Guy," a commercial and residential pest control company. Last year they also purchased a travel agency franchise, "Dream Vacations", and in addition John owns and operates a small business bookkeeping and consulting firm. The Folkerts have lived in Brookings for 38 years. "I wanted to become more active in the Brookings community and connect with other leaders through a service organization where I could both learn and provide services to the community," said Folkerts. "I look forward to working with other club members on making a positive impact locally as well as globally." Welcome, John!


Our best programs sometimes come from our own members! Today Rotarian Col. Steve Sewell spoke on his involvement as a volunteer with "Ski For Light," an annual event that gives persons who are visually impaired or have other physical limitations the opportunity to experience the slopes. Steve became involved in 2010, after returning in 2009 from deployment to Afghanistan and taking up skiing as a hobby. Ski For Light has been serving its participants since 1978, and offers assisted downhill and cross-country skiing as well as snowshoeing and snowmobiling in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This year about 125 persons participated, with about 175 volunteers serving in various capacities. Thanks for your service and continued volunteerism, Steve (who is our Club's President Nominee!), and for a great program.
Below, Steve demonstrates to Club President Dr. Michael Gonda some of the equipment used in Ski For Light.


An energetic group of Brookings Rotarians spent time at the United Way center this week packing food items for the Brookings Packpack Project. The backpacks are sent home Fridays with area school children who are at risk of weekend food insecurity. The Brookings Backpack Project assists hungry youth in Brookings, Volga and Elkton with easy to prepare weekend meals and snacks all year round. By helping to sustain these children, BBP seeks not only to help meet their nutritional needs but also to promote their physical, cognitive and social development and to enhance their overall sense of well-being. Thank you for the opportunity to be of service!


Rotarians and guests gathered at Mosaic Wine Bar and Small Plates for the monthly Thirsty Thursday. Fun conversation, great beverages, and a pass-around collection for The Helpline Center. Thanks for setting up our monthly gatherings, Steve Sewell!


Dear Rotarians,
I hope that 2024 has started off well for you!  Right about now is when I’m told most people drop their New Year’s Resolutions.  I must confess that I didn’t make any resolutions this year.  Don’t worry, however: my family and friends gave me plenty of resolutions I should focus on!!  (Joking…hopefully)  Even though it’s February, I decided to adopt a resolution for Rotary.  That resolution is to finish what we started with the strategic plan that was written last summer.  I still see two goals we need to accomplish.  First, we need to advertise for corporate membership.  We spent much time changing our by-laws to allow corporate members and creating advertising materials.  It’s now time to hit the road!  Second, we need to identify several service project themes we want to pursue on an annual basis.  I think we’ve got one theme in place: mental health awareness.  I’ll be working with the Service Committee to develop more themes.  We will build service projects, fundraisers, and guest speakers around the themes we choose.
As the weather turns colder, I often think about travel.  As most of you know, I grew up in Florida and am not a fan of winter weather!  I want to remind you of the amazing travel opportunities that are available through Rotary.  I haven’t heard of a single Rotarian who has regretted traveling with Rotary.  Steve, Ginger, and Larry traveled to Denmark, Sweden, and Australia for Friendship Exchanges.  Gregg traveled to Tanzania to support Lidia, the student we sponsor at the School of St. Jude.  Erich traveled to Romania to support Hope Haven.  Finally, many Rotarians over the years (including myself) have traveled to District and International Conventions.  Tiffany and I plan to travel to Singapore for the Rotary International Convention in May.  Traveling with Rotary allows us to meet real people across the globe, serve others, and learn more about ourselves.  Please consider taking advantage of one of the many opportunities available to travel with Rotary.
Yours in Rotary,
Michael Gonda
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE FEBRUARY 2024 2024-01-30 06:00:00Z 0

District Rotarians Discuss Hope Haven Project in Romania

The Brookings Rotary Club enjoyed a very special program on January 16 that truly exemplified "Service Above Self." Rotarians Steve Sikorski (Sioux Falls Downtown), Mark Siemonsma (Sioux Falls West), and Brookings Club Past President Erich Olson gave a presentation on the 2023 Hope Haven mission trip to Romania. Thank you for your service, Rotarians, and for a wonderful reminder of Rotary's local reach and global outreach!
District Rotarians Discuss Hope Haven Project in Romania 2024-01-18 06:00:00Z 0


Today Brookings Rotarians and guests learned about proposed development in the city when representatives of Brookings City Government presented the program on The Marketplace project. Pictured from left are Councilor Wayne Avery, Mayor Ope Niemeyer, City Manager Paul Briseno, and Councilor and Deputy Mayor Nick Wendell.


The Brookings Rotary Club welcomed as today’s guest speaker Caleb Thielbar, pitcher for the Minnesota Twins. Caleb, a resident of Brookings and an SDSU grad, discussed his baseball career and the many opportunities he’s had as a professional athlete. Thanks for a great presentation, Caleb!


Brookings Club President Michael Gonda, left, presents a check to Feeding Brookings coordinators Bill Alsace and Jean Josephson for $1,568.16, while Rotarians who helped distribute boxes of food are in the background.
            A $250 grant from Rotary District 5610 turned into more than $1,500 worth of food for Brookings area families this holiday season.
            The grants were offered to clubs throughout the district specifically to address food insecurity efforts in local communities. The Brookings Rotary Club decided to apply, offering to match the grant amount from the club’s own budget, with proceeds benefiting Feeding Brookings at Ascension Lutheran Church. So when President Michael Gonda was informed his club was awarded $250, the amount available for Feeding Brookings was now at $500 with the club match.
            But the project was just picking up steam. Members of Alpha Zeta Honors Fraternity in the Animal Sciences Department at SDSU, where Gonda is a professor, hosted a bake sale on November 29, with donated goodies from Rotarians and the students themselves. That project netted another $348.16. The project was now resembling a “stone soup” story, now up to $848.16.
            Special collections were held during regular club meetings in November and Rotarians were generous, adding another $550, and to cap it off, the proceeds from the monthly “Thirsty Thursday” social event hosted by the Brookings Rotary Club garnered another $170. What began as a $250 grant had grown to $1,568.16.
            Local Rotarians wanted to do even more, so on December 14, ten Rotarians worked with other volunteers at Ascension Lutheran, packing up the boxes of food and distributing them to families needing assistance. It is estimated by Feeding Brookings volunteers that 157 local families were helped that week by the Rotary contributions.
            “This was a real community effort,” said President Gonda, who presented the check to Feedings Brookings coordinators. “We were able to take a grant from our District and increase the amount more than six-fold. Through the creativity, generosity and ‘Service Above Self’ of our members as well as a group of community-minded college students, more than 150 local families received a welcomed addition to their pantries.”
Brookings Rotarians stopped by to thank members of Alpha Zeta Fraternity for hosting a bake sale to help benefit the Club’s project to benefit Feeding Brookings. Pictured from left are Rotary Assistant District Governor Don Norton, students Hannah Flogstad and Tessa Erdmann, Brookings Club President Dr. Michael Gonda, and student Greta Adolf. The bake sale in the SDSU Animal Science Department netted $348.16.
Rotarians and guests at the December “Thirsty Thursday” social, this month held at Pints & Quarts, netted $170 to the project benefiting Feeding Brookings.
Rotarians Devon Schaefer, Deb DeBates, Don Norton and Larry Janssen were four of the “hands-on” volunteers helping Feeding Brookings pack up and distribute boxes of food on Dec. 14. Other volunteers that day were Leah Brink, Marcia Janssen, Kay Norton, Jim Klinker and Jen Olson.


Happy Holidays Rotarians!  I hope that each and every one of you has a wonderful holiday and has the opportunity to spend some quality time with family and friends.  Tiffany and I will spend Christmas with her parents (and fellow Rotarians) Larry and Marcia Janssen and afterwards we will fly to Orlando, Florida to spend a week with my parents.  Spending time with family is one of the real blessings of the holiday season for us.  It will also be nice to get away from the colder temperatures expected towards the end of the year!  It’s always good to have family who live in warmer climates.
One year ago, when writing his President’s Message for December, President Erich was celebrating the success of the Ukraine fundraiser.  I have been a member of the Brookings Rotary Club for about a decade and to me, that fundraiser was one of the most impressive service activities we have ever pulled off as a club.  It’s nice to know our club played a part in helping Ukrainians in need.  President Erich also noted that we had several challenges we needed to address.  First and foremost was a drop in membership.  This December, I am proud to report that membership in our club has turned the corner!  We’ve added several new members and will continue to recruit future Rotarians thanks to the leadership of President Elect Jen and Past President Don.  The second challenge we needed to address was resurrection of the Rotary Youth Exchange and “student of the month”.  Although “student of the month” continues to be a challenge, District 5610 leadership has done excellent work with revamping the Rotary Youth Exchange and Toby Uecker has agreed to coordinate this effort for our club again.
We have continued doing great work in the community.  Our Feeding Brookings fundraiser has been an unmitigated success.  The bake sale at SDSU raised almost $350 for Feeding Brookings and Mary Kidwiler emptied our pocketbooks to the tune of $550 at the end of November!  (Thanks Mary!)  Along with the District grant and club match, we raised close to $1,500 for Feeding Brookings ($1,398 to be exact)!!  Let’s round this donation to $1,500 at this month’s Thirsty Thursday at Pints & Quarts!  These dollars will be a welcome gift to people in need this holiday season. 
We have an excellent program lined up for December by Dr. David Reynolds.  I want to highlight a special guest speaker who will come to Rotary on December 19th.  Caleb Thielbar, a pitcher for the Minnesota Twins, will be our guest speaker.  It’s not every day that a professional athlete drops by the Brookings Rotary Club.  Please invite your friends who are Twins fans to join us.  Then, invite them to become a member!  Thanks everyone for your support of Rotary.  As always, if you haven’t been coming recently, you are always welcome to return!!  We would love to see you again.
Yours in Rotary,
President Michael
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE DECEMBER 2023 2024-01-02 06:00:00Z 0


I hope that everyone had a relaxing holiday!  Many of us were fortunate to spend the holiday with family and friends.  I spent the holiday in Brookings with my wife Tiffany, in-laws and fellow Rotarians Larry and Marcia Janssen, and brother-in-law Matthew Janssen.  We should remember, however, that many professions don’t have the luxury of time off during the holidays.  Thanks to all of our police officers, firefighters, paramedics, corrections officers, doctors, and nurses who needed to work on Christmas and Christmas Eve.  Also, I would like to send a big thank you to the snow removal crews in Brookings for working over the holiday.  I’m sure they will have more work to do in the coming months!
We have an exciting program for the month of January lined up by Erich Olson and Devan Schaefer.  Immediately after the start of the new year, Paul Briseno will speak to our club.  Mr. Briseno is the City Manager for Brookings and he will discuss the proposed Brookings Marketplace.  Residents will have an opportunity to vote on this proposal on Tuesday January 30th.  Unfortunately, the vote means we will be kicked out of the Brookings Activity Center that Tuesday.  However, we will still meet by Zoom!  We are encouraging Rotarians to come together in small groups at people’s homes to have lunch and join the Zoom call.  We will also hear (in person) from Jared McEntaffer from the Dakota Institute, who will also speak about the state of South Dakota’s economy, Kurt Osborne, who will speak about a new First Generation scholarship being offered through the Brookings School District, and our very own Erich Olson (along with Mark Siemonsa), who will be speaking about their trip to Romania this fall with Hope Haven.
Erich and Mark’s talk is a great reminder about opportunities Rotarians have to volunteer and network with other Rotarians internationally.  For example, many of us have benefited from travel to other countries as part of Rotary friendship exchanges.  We also sponsor a student (Lidia) at the School of St. Jude in Tanzania.  Many Brookings Rotarians over the years have attended the Rotary International Conference and my wife Tiffany and I are planning to travel to Rotary International in Singapore this May.  More locally, the Brookings Rotary Club is volunteering for the Brookings Backpack Project this month and we are beginning to plan volunteer efforts to help host the South Dakota National Alliance on Mental Illness conference this fall.  Finally, we just finished a major fundraising and volunteer effort for Feeding Brookings in December.  We raised $1,568.16 and nine Rotarians volunteered their time to pack and deliver food to people in need this holiday season.  To put this dollar amount in perspective, the amount we raised provided food for 157 families in Brookings County.  We received the following message from District Governor Rich Burns about our efforts:
“Wow! This is exactly what we were thinking when we talked about how the "Food 4 the Holidays" would work. Brookings Rotary is amazing and exemplifies the Rotary model. We totally appreciate all you do throughout Rotary and your support on District-wide initiatives like this one. Congrats on a job well done and have a great holiday season.”
Yours in Rotary,
Michael Gonda
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE JANUARY 2024 2024-01-02 06:00:00Z 0


Two Brookings Rotarians received their Paul Harris-Plus pins from President Michael Gonda at the November 15 meeting. Pictured from left are Ruth Dickinson (PH+2) and Brad Blaha (PH+6), recognized by President Michael. Congratulations, Ruth and Brad, and thank you for your continued support of The Rotary Foundation!


Brookings Rotarians heard an excellent presentation this week about a difficult but critical topic. Becky Rasmussen, CEO of Call to Freedom, discussed human trafficking and the work of her organization to rescue victims and share information on how to address this crisis. Thank you for your program, Becky, and for your work with and passion for survivors.


The recipient of the 2023 National USDA Award for Excellence in Teaching is Dr. Michael Gonda, Professor of Animal Science at SDSU. (Or, as the Brookings Rotary Club calls him, “PRESIDENT MICHAEL!”) We are so proud of you for receiving this well-deserved honor!

Superintendent Dr. Summer Schultz Addresses Rotarians

Dr. Summer Schultz, Brookings School District Superintendent, gave a very informative program to the Brookings Rotary Club today, emphasizing the importance she is placing on removing barriers and creating opportunities for student success. Thank you for your presentation, Dr. Schultz, and please come back soon!
Superintendent Dr. Summer Schultz Addresses Rotarians 2023-11-07 06:00:00Z 0


With banners overhead representing the branches of the armed services, Brookings Rotarians and guests gathered at Ray’s Corner for Thirsty Thursday this month. The collection for November benefits Disabled American Veterans (DAV) in honor of Veterans Day this month. Thanks for your service, Veterans!


Dear Rotarians,
We had quite the busy month!  We welcomed two Rotary exchange groups to Brookings.  The first group of Rotarians included 5 indigenous Australians; their main interest in coming to Brookings was visiting with faculty and staff directly involved with the SDSU Wokini Initiative.  Our visitors (and myself!) learned quite a bit about Native American culture in South Dakota as well as the purpose and activities of the Wokini Initiative and American Indian Student Center.  (For example, in Lakota, Wokini means a “new beginning”.)  Afterwards, we toured the Oscar Howe exhibit at the SD Art Museum, rested at the Dakota Nature Park, and then ate supper at Cubby’s before returning to our homes.  We also hosted 12 Rotarians from Denmark for two nights.  After picking them up from Huron, we convened to Steve Sewell’s home for a reception before heading to our host homes for supper.  The next day, each host took their visitors to places in Brookings they were interested in.  That evening, we all went to the Brookings Country Club for an excellent prime rib meal along with dessert provided by Kay Norton.  The next morning, we drove our guests to Sioux Falls where they met up with Rotarians from the Vermillion club.  It was a fun-filled week and all of us learned much about indigenous Australian and Danish culture.  Many thanks to Larry and Marcia Janssen, Ron Tesch, Cathy Voelzke, and Steve Sewell for hosting our visitors.
On the business side of Rotary, we are proposing an update to our by-laws that would add a category for “corporate” membership.  Corporate members would be sponsored by a business in Brookings County but otherwise would be treated identically to other Rotarians, with full voting privileges and no difference in dues paid for each member.  The only difference is that the business would pay their club dues and thus receive opportunities to promote their company through Rotary functions.  Our main goal is to open up our club to more members who otherwise may not consider joining Rotary.  Thanks again to Don Norton, Steve Carnes, and Don Goff for agreeing to help recruit corporate members.
For the month of October, Thirsty Thursday (10/5) will be at 5 PM at Jim’s Tap and will benefit the Brookings Backpack Project.  We also will participate in Hobo Week this year!  We’re planning on hosting a meal for college students (“Bum-A-Meal”) on Monday October 9th at 6:00 PM at the Rotary President’s House (910 Broken Bow Trail) and have a parade float on Hobo Day itself (Saturday October 14th)!  We will need volunteers to bring a dish for Bum-A-Meal (e.g., soup, casserole, side, dessert) and to walk in the Hobo Day Parade.  Please let me know if you can volunteer for these activities.  I think it will be an excellent way to get the word out about Rotary to the Brookings community.
Yours in Rotary,
Michael Gonda
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE OCTOBER 2023 2023-11-01 05:00:00Z 0


Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away and I thought it would be a good time to reflect on what I am thankful for in the Brookings Rotary Club.  At a time when many Rotary Clubs are struggling with membership, we are still thriving.  Our membership may have dropped since before the pandemic but we are still a healthy, vibrant club.  It’s our membership that is the heart of this club.  I am thankful for each and every one of you, even if you aren’t able to attend meetings in person.  Even if I can’t see you in person, I greatly appreciate your support of our club and the Rotary mission of “service above self”.  If you find yourself in a position to attend our weekly meetings once again, please know you will be welcomed!  If you are able to attend our weekly meetings, then thank you!  Our weekly meetings are the foundation of our club and your continued attendance is recognized and greatly appreciated.  I hope you will continue to attend and I know our Program Committee, led by Erich Olson, is continuously working to invite interesting and engaging speakers.  The quality of speakers we successfully recruit is a testament to the welcoming atmosphere created by all of you.
Of course, Rotary is more than just weekly meetings.  Our list of accomplishments as a club over these past few months is quite impressive.  We have written a strategic plan, created a new corporate membership category, hosted two international Rotary exchange groups (Denmark and Australia), “bowled to fight Polio”, convinced the City of Brookings to write a World Polio Day proclamation, hosted SDSU students for a meal during homecoming week, marched in the Hobo Day Parade, helped repaint the Born Learning Trails, helped the Brookings School District address mental illness, and served food for people in need at the Harvest Table.  Our Membership Committee has hit the ground running to recruit new members and educate new and existing membership.  (Thank you Jen Olson and the Membership Committee!)  Finally, we’ve continued to raise money for scholarships and causes for the good of the local community.  We can’t forget this important part of our service to others.  (Thank you to the anonymous Scholar Dollar donor as well!)  We have lots to be thankful for, Rotarians.
We aren’t done yet!  Over the next several months we will have more opportunities to serve the community (e.g., Feeding Brookings, Salvation Army).  One of the goals of our strategic plan is to create service “themes” that we can build around.  I plan to work with Steve Sewell and the Service Committee on this goal in the coming months.  I am thankful that the Brookings Rotary Club continues to carry out the mission of Rotary International and that’s because of YOU, the members of this club.  We truly are blessed.
Yours in Rotary,
Michael Gonda
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE NOVEMBER 2023 2023-11-01 05:00:00Z 0


Our October Club Assembly included not one, but TWO great presentations! First, educator, author, and polio survivor Mark Sternhagen shared some of the interesting history of the development of the polio vaccine, which has enabled the almost total global eradication of this devastating disease. Thank you, Mark, for helping us learn more about the background of this fascinating story - it strengthened our resolve as Rotarians to continue fighting until this battle is won! Next, our own Rotarian and Past Club President Mary Kidwiler premiered the newly produced "New Member Orientation" PowerPoint, which was just as interesting to long-time Rotarians as to those new to the organization. Great job, Mary! You reminded us that often some of our best programs come from within our own membership.


Brookings Rotarians and guests had wonderful speakers presenting very diverse topics during the month of October! We began by hosting District 5610 Governor Rich Burns, who spoke about his goals for his administration. The following week we heard from Buck Burdick about the seasonal "Fear Asylum" haunted house. Next, Jim Berman brought us updates from Dakota News Now. And last week we heard from Dr. Daniel Scholl, SDSU's Vice President for Research and Economic Development. Dr. Scholl informed the Club about the university's "Pursuit of Carnegie 1 Research Status." We look forward to our Club Assembly tomorrow! 
DG Rich Burns
Buck Burdick
Jim Berman
Dr. Daniel Scholl


The Brookings Rotary Club was one of only four clubs in District 5610 to receive the 2022-23 Rotary Citation at the recent District Conference. The Brookings Club also was recognized by the District for exceptional giving to The Rotary Foundation:  2nd place -Total Giving; 1st place -Total Annual Fund Giving; and 2nd place - per capita total giving and per capita annual fund giving. Pictured here, Assistant District Governor Don Norton, center, presents the certificates to last year’s Club President Erich Olson, left, and current President Dr. Michael Gonda, right.


Celebrating the progress made toward the eradication of polio, but acknowledging that there is still work to do, Brookings Rotarians observed World Polio Day 2023 with a Mayoral Proclamation and a "fun"raiser to raise awareness and support. Brookings Mayor Ope Niemeyer was a special guest at the October 24 meeting to read and present to Club President Michael Gonda a proclamation declaring it "World Polio Day" in Brookings. Later in the afternoon, Rotarians gathered at The Lanes for the Club's first "BOWLIO AGAINST POLIO." Organizers are already making plans for next year's event, working toward the day when polio is completely eradicated from the planet. 'WE'RE THIS CLOSE!"
Mayor Ope with President Michael
Thanks for your support of Bowlio Against Polio, Rotarians!
Nice form, Darrell!


Brookings Rotarians - including the "First Dog" Doc! - joined in the fun of SDSU's 2023 Hobo Day by participating in the parade. What a great time, and a wonderful opportunity to remind the community about Rotary's important role in Service Above Self. Thanks, President Michael, for arranging our participation!


Suicide – especially as it devastates young people and their families – has been identified as an epidemic in the United States, and South Dakota and the local area are not immune to the emergency. The World Health Organization estimates that worldwide more than 264 million people are affected by depression, and according to the South Dakota Department of Health, one in five teens and young adults lives with a mental health issue.
In an effort to recognize and address this health crisis, the Brookings Rotary Club sponsored two half-day training workshops for Brookings School District faculty and staff to help educators identify signs and learn response techniques. Nearly 60 educators participated.
The “safeTALK” training was presented by Minneapolis-based Glen Bloomstrom, Director of Faith Community Engagement at Living Works Education, Inc. The two workshops were offered to Brookings teachers and staff – about 30 participants in each session - during their Professional Development Day on October 6.
“The safeTALK presentation is a skill-based session, designed to teach people to recognize that thoughts of suicide might be present, and how to refer them to those who can help prevent a tragedy,” said Bloomstrom, who customized the October 6 workshops specifically to educators. He also has trained agriculturalists, clergy, and military. The goal of safeTALK is not to train all educators as mental health professionals, but rather outline how to recognize a vulnerable child. “Safety is our focus. We outline how to get help, have a plan, and get other people involved. Participants practice skills before they leave the room.”
Brookings School Superintendent Dr. Summer Schultz is grateful for the opportunity for her faculty and staff and appreciates the collaboration with Rotary. “We are committed to enhancing our ability to recognize and address mental health emergencies within our district, and these safeTALK workshops are another important piece of the education our educators can use to help keep our students safe,” said Schultz. “We thank the Rotary Club for selecting us as the recipient of this granted project and appreciate our partnership with them.”
Half of the $5,000 training was funded by the Brookings Rotary Club, matched by Rotary District 5610 grant monies. Local Club President Dr. Michael Gonda noted that this was an opportunity for a local Rotary club to address, on a local level, two of the seven pillars of international Rotary focus: saving mothers and children, and supporting education.
“Our local Rotary club is noted for its community service, but we also are quite active in global initiatives supported by Rotary International (RI), such as the continued goal of polio eradication, emergency support for Ukrainian war victims, and tuition support for a student in Africa.” In addition, Rotary International President R. Gordon R. McInally, of Scotland, has identified mental health as another priority for his 2023-24 term in office.
“This is another way we can tie together our passion for local ‘Service Above Self” through a project that clearly is important to our community and also fits in well with RI’s mission,” said Gonda. “It is an honor for our club to have sponsored these workshops in support of our local school district and the children it serves.”
Trainer Glen Bloomstrom, of Minneapolis, with Living Works Education, presented two half-day “safeTALK” suicide awareness and prevention training sessions to faculty and staff at the Brookings School District Professional Development Day. The training sessions were funded by the Brookings Rotary Club and a grant from Rotary District 5610.
Two packed training sessions on suicide awareness and prevention were part of last Friday’s Brookings School District Professional Development Day. Nearly sixty educators participated in the “safeTALK” training, sponsored by the Brookings Rotary Club.


Representatives of the Brookings Rotary, Kiwanis, Optimist and Lions Clubs gathered Monday morning to sort and distribute hundreds of food, household, hygiene and baby care items that were donated during the third annual “Celebrate Community!” Club members delivered donations to the Brookings Food Pantry, Salvation Army and Harvest Table. Organizers said plans already are in place for next year’s collaborative event.


A 12-member Rotary Friendship Exchange spent a few fun days in Brookings during their recent trip to District 5610, and Brookings Rotarians were so happy to welcome them! Hosted by local families, the Danes toured local business and agricultural interests as well as enjoyed plenty of social time with local Rotarians. The visit culminated with a dinner at the Brookings Country Club and the traditional exchange of flags, along with their presentation about their homeland...and an open invitation from our new friends to visit Denmark! Come back soon, friends!

Group Study Exchange from Australia Visits Brookings

Members of the Rotary 2023 GSE from Australia visited Brookings during their whirlwind tour of South Dakota, touring the area and learning about the industry, education, and history of the area. Members of the Brookings Rotary Club helped host our guests from down under, and joined other Rotarians for a fun evening at Cubby's. We hope our new friends will come back very soon!
Group Study Exchange from Australia Visits Brookings 2023-09-26 05:00:00Z 0


A packed room filled with Rotarians and guests gathered to enjoy today's program presented by SDSU Head Women's Basketball Coach Aaron "A.J." Johnston. Coach AJ, who is in his 23rd year and has an impressive 75.2% winning record, outlined the team's strengths this year, as he continues to focus on providing resources for a positive student-athlete experience for his team. Thanks for visiting us, Coach...GO, JACKS!


Brookings Rotary Club President Dr. Michael Gonda, center, officially welcomed two new members to the Club at a meeting earlier this month. At left is Lisa Roker, Academic Advisor for the SDSU Animal Science Department. "I am excited to be part of Rotary because it will allow me to meet others, learn about the community, and create a positive impact in the Brookings area,” said Roker. “Many people have supported me throughout my life, and Rotary is a great way to pay their support forward to others." At right is Devan Schaefer, Wealth Management Officer at First Bank & Trust. “I decided to join the Brookings Rotary Club to serve and integrate myself in the wonderful community of Brookings. I eagerly look forward to connecting with other individuals in Brookings and learning more about the community I call home.”
WELCOME TO TWO NEW MEMBERS! 2023-09-26 05:00:00Z 0


Our September programming focusing on SDSU Athletics continued this week with a great program presented by Jeff Holm, Associate Athletic Director for Facilities and Services. Jeff updated the Club on the in-progress construction at the newly named First Bank & Trust Arena (originally Frost Arena). The renovated facility will be unveiled next fall and will seat approximately 5,000 enthusiastic fans. Thanks for a great program, Jeff! (And thanks to Mylo for scheduling another great speaker!)


SDSU Head Football Coach Jimmy Rogers addressed a full house crowd at Tuesday's Rotary Club meeting. Coach discussed the discipline and integrity that are part of the team's culture, reflected on the players' helmets with the words "LAST PLAY." He noted the entire university takes pride in the success of its student-athletes. "Our work ethic separates this football program from others," he said. Thanks for joining us, Coach, and GO JACKS!


SDSU Men’s Basketball Head Coach Eric Henderson brought his message of positivity and confidence to the Brookings Rotary Club this week. Using the team’s core values of Honesty, Respect, Selflessness, Communication, and Competition, the student athletes learn more than just court skills. “We’re helping our young men learn not only to be better players, but better sons, husbands, fathers, and community members,” Coach Henderson told the group. Thanks for joining us, Coach, and thanks to September Program Chair Rotarian Mylo Hellickson for his great lineup of speakers! SHORT OR TALL, BIG OR SMALL, "SERVICE ABOVE SELF" IS IMPORTANT FOR ALL!


I hope all of you had a relaxing Labor Day Weekend!  Thank you to everyone who participated in reorganizing our committees and developing goals and action plans for the upcoming year.  You’ll hear more about these efforts in the coming months.  One major change we’re proposing is the introduction of a corporate membership category.  Don Norton spoke about the corporate membership idea at Club Assembly in August.  We will soon ask the Board and membership for permission to amend our bylaws to allow for this membership category.  I don’t want to steal Don’s thunder so I’ll let him share more details later.  I would like to thank Don as well as Steve Carnes for their leadership in developing guidelines for the corporate membership category.  I would also like to thank Don Goff for agreeing to help us recruit corporate members.  Adding a corporate membership category should help us achieve our goal of increasing membership over the next several years.  We hope you agree!  Of course, we still need to recruit Rotarians the “old-fashioned” way as well.  We recently added one new member (Mosharraf Hossain) and I have heard about four other potential members that are interested in joining Rotary.  I am excited and energized seeing our club slowly grow!
Increasing membership is great but we need to continue to offer weekly programs, service projects, and other opportunities that engage our members.  September is our “athletics” month; thanks to Mylo Hellickson, we are fortunate to have many of the SDSU coaches, players, and athletic staff present at our weekly meetings.  This program is very popular among Rotarians and for good reason!  It’s a perfect time to invite a friend or colleague who enjoys SDSU sports to one of our meetings.  We also are hosting two international exchange groups in September from Australia and Denmark.  We have excellent tours and events lined up for these international guests.  I am sure none of them know anything about Brookings but when they leave, I am confident they’ll come away with great memories of their time here!  Thanks to everyone who has agreed to host our international visitors.  September is going to be a busy and fun month!  I look forward to sharing in these activities with each and every one of you.
Yours in Rotary,
Michael Gonda
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE SEPTEMBER 2023 2023-09-07 05:00:00Z 0


Club President Michael officially welcomes our newest member Mosharraf Hossain. Mosharraf, an instructor in the SDSU Department of Mathematics and Statistics, explained his reasons for wanting to join our club: "Brookings has always been a home away from home for me. I am passionate about volunteerism and I figured that if I join the Brookings Rotary Club, I will have the opportunity to make a greater impact and work toward something that will make a difference in the long run." We are so happy to have you with us, Mosharraf!


Club President Michael Gonda welcomed Elkton School District Principals Kelly Neil (K-6) and Jenni Simmons (7-12) as speakers on August 22, concluding our month of presentations by area public school representatives. Principals Neil and Simmons explained how students, faculty and staff in Elkton know how to "Run With the Herd!" Thank you for your presentation!


Superintendent of the Sioux Valley School District Laura Schuster addressed the club on August 15 as part of our monthlong focus on local educational opportunities. Sioux Valley Schools serve students in Volga, Bruce, and Sinai, and also offer open enrollment as space permits. Junior Kindergarten through grade 12 enrollment this coming fall is expected to be around 740, with an attractive student-to-teacher ratio of 15:1. Thank you for your presentation, Superintendent Laura, and please visit us again!


Rotarians got up bright and early on August 8 to re-paint the newly refurbished sidewalks at McClemans Park for the Born Learning Trails. The project was co-sponsored by the Brookings Rotary Club two years ago, but when the park underwent a major renovation, the upgraded sidewalks required a new paint job! Who does your "little eye spy" working diligently on this lovely summer morning?


Brookings Rotarians and guests joined for a fun social gathering at Edgebrook Golf Clubhouse for the August Thirsty Thursday, and raised $140 for the Brookings Area Youth Mentoring Program. Haven't yet made it to a Thirsty Thursday? Come join the fun in September! Details to come.


Dr. Kimberly Kludt, Deubrook Superintendent and Jr/Sr High School Principal, and Brad DeBeer, Dean of Students and Activities Director, shared with the club on August 8 their district's success in academics and extracurricular activities. Thank you for visiting, and please come back soon! 


ROTARIANS AND GUESTS will meet at 5 p.m. this evening for Thirsty Thursday! This month's location is Edgebrook Golf Course. Come take a break from the heat and enjoy a beverage and fellowship with friends. We'll "pass the hat" to benefit the Brookings Area Youth Mentoring Program. JOIN US!
THIRSTY THURSDAY IS TONIGHT! 2023-08-03 05:00:00Z 0


Wonderful program today at the Brookings Rotary Club, as we welcomed as speakers new Brookings High School Principal Heather Miller-Cink and new Activities Director Jeff Dvorak. Thanks for a great presentation! Pictured from left are Deb DeBates, a member of the Brookings School Board and also a member of the Brookings Rotary Club Board of Directors; Rotary Club President Michael Gonda; Principal Miller-Cink; and AD Dvorak.


Club President Michael Gonda was honored to present two Paul Harris-Plus pins to fellow club members - and his in-laws! - at a recent meeting. Larry Janssen was awarded his PH-Plus 5 pin and Marcia Janssen was awarded her PH-Plus 2 pin.
PAUL HARRIS PLUS PINS AWARDED 2023-08-02 05:00:00Z 0


It’s hard to believe August is here!  It seems like summer has flown by.  Before we know it, kids will be returning to school, fruits and vegetables from our gardens will be harvested, and we’ll be watching football again.  The month of July seemed to fly by quickly for the Brookings Rotary Club too!  We’ve accomplished much this month.  We raised money for the United Way, installed a new President and Board, approved a new strategic plan, and had three terrific Tuesday meetings and a fun “Thirsty Thursday”.  It’s now time to start implementing the strategic plan, which we will start in earnest in August.
One of the goals in our strategic plan is to reorganize our committee structure.  I am excited about what this reorganization means for our club.  In August, I will pass along a list of committees (and subcommittees) in need of members.  I hope you will consider joining one of these committees or subcommittees.  I am reminded about an old quote that says if you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu.  I think this quote applies in the sense that our club’s direction will be set by the members who participate.  I hope all of you decide it’s worth your time to chip in your time, talent, and ideas.
We have an exciting August program planned, focusing primarily on the theme of education.  We also have at least one service project upcoming (painting the Born Learning Trails).  This service project is scheduled for the morning of August 3rd, the same day as Thirsty Thursday!  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention two very important Rotary exchange groups that will be visiting Brookings in September.  One group is coming from Denmark and the other group is coming from Australia.  We are looking for Rotarians who are willing to host our guests.  Please consider hosting!  Tiffany and I hosted a couple from Sweden this fall and, despite my trepidation about inviting guests into our home who we did not know, it was a wonderful experience for us!  We’d do it again in a heartbeat and plan to host visitors from both Denmark and Australia.  Please also consider hosting our guests.
Make no mistake about it: the Rotary Club of Brookings makes a difference in people’s lives.  Never forget that.  I am a proud Rotarian today.  Together let’s continue to make an impact in people’s lives through Rotary!
Michael Gonda
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE AUGUST 2023 2023-08-02 05:00:00Z 0

President Michael Addresses Club with Goals for 2023-24

President Michael Gonda addressed the Brookings Rotary Club today, sharing his vision and goals for the coming year and congratulating members on their service last year. We look forward to your leadership, President Michael!
President Michael Addresses Club with Goals for 2023-24 2023-07-11 05:00:00Z 0

A Lovely Night for Thirsty Thursday!

Brookings Rotarians and guests shared a lovely evening on the patio of Craft Chophouse and Lounge for July's Thirsty Thursday. The drinks were cool and the fellowship was warm! And on top of that, we collected $135 for the Brookings Area United Way!
A Lovely Night for Thirsty Thursday! 2023-07-07 05:00:00Z 0


Greetings, Fellow Rotarians!
                My name is Michael Gonda and I am your new President of the Rotary Club of Brookings.  July is my ninth anniversary as a member of the Rotary Club of Brookings.  I have previously served as your Local Service Projects Chair and as a member of the Board of Directors.  Professionally, I am a Professor in the Department of Animal Science at South Dakota State University, where I have worked for over 15 years.  I met my wife, Tiffany, in South Dakota; Tiffany is the daughter of Rotarians Marcia and Larry Janssen.  We have no children but two “fur babies”, a dog (“Doc”) and cat (“Tuxedo”).  I grew up in Tampa, Florida and have also lived in Cleveland (OH), Madison (WI), and Raleigh (NC).  Although I’ve moved around much, Brookings has become my home and I’ve lived longer in Brookings than any other place in the USA!
                I have big shoes to fill (literally and metaphorically)!  Erich Olson, our previous Club President, was a fantastic leader of our club.  In a short period of time, he planned, organized, and executed a fundraiser that generated tens of thousands of dollars for relief efforts in Ukraine.  This fundraiser was the largest we’ve done as a club since the solar oven project over 10 years ago.  This project was a success because of Erich’s tenacity and work ethic.  He never gave up on the project, even when the logistics seemed too daunting to overcome.  Erich embodies what it means to be a Rotarian.  He has earned a well-deserved “retirement” as President!
                In June, Rotarians met at Cubby’s to draft a strategic plan for the Rotary Club of Brookings.  This plan still needs to be vetted by the Board of Directors but I’ll share some highlights with you at our next club meeting on July 11th.  The plan was drafted with input from all Rotarians who filled out a survey we distributed in June.  Response rate was excellent; about 50% of Rotarians completed the survey.  Don and Kay Norton will present the results of the survey to you later in July.  Speaking of Don and Kay, I can’t thank them enough for their assistance with writing the survey and drafting the strategic plan.  We are blessed to have Don and Kay as members of our club.  I joked around with them that a future service project could be to “loan” Don and Kay to other Rotary Clubs to help them with their strategic plans!  Unfortunately, we can’t afford to lose Kay and Don, not even for a week!
                Thanks for everything all of you do for Rotary.  I’m looking forward to interacting with each of you more as my tenure progresses.   I am very proud to call myself a member of the Rotary Club of Brookings.  I hope you feel the same way!
Michael Gonda
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE JULY 2023 2023-07-07 05:00:00Z 0


Rotarians and guests, join us this evening, July 6, for THIRSTY THURSDAY at Craft Chophouse & Lounge. The fun begins at 5 p.m., and this month's event benefits the Brookings Area United Way. See you this evening!
THIRSTY THURSDAY IS TONIGHT! 2023-07-06 05:00:00Z 0


Year in Review
Thank you for letting me serve as the president of the Brookings Rotary Club this past year, it was a great honor.  I wanted to take this time to reflect on how our Brookings Rotary Club faired in 2022-23 and some things to look forward in 2023-24.
The Ukrainian dinner and fundraiser, Hope and Healing, was a huge success.  A total of $50,000 was raised and sent to our partner club in Romania to help support refugees affected by the war which has been raging for over 15 months now.  In addition to the funds raised all that attended the event have a better knowledge and understanding of Ukraine, Ukrainian food, the war, and its impact on everyday citizens.  Thanks to all those Rotarians who went above and beyond and made it a memorable evening.
Many thanks to Kay Norton who never gave up and made the Safe Talk Suicide Awareness/Prevention Grant Project at the Brookings School District a reality.  She tried and tried and tried to find an appropriate partner for this workshop and after many setbacks and roadblocks she found a very fitting partner.
In addition to these two major events, we as a club continued to show support to Brookings County via scholarships, service projects, social activities (thanks you to Michael and now Steve for their efforts in keeping Thirsty Thursday going) and by simply attending weekly meetings and thus supporting our great speakers.
Unfortunately, club membership continues to be an issue, and in that area, I can claim no success other that it seems the bleeding of membership which began during the Covid -19 lock down of 2020 seems to have finally stopped in 2023.  We have added several great, and from what I can tell active, new members as of late.  Many thanks to those members who invited guests and are advocates for Rotary.  Please continue to bring guests, it is clearly the best way to expose them to Rotary. 
The best news of all is that the club will be in good hands going forward under the leadership of your soon to be installed Club President, Dr. Michael Gonda.  Michael has demonstrated his commitment to Rotary as well as his competency through his efforts as your club’s service chairman in recent years.  Not only finding opportunities for our club to serve others, but by being the first person to roll up his sleeves and get the job done!
Again, thanks for giving me this opportunity and please continue to give Michael Gonda the same support and respect you showed me this past year.
Erich Olson
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE - JUNE 2023 2023-06-29 05:00:00Z 0


I wanted to take this opportunity to reiterate the importance of programs.  Our weekly programs go a long way in driving attendance at our meetings.  Just consider the great turnout we had regarding the proposed South Dakota Rural Water project a couple of weeks ago, or when we get a local politician like Tim Reed or Roger DeGroot to speak, let alone when Mylo schedules coach Stiegelmeier!
All of you, by nature of being Rotarians are likely involved in business, education, community, and other endeavors and should thus have extensive networks of people and projects to keep our programs diverse and interesting for years to come!  So, please continue to give me ideas for programs as I will continue to coordinate programs for our incoming president Dr. Michael Gonda. 
I also wanted to take this opportunity to thank my committee; the programs committee, for helping me not just this year during my club presidency, but for all the years I have been program chair.  Brad, Mylo, Ginger, Ann, David, Darla, Teree, and Gregg have all made multiple contributions to our programs in recent years.  My apologies to any names I left off this list. 
Again, thanks to all who help with programs and remember you don’t have to be on the committee to make suggestions for speakers and programs you think the club might find interesting.
Erich Olson
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE - MAY 2023 2023-06-29 05:00:00Z 0


Travel Opportunities Abound in Rotary  
I wanted to take this opportunity to share some exciting opportunities available to you as Rotarians to get out and meet new people, travel to distant lands, and engage others.
First of all, I spoke with Jennifer Soma and there is still room for one more single or a couple for the Rotary Friendship Exchange to Denmark this July, but it is going to close sometime the first week of April so act fast and call Jen at 507-230-0323 if you have any interest.
Thanks to Ginger, last fall our club hosted visitors from Sweden and by simply attending dinner with them one evening I not only learned a lot about Sweden but more importantly learned about common everyday Swedish people and their careers and lives.  This September we will again get this opportunity to host Rotarians from abroad, this time from Australia.  I am confident they will be fun and interesting as well.  I would encourage you to participate in the events we will have planned for them and to consider hosting a single or a couple in your home.  What a great way to meet new people and learn about another country.
Also, this fall Pat Sutliff is putting together a Rotary Friendship Exchange to India.  What an amazing opportunity to travel affordably and safely to a place most Americans have never been and learn about the country that just overtook China earlier this year to become the world’s country by population.  A country with huge aspirations and economic potential, not to mention a unique culture.
Finally next spring, in May 2024, our district 5610 is offering an African Safari and trip to the School of St. Jude’s in Tanzania, Africa.  Our very own Gregg Jongeling will tell you that you will not find a more enriching or affordable trip to sub-Saharan Africa than this.  I am told the safari guide is top notch!
Please consider taking advantage of one of these amazing and affordable opportunities brought to you courtesy of Rotary International.
Erich Olson
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE - APRIL 2023 2023-06-29 05:00:00Z 0


Spring into Rotary
Spring is a time of renewal: longer days, warmer weather, planting season, birthing season for both wildlife and domesticated animals.  Let’s make this spring a time of renewal and recommitment to Rotary.  As members of such a great local and global organization we all have opportunities to engage other Rotarians, help others, travel, and make an impact in Brookings and beyond. 
First, commit to coming to Tuesday meetings on a routine basis.  With our quality programs there is always something new to learn.  Furthermore, Rotary is a great place to network and meet other people; people who care and are committed to making the world better.
Second, get involved in Rotary outside of the normal Tuesday meeting.  For example, attend a Thirsty Thursday event on the first Thursday of the month.  Or volunteer at one of our many service projects.
Third, broaden your horizons!  Rotary is the world’s premier service organization with opportunities to explore and serve all over the world. Consider the friendship exchanges to Denmark and India, or the trip to Tanzania next May. Of course, the Rotary International Conventions in Australia this May, in Singapore in 2024, and Calgary 2025 will all be wonderful opportunities to explore new places and meet other Rotarians.
Last, but not least, don’t keep Rotary a secret.  Bring a friend or a coworker to a meeting this spring. 
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE - MARCH 2023 2023-06-29 05:00:00Z 0


Valentines Day
The feast day of St. Valentines is for both St. Valentine of Rome and St. Valentines of Turni – both of which martyred for their Christian faith in the 3rd Century.  Their February 14th feast day, “feast day: not a banquet, but instead an annual religious celebration, a day dedicated to a particular saint, most often a martyr” was celebrated for about a millennium before it became associated with romantic love in the 14th century.  By the 18th century it had already become commercialized in England and by the 19th century they were mass producing greeting cards for February 14th.  Makes one wonder what the original namesakes of St. Valentine’s Day would think of the commercialized spectacle, which we in the USA alone spent $24 Billion dollars on in 2022?   The $24 Billion we spent on candy, flowers, gifts, and dining out is greater than the annual GDP of 83 other countries! 
While I my intent is not to get any of you to get in trouble with your spouses or significant others this month, I would challenge you as members of Rotary to also make a gift, a gift made in love to the Rotary Foundation or any one of the many great charities out there making a positive difference in our community or world this month. 
On February 28th we will have a very special guest speaker, not that all our speakers aren’t special, but Mike Cartney the former president of Lake Area Tech will be presenting on Freedom’s Haven for New Americans’ Workforce.  Freedom’s Haven is an initiative to bring Ukrainian refugees to South Dakota to not only help them out and but also to augment our aging workforce in this era of very low unemployment.  If you are a business owner or have friends who own businesses that you could invite, this should be a very interesting meeting.
Thank you,
Erich Olson
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE FEBRUARY 2023 2023-06-29 05:00:00Z 0


August Speakers to Showcase International Side of Rotary
I personally selected the speakers this month after having the good pleasure of meeting these individuals at district events over the course of the last year.  My goal in arranging this slate of speakers was to share with our club the many of the opportunities available to Rotarians to learn about, experience, and impact our world.  They will be discussing opportunities for upcoming Rotary Study and Rotary Friendship exchanges, service opportunities, and most importantly their own experiences.  With much of the world opened back up and the kinks slowly getting worked out of traveling, hopefully some of us will get to take advantage of these opportunities.  Later, in October we will also be hearing from our very own Ginger Thomson about her friendship exchange to Sweden. 
I would encourage you to start to make plans to attend the 5610 District Conference in Sioux City this September 22-24.  Sioux City is only 2 hours away (Deadwood the site of last year’s conference was 6 hours away!) and these district events are a great way to meet other Rotarians, share ideas, and get energized about all Rotary is and does. 
Sorry I was unable to be at last week’s meeting when District Governor John Schneider and his wife Carol made their way to Brookings.  A special thanks to all who were there to receive and listen to DG Schneider’s message.  Special thanks to Don who led the meeting and arranged for John to be on the air with Bob, Gregg who made sure pork was on the menu, and special thanks to Michael Gonda who arranged a tour of the “almost new” SDSU swine research unit.
The reason for my absence was a previously planned family vacation to Idaho, Montana, and N. Dakota.   The older I get the more I enjoy time with my family without the interruptions of the modern world.  Approximately half our trip found us in areas with no cell phone reception for days at a time, which after the stunning the scenery, was possibly the best part of the trip!
Service Above Self,
Erich Olson
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE AUGUST 2022 2023-06-29 05:00:00Z 0

Oscar Howe Exhibit Topic of June 27 meeting

Abigail Ramsbottom, from the South Dakota Art Museum, presented the June 27 program to the Brookings Rotary Club on the Oscar Howe “Continuum” exhibit, currently on display at the Museum.
Oscar Howe Exhibit Topic of June 27 meeting 2023-06-27 05:00:00Z 0

Della Tschetter Receives PH Plus-4 Pin

Rotarian Della Tschetter received her Paul Harris Plus 4 pin at the June 27 Brookings Rotary Club meeting from outgoing President Erich Olson. Erich noted that it was appropriate for him to present Della with this award as his last official business as President, since Della was his original sponsor for membership in the club.
Della Tschetter Receives PH Plus-4 Pin 2023-06-27 05:00:00Z 0

Michael Gonda Accepts the Gavel

The Brookings Rotary Club has welcomed its 2023-24 President Dr. Michael Gonda, who was installed at the June 27 meeting. President Michael was installed by outgoing President Erich Olson, who passed along the gavel and thanked the club for its support and dedication to Rotary this past year.
Immediately following his installation, President Michael installed the 2023-24 Board of Directors and Officers.
Pictured from left are: Secretary Del Johnson; Director Deb DeBates; President Elect Jen Olson; Treasurer Chad Vilhauer; Administration Chair Gregg Jongeling; and Past President Erich Olson. Director Ann Volin participated and was installed via Zoom.
Michael Gonda Accepts the Gavel 2023-06-27 05:00:00Z 0

Rotarian Roger DeGroot Speaks to Club

South Dakota State Representative and Brookings Rotarian Roger DeGroot was the guest speaker at today's meeting, providing Club members and guests with a recap of recent legislative activity. Thank you, Rotarian Roger!
Rotarian Roger DeGroot Speaks to Club 2023-03-21 05:00:00Z 0

CHEERS to "Brew For Stew!"

"Brew For Stew!" was the theme for the January Thirsty Thursday event at Eponymous Brewing Co., where Rotarians gathered for a social hour and to donate canned goods for the Brookings Food Pantry. Those who were not able to attend are invited to bring cans of stew or cash donations to the meeting on Tuesday, January 10. Cheers!
CHEERS to "Brew For Stew!" 2023-01-06 06:00:00Z 0


A great group of Rotarians and guests gathered for the December Thirsty Thursday event, and raised more than $300 for the Brookings Salvation Army! The January Thirsty Thursday event, "BREW FOR STEW," will be held at Eponymous Brewery (126 Main Avenue South) at 5 p.m. January 5. Bring cans of stew (or cash donations!) for the Brookings Food Pantry. See you there!


Happy New Year!
In hindsight I think many of us would just as soon say good riddance to 2022!  A major war in Europe, the highest inflation in 40 years, significant losses in both the stock and bond markets (while stock market declines are routine, to see both stocks and bonds down significantly at the same time is a very rare occurrence that had only happened twice before - in 1931 and 1969), another polarizing election cycle, and a devastating storm last spring that did damage to many of our homes and properties. 
But there were bright spots in 2022 as well, and one of them was your Brookings Rotary Club.  Thanks to Don’s leadership in the first half of the year, combined with Gregg’s hard work, we have been having regular in-person meeting with both speakers and food, just like in the pre-pandemic days.  Furthermore, the amount of service projects we have been involved in as a club has been amazing. Thank you to Michael Gonda for your leadership!  The Hope & Healing fundraiser for Ukraine was a success with a $50,0000 impact made to support the refugee situation, but also the resources and compassion of Rotary were demonstrated to many in our community. Thanks to all the many volunteers from our club who pitched in and made this something much bigger than our routine service projects. 
Lastly, we as a club received the Rotary Citation award!
Looking ahead to 2023 we will certainly have another great year. Because regardless of economic conditions, the weather, or politics we are the Brookings Rotary Club, and we will find new ways to make an impact and help others. 
Darla has lined up a great set of speakers for January. Please invite your friends to one or more of these meetings and expose them to Brookings Rotary. 
President Erich
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE - JANUARY 2023 2023-01-04 06:00:00Z 0


A big Thank You to everyone who helped plan, host, invited their friends, or simply attended the Hope and Healing Ukraine Fundraiser last month.  It was a great way to not only show Rotary cares but to share the power of Rotary International with our friends and neighbors.  The net funds raised from Hope and Healing ticket sales, the dessert auction, gifts, and the Rotary Disaster Grant exceeded $49,000.  These dollars have been and will be used to make a difference in some of the many lives affected by this war, the largest war in Europe in nearly 80 years.  
While our club is doing great things both locally and globally and will continue to do so based upon the quality of our members, we are none-the-less facing some challenges.  The first and primary challenge is membership; we are simply losing ground on membership as people take on new careers, move away or simply retire from Rotary.  If you were one of those many Rotarians who invited friends and family to the Ukraine fundraiser, invite those same people to a regular Rotary meeting some Tuesday.  The people who supported that fundraiser are just the sort of people who have Rotary DNA - they just don’t know it yet!  
Other challenges are the Student of the Month program and Rotary Youth Exchanges.  These programs got off track with Covid in 2020 and have not gotten back on track since.  If anybody would like to help out or has some new ideas, I am sure Ben (Student of the Month program chair), and Toby (Youth Exchange chair) would welcome the help. 
Invite your friends to the programs in December as David Reynolds has a great slate of programs (see Page 1 of the Cog).  Thanks for your continued support and for making Rotary part of your day!
President Erich
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE - DECEMBER 2022 2023-01-04 06:00:00Z 0


The war in Ukraine, “Europe’s Breadbasket,” goes on with no end in sight.  Meanwhile at home the cost of living continues to run hot and at levels not seen in two generations. These issues have already and will continue to cause food insecurity for people both locally and globally for the foreseeable future. 
Locally, Feeding Brookings, a ministry of Ascension Lutheran Church, distributes food to hundreds of Brookings households each week.  As the cost of food has climbed, they have seen a four-fold increase in the number of family’s needing assistance.  This past month the Brookings Rotary club raised over $2,000 to support their efforts.  Many thanks to Larry Fjeldos who stimulated our giving to Feeding Brookings with his promised match of $1000.  Thanks also to Mary Kidwiler who made sure the target amount was hit and even exceeded!
Since Thanksgiving is this month Feeding Brookings will be distributing boxes with traditional Thanksgiving items such as turkey, cranberries, and the like.  The service clubs in town have been asked to collect 100 boxes each of instant mashed potatoes.  Please pick up a couple boxes and bring to the next meeting or even to Thirsty Thursday at Wooden Legs on November 3rd at 5 PM. 
Many thank to Dr. Dan Little who facilitated the $25,000 Rotary Disaster Grant for humanitarian aid to Ukraine via the Barlad, Romania club.  This is a great example of Brookings Rotary making an impact globally.  My goal is to have some of the members of this club be one of our programs via Zoom in early 2023.
Last, but not least, if you have not already purchased tickets or RSVP’d with me, please consider attending the Hope and Healing benefit on November 13th.  Many of your fellow Rotarians have put a lot of effort into planning this event that will include great food, desserts, music, and special guest speaker VJ Smith.  In addition to being a fundraiser for a worthy cause it will be a great way for Brookings Rotary to showcase what we are all about, a local service club working in conjunction with over a million other Rotarians around the world to make an impact.  The best way to share information about our event with your friends is to send them the link via email or text.  More information on this event appears elsewhere in the COG.  Hope to see you at Peace Lutheran on November 13th
President Erich
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE - NOVEMBER 2022 2023-01-04 06:00:00Z 0


Great food, desserts, music, and special guest speaker VJ Smith!  The committee tasked with planning the Ukraine Medical Supplies Fundraiser has been working hard and has a great program planned.  I encourage you support this Brookings Rotary Club event and fundraiser by placing orders for your own tickets and sharing the information about our event with your friends, associates, co-workers, and other people you interact with.  The best way to share information about our event is to send them the link via email or text. 
Thank you so much to Ginger for developing this website.  It looks sharp and will be able to be repurposed for other such Brookings Rotary Club events in the future.  Ginger, along with Kay, was also instrumental in developing a marketing plan for our event. More information on this event appears on page 4 of The COG.
As I mentioned last month a friend of our club had given $10,000 with the desire that we use this money to help with the situation in Ukraine.  That person is Keith Kurrish from the Isle of Man, Great Britain. He has visited our club off and on through the years and I believe is a friend of Rick Wahlstrom.
On top of all this, Dr. Dan Little has helped us to secure a $25,000 Disaster Grant from the Rotary Foundation!  Thank you, Dan, for all your work on this grant.  The fundraiser along with the gift from Keith and this disaster grant should allow us to make greater than a $40,000 impact for Ukrainians suffering from the war and war related conditions via our partner club in Barlad, Romania.  Hope to see you on November 13th.
Many thanks to Wes Tschetter who stimulated scholar dollar giving to the tune of over $1100 during the month of September. 
Many thanks to Past President Don Norton and his team who helped the club earn the 2021-22 Rotary Citation award – see award on page 3 of The COG.
President Erich
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE - OCTOBER 2022 2023-01-04 06:00:00Z 0
Just a few of the Rotarians who logged on to Zoom for the January 3 meeting featuring speaker Tim Reed 2023-01-03 06:00:00Z 0


With a capacity dinner crowd of 250 at Peace Lutheran Church, and generous donations from even more supporters, the Brookings Rotary Club’s “Hope & Healing” fundraiser exceeded its goal by $10,000, raising a total of $50,000 for Ukrainian relief and medical supplies.
Seeded with a private gift of $10,000 from Rotarian supporter Keith Kerruish, of Isle of Man, and a $25,000 disaster grant from The Rotary Foundation, the local club raised another $15,000 from ticket sales, private and corporate donations, and a Dessert Silent Auction that alone raised more than $3,200.
Keynote speaker VJ Smith drew a standing ovation for his inspirational and personal comments supportive of the cause, and Ukrainian native Polina Helder, of Volga, spoke eloquently and passionately about her homeland’s history and current situation. Helder, who provided authentic Ukrainian recipes for preparation by Midwest Fresh Catering, noted her father is a retired general in the Ukrainian army, but has been recalled to active duty in his war-torn country.
More than 30 desserts were donated for the Silent Auction, several selling for hundreds of dollars each.
“We are overwhelmed by the support we received from our community for this fundraiser,” said Rotary Club President Erich Olson, who noted that the proceeds will be used to distribute needed medical supplies in Ukraine through the connection the local club has with a Rotary Club in Barlad, Romania. “Thank you to everyone who donated, attended, or otherwise supported this critically important effort.”
"HOPE & HEALING" A HUGE SUCCESS! 2022-11-17 06:00:00Z 0


“Hope & Healing” proceeds will provide medical supplies to Ukraine
            Tickets are selling quickly but are still available for the “Hope & Healing” Benefit Dinner hosted by the Brookings Rotary Club on Sunday, Nov. 13, as final preparations for the meal are underway.
            The event will begin at 5 p.m. at Peace Lutheran Church, 1104 22nd Avenue South. Tickets are available on the event website,, or by contacting Brookings Rotary Club President Erich Olson, 605-999-1200. Individual tickets are $50 per person, and a table that seats eight is available for only $320 ($40 per person).
            “Hope & Healing” will feature an authentic Ukrainian meal, prepared by Midwest Fresh Catering with recipes provided by Ukrainian native Polina Helder, of Volga. Helder recently met with Midwest Fresh owner Mike Siegel to sample the tasting menu, including tefteli (meatballs made with buckwheat), served over mashed potatoes with gravy, borscht, homemade rye bread, European Napoleon cake, and beverages. Upon tasting Siegel’s sample dishes, Helder proclaimed it the “best Ukrainian food I’ve had in the United States. It tastes like it came from my mother’s kitchen.”
            In addition to dinner, the evening also will include a silent auction featuring desserts from some of Brookings’ best bakers, and a keynote presentation from noted speaker VJ Smith.
            All proceeds will go towards providing medical supplies for Ukraine, to be distributed by the Barlad Rotary Club located just across the border in Romania. The Brookings Rotary Club already has received a $25,000 Disaster Grant from The Rotary Foundation, and another $10,000 gift from Keith Kerruish, a former Brookings resident and SDSU student who now lives in Isle of Man, in support of the project.
            “We welcome the community to join us for this wonderful evening of ‘Hope & Healing’ for the people of Ukraine,” said Club President Olson. “This is one way we can participate locally in a project that has an impact around the world.”
"HOPE & HEALING" IS SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 13 2022-11-08 06:00:00Z 0


Brookings Rotarians and their guests are warmly invited to attend "HOPE & HEALING," a fundraiser to provide medical supplies in war-torn Ukraine. The event will be held at 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13 at Peace Lutheran Church in Brookings, and will feature an authentic Ukrainian meal, speaker V.J. Smith, and a silent auction of wonderful fancy desserts.
Tickets are $50 per person, or a table for 8 is available for only $320. Please purchase your tickets by Nov. 7 by visiting, or calling Club President Erich Olson at 605-999-1200.
The Brookings Club has received a $25,000 Rotary International Disaster Grant in support of this fundraiser, and also was gifted $10,000 by a friend of the Club. Club leaders hope this event will push the proceeds to at least $40,000, which will be distributed to Ukraine through the Rotary Club in Burlad, Romania.
Please get your tickets today and join your fellow Rotarians in providing "HOPE & HEALING" to this great humanitarian need in Ukraine.


Brookings Rotarian Della Tschetter recently received the Paul Harris Plus-3 pin from Club President Erich Olson. A Paul Harris Fellow is one who has donated at least $1,000 to The Rotary Foundation (TRF), or for whom someone else has donated $1,000 in his or her name. Those who have achieved “Paul Harris Plus” status reflect the $1,000 donation repeated in subsequent years. Donations to TRF go to help with projects in one of seven areas of global and community service: Promoting Peace; Fighting Disease; Providing Clean Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene; Savings Mothers and Children; Supporting Education; Growing Local Economies; and Protecting the Environment.


Please donate generously as we partner with other service clubs in our community!
CELEBRATE COMMUNITY! 2022-09-15 05:00:00Z 0


A Very Busy, but Potentially Fruitful Fall Awaits Us
Because of all the planning that has been recently done by your board the months of September, October, and November will be busy, but also potentially very bountiful.
To kick things off from Sunday September 11th until Monday September 19th Rotary, in conjunction with Kiwanis, Optimist, and Lions will be collecting items for the Salvation Army, the Harvest Table, and the Brookings Food Pantry.  The drop off point for donations will be a Century 21 truck in the parking lot of Brookings Radio.  A list of desired donations can be found elsewhere in the COG.
It has been brought to our attention by members of this club that Feeding Brookings (located at Ascension Lutheran) has seen the numbers in need of food assistance nearly quadruple this year.  At our weekly meetings for the month of October we will be collecting money for Feeding Brookings.  Larry Fjeldos has generously agreed to match your donations to Feeding Brookings $1 for $1 up to $1,000.  Larry, thank you not only for your generosity but also your example!
On the evening of Sunday November 13th this club will be holding a fundraiser to raise money for the purpose of procuring medical supplies for Ukraine via the Barlad Romania Rotary Club.  We have already received a generous $10,000 gift from a friend our club to help kick off this project.  More details will surely follow in the October COG, however based upon the proposed menu and speakers you will not want to miss this event.  Mark this evening on your calendar and stay tuned for more details!
That’s three fundraisers for three worthwhile projects, two local and one global, in three months! The harvest has the potential to be plentiful, but will the workers also be plentiful? I challenge you to step up and either donate your time and / or your resources to these projects.
Let’s not forget the District Convention in Sioux City from September 23-24.  The LeMars club has put a great program with great speakers to educate and excite you about Rotary.  I for one am looking forward to hearing their keynote speaker, former Navy SEAL Boyd Renner.
Lastly, Mylo has arranged a great line up of speakers for September. If you are a Jackrabbit fan you won’t want to miss single a meeting in September.  And if you know any Jackrabbit fans what better way to introduce them to Rotary than bringing them to a meeting this September!
Service above self, Erich Olson
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE - SEPTEMBER 2022 2022-09-15 05:00:00Z 0

Brookings Rotary Club Welcomes New Member Don Goff

Don Goff, left, IT Manager for the City of Brookings, was welcomed into membership of the Brookings Rotary Club by President Erich Olson. Goff was relatively new to his city position in 2021 when Rotarians resumed in-person meetings after COVID restrictions were lifted, and he was instrumental in helping to upgrade internet access to the city-operated Brookings Activity Center. This enabled the Club to continue to offer meetings in a hybrid format, using Zoom as an option for members who chose to participate virtually instead of in-person.
Brookings Rotary Club Welcomes New Member Don Goff 2022-07-27 05:00:00Z 0

Two more Rotarians named Paul Harris Fellows

Two more members of the Brookings Rotary Club were honored as Paul Harris Fellows at the club’s recent meeting. Pictured receiving recognition from Club President Erich Olson are Ann Volin (at top) and Yvette Campbell (at bottom.) A person is named a Paul Harris Fellow in acknowledgement of at least a $1,000 gift to The Rotary Foundation (TRF) in that person’s name.
Two more Rotarians named Paul Harris Fellows 2022-07-27 05:00:00Z 0

President-Elect Yvette Presents Gift to Past President Don

President-Elect Yvette Campbell presented a Rotary briefcase to Past President Don Norton for his service during the 2021-22 year. Don stepped up to a second year of presidency  after having serving a term in 2022-21, when Darla Biel became unable to serve out her term due to new work commitments. Thank you, Don, for your Service Above Self!
President-Elect Yvette Presents Gift to Past President Don 2022-07-27 05:00:00Z 0

DG John Schneider and wife Carol Visit Brookings Club

The Brookings Club extended a warm - and busy! - welcome to District Governor John Schneider and his wife Carol, both members of the Le Mars, Iowa, Rotary Club. The Schneiders arrived in Brookings Monday, July 25, and enjoyed a tour around town with guide Past President Don Norton showing them several Rotary-sponsored projects. That evening, they were joined by several Club leaders for dinner at Craft. On Tuesday morning, DJ John was a guest on the Bob Wayne Show on KBRK radio, and then the Schneiders toured the Swine Unit at SDSU with a special presentation by Animal Science Interim Department Chair Dr. Bob Thaler. Also present at the tour were Dr. Michael Gonda, Brookings Rotarian and professor in the Animal Science Department, and Tina Erickson, Director of Membership, Outreach, & Engagement for the South Dakota Pork Producers Council. At noon, the Schneiders were welcomed to the weekly Club meeting by an enthusiastic membership, and enjoyed - what else? - a pulled pork sandwich lunch! DG John's presentation was full of encouraging comments about his goals for District 5610 and the Brookings Club. He presented a banner with the 2022-23 Rotary International theme ("Imagine Rotary") to Don, who was filling in for President Erich Olson. Following the meeting, DG John met with the Board and declared the Club thriving and successful. Thank you for your visit, DG John, and you and Carol come visit again soon!
DG John Schneider and wife Carol Visit Brookings Club 2022-07-27 05:00:00Z 0


Erich Olson, left, newly installed 2022-23 President of the Brookings Rotary Club, receives the gavel from outgoing president Don Norton, who was thanked for his 2020-22 leadership.
Below, President Olson’s first order of business was installing board members and officers. Pictured from left are Secretary Del Johnson; Treasurer Chad Vilhauer; President-Elect Yvette Campbell; Administration Chair and Sergeant-at-Arms Gregg Jongeling; Director Michael Gonda; Director Jennifer Olson; Past President Don Norton. Not available for the photo was Director Ann Volin.


Congratulations to Don Norton for being selected by District Governor Doug Lind as District 5610’s Rotarian of the Year.  When I was asked to be the 2022-23 President over a year ago, I really wanted to say no - could I possibly have bigger shoes to fill than Don Norton’s?  What a tremendous job Don has done the past two years. Like Moses in the desert, he held the club together and led us through the pandemic.  Despite all the challenges, because of his leadership the club is better today than it was two years ago.  Hybrid meetings and various lunch options are just a couple of improvements that come to mind.  Many thanks to Sergeant-at-Arms Gregg Jongeling for their actual implementation. 
But Don can’t get all the credit, because behind every good man is a good woman!  How lucky we are to have Kay as a fellow member as well.  What she brings to the club in terms of music, charm, and all her work as Public Image Chair is priceless.  She also does a lot of great work for District 5610 that most of us seldom see or hear about. 
We still have our challenges, first and foremost membership is down.  COVID was and remains an impediment for many of our elderly members; indeed, many have resigned from the club.  Please invite a friend, co-worker, or acquaintance to a Rotary meeting.  I’m a member because Della Tschetter invited me to a meeting nine years ago and I appreciated the opportunity to learn about things going on in our community.
While the club does a lot of good work in the community (a special thanks to Michael Gonda, our Club Service Coordinator for finding lots of opportunities), I feel the club needs to find a big project to rally behind.  More on this in August.
I have coordinated programs for 8 of my 9 years and have decided to retain my role as Program Chair largely because my committee is the best I have ever had and because of them the workload is light.  If you have ideas for programs or speakers, please send me an email or visit with me on Tuesday.  Good programs are going to be key for attracting and retaining new members.
As Past President Don Norton would say, “Thanks for making Rotary part of your day.”
-President Erich
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE - July 2022 2022-07-08 05:00:00Z 0

Thirsty Thursday at Eponymous!

Brookings Rotarians and guests enjoyed a great THIRSTY THURSDAY at Eponymous Brewing, and made plans for the upcoming service project: providing lunch for volunteers at an upcoming Habitat for Humanity Care-a-vanners Work Day!
Thirsty Thursday at Eponymous! 2022-07-08 05:00:00Z 0

BRIAN GATZKE Receives Paul Harris Plus 8 pin!

Congratulations to Brookings Rotarian BRIAN GATZKE for receiving his Paul Harris+8 recognition this week! Brian, thank you for your generous gifts to The Rotary Foundation - you are helping to change lives and serve others! Brian, right, received his new PH-P8 pin from Brookings Club President Don Norton.
BRIAN GATZKE Receives Paul Harris Plus 8 pin! 2022-06-29 05:00:00Z 0


District Governor Doug Lind made an unexpected visit to the Brookings Club today, presenting Club President Don Norton with the District 5610 ROTARIAN OF THE YEAR Award! Don is just completing his second term as Brookings Club president, currently serves as the District Grants Subcommittee Chair, and next year will serve as Assistant Governor for Area 4. Congratulations, Don, and thanks for your Service Above Self! (So good to see you, Doug and Penny - and those sweet pups, too!)
DISTRICT 5610 ROTARIAN OF THE YEAR! 2022-06-28 05:00:00Z 0


            Brookings Rotarians helped spruce up two club-sponsored projects recently, enjoying the service and fellowship while making two community park areas more attractive for visitors. Rotarians Michael Gonda, Marcia Janssen and Larry Janssen work on the annual clean up at the Rotary Garden at McCrory Gardens. This area was designed in 2005 to help commemorate the 100th anniversary of Rotary International. And Rotarians Don Norton, Reva Johnson, Kay Norton and Della Tschetter help refresh the paint on the Born Learning Trails at Hillcrest Park. These family and child-friendly paths were sponsored in 2020 by the Brookings Rotary Club to help celebrate the club’s 100th anniversary, and were completed in conjunction with the Brookings Area United Way. Born Learning Trails are located in Hillcrest and McClemans Parks.


            Members of the Brookings Rotary Club gathered for their May “Thirsty Thursday” social hour at Cubby’s, gathering dozens of coats, snow pants, boots and other winter apparel for all ages. The donations were given to the Brookings Salvation Army “Share the Warmth” program in anticipation of next year’s community need for warm outerwear.


Six Brookings High School seniors were honored this spring as Students of the Month by the Brookings Rotary Club. The students joined club meetings via Zoom to address the members and receive their recognition.
Jaxon Bowes and Nicholas Diersen were honored in February. Bowes, the son of Jason and RaeAnn Bowes, was active in football (team captain, Reserve State Champion), wrestling (team captain, Regional Champion 170-lbs) and FFA, and participated in FCA and High School Rodeo. Named to Academic All-State in football and wrestling all four years, he was a member of National Honor Society and Monogram Club.
Diersen, the son of Matt and Cindy Diersen, was active in cross country (named Most Inspirational and Most Improved), track and field (Most Inspirational), choir, vocal jazz and the high school musical. He also was inducted into the National Honor Society and planned to attend either SDSU or USD.
Olivia Foster and Noah Stremmel were honored in March. Foster, the daughter of Hillari and Michael Foster, was active in theatre, speech and debate, choir, orchestra and vocal jazz, and participated in Brookings Community Theatre. She was named to the honor roll every year, was a Presidential Scholar, an AP Scholar and a National Merit Scholar Finalist. Foster accepted an offer to attend the University of Texas at Dallas where she plans to major in global business with a potential minor or double major including vocal performance.
Stremmel, the son of Joan Riessen and Andrew Stremmel, was active in marching band, jazz band, concert band, choir, jazz choir and the high school musical. In the community he participated in the Feeding Brookings Task Force and in his church as a pianist and choir accompanist. A BHS Marching Band Drum Major, he was named to All-State Band, All-State Jazz Band, All-State Choir, South Dakota Senior Honor Choir, South Dakota Junior Honor Choir, and was the MTNA Senior Woodwind winner. At the time of his Rotary recognition, he planned to attend either St. Olaf or Gustavus Adolphus to study computer science and music.
Reem Khalaf Mohammed and Jensi Jensen were honored by the Rotary Club in April. Mohammed, the daughter of Moustafa and Naglaa Mohammed, was active in orchestra and the arts at BHS. She was named to the National Society of High School Scholars and the National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists. Mohammed plans to study human biology at SDSU and then attend medical school.
Jensen, the daughter of Mike and Joy Jensen, participated in choir, marching band (flute section leader and woodwind captain), concert band, orchestra, vocal jazz and the high school musical. She also was inducted into the National Honor Society and Thespians and was active in speech and debate and track. Jensen was named an alternate to All-State Choir and was selected as Marching Band Best Female Musician. She received the Music Scholar Award, was a varsity scholar athlete, a national qualifier for Worlds School Debate and earned a 4.0+ Honor Roll seven semesters. Jensen was an active member of her church youth group, and an award-winning figure skater, performing through the Brookings Figure Skating Club. She plans to attend Gustavus Adolphus to major in math/data science and minor in music.
STUDENTS OF THE MONTH FOR SPRING 2022 2022-06-06 05:00:00Z 0


And That’s The Way it Is…
Many of us long for the days when the evening news was delivered by “Uncle Walter.” Walter Cronkite brought us the news objectively and focused on accuracy, summarizing the day with that famous line “and that’s the way it is.” And so, as I “sign off” after being President of the Rotary Club of Brookings for almost 2 full years, let me dwell on the way it is.
We have a great Rotary club because we have great people as members! People like Gregg Jongeling, who, with Jackie Lanning and Jim Gilkerson, organizes the food, sets up the tables, and fires up the Zoom each week. (Gregg also edits our monthly COG, where you probably first read about many of our Club activities!) It is great because of Del Johnson, our Club Secretary, who is meticulous in his documenting of attendance, board meetings, and member status. It is great because of Chad Vilhauer, our diligent Treasurer. It is great because we have people who step up to serve on the Board of Directors, who step up to be future officers, and who volunteer for the projects organized by Michael Gonda. It is great because of Millie Juel, who leads us in music each week. We have a great group that assembles every Tuesday, and also on Thirsty Thursdays. And I cannot thank Kay Norton enough for all she does to publicize our good works and keep “President Don” on the right page. Thank you all!
We will continue to be a great club because Erich Olson is going to be our President on July 1, and Yvette Campbell will be President-Elect. Our members will embrace their leadership and encourage them throughout their terms, just as they have me. The future looks bright, indeed, and we will continue to be a great club!
It’s been an interesting two years as we came out of COVID, started meeting again, and re-energized our community service. We lost a few members who decided not to return. I feel bad about that. But I’m confident that we will build our membership numbers moving forward.
Kay and I had the opportunity to meet comedian Red Skelton a few times. You may recall that at the end of his TV show he always said, “Good night, and may God Bless.” I like that sign off, too…
President Don
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE - JUNE 2022 2022-06-06 05:00:00Z 0

Brookings Rotary Celebrates 2020 "100% Paul Harris Fellow" Club Status

            In a ceremony delayed two years due to COVID, the Brookings Rotary Club finally celebrated its status as a “100 Percent Paul Harris Fellow Club” on May 31. The club achieved the designation in 2020 by having every member qualified as a Paul Harris Fellow. Acknowledgement of the honor originally was to have been part of the club’s 100th anniversary.
            A Paul Harris Fellow is one who has donated at least $1,000 to The Rotary Foundation (TRF), or for whom someone else has donated $1,000 in his or her name.
            The club celebrated by awarding certificates and pins to members who achieved that status two years ago, and also recognizing those who have since achieved “Paul Harris Plus” status, with the $1,000 donation repeated in subsequent years. One other new member has also since achieved PH status and was recognized.
            Donations to TRF go to help with projects in one of seven areas of global and community service: Promoting Peace; Fighting Disease; Providing Clean Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene; Savings Mothers and Children; Supporting Education; Growing Local Economies; and Protecting the Environment.
            “Although projects usually are focused on one of these seven areas of service, often other areas are positively affected as well,” said Dr. Dan Little, Brookings Rotarian, Past District 5610 Governor, and current TRF Chair for the District. “It is a very distinct honor for the Brookings Club to have every member represented so generously towards the work of the Foundation, and a very rare occurrence for a club to achieve this one hundred percent status.”
            Little shared remarks with the club, noting ways in which TRF had responded directly to the crisis in Ukraine by shipping medical supplies, supporting wheelchair access and participating in other projects. Special guests at the meeting were Ukrainian refugee Olya Muzychenko and her children Denis and Kirill. They were introduced by SDSU professor Dr. Will Prigge, who was instrumental in helping the family re-locate safely in Brookings.
            Club President Don Norton welcomed Past President Jennifer Soma to the meeting. Soma was Club President in 2020 when the ceremony was originally to have taken place and returned to Brookings this week from her new club home in Pierre-Fort Pierre to help distribute the certificates and pins.
            The club members enjoyed a special celebration cake after lunch and its customary fellowship. “Our celebration may have been delayed a bit, but the work of Rotary is even more important today than in 2020 when our club first achieved this recognition,” said President Norton. “It’s a great time to be a Rotarian!”
Brookings Rotary Celebrates 2020 "100% Paul Harris Fellow" Club Status 2022-06-06 05:00:00Z 0


PASS THE MILK! – What do you get when you combine the efforts of four active service organizations and involve the community to collect breakfast cereal for kids in need? 285 boxes, with 3,107 servings! That was the final tally of donations during “Bowls for Backpacks,” a project spearheaded by the Brookings Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions and Optimist Clubs. Cereal was collected at Dacotah Bank over the past several weeks, and on Friday was delivered via a truck donated by the Brookings Home Team to the Brookings Backpack Project. BBP Executive Director Cathy Ching said the response was “amazing,” and that the project “would make a lot of children very happy.” The cereal will be distributed to families who may need assistance feeding their children over the summer when school breakfast is not available. Pictured from left delivering the cereal are: Don Norton, Rotary President; Ching; Kiwanian Roger Rhody and Shirley Deethardt, Kiwanis President; Brittney Wobig, Dacotah Bank; and Steve Carnes, Dacotah Bank and Rotarian Past President.


SERVICE PROJECT: Bring boxes of breakfast cereal for BOWLS FOR BACKPACKS!
JUNE THIRSTY THURSDAY! 2022-05-30 05:00:00Z 0

President's Message - April 2022

Back in the Swing of Things
It’s a funny phrase – “back in the swing of things.”  Merriam-Webster defines it as “fully involved and comfortable with (a regular activity).” The idiom originates in the 19th Century, and some sources have linked it to the idea that, like a pendulum, there is a natural rhythm of a person’s life. When we are “off” for a bit, we can get back into the swing of things. It has a positive connotation, as in getting back to something you enjoy.
Each week, it seems I have this conversation with someone I encounter – are we back in the swing of things following the pandemic? The answer is a unanimous “no.”
There are some positive signs. You’ve probably read about the Great Resignation. Millions of Americans quit their jobs during the pandemic, saying they’re tired of low pay and long hours. But now, the unemployment rate is down to around 4%, people are returning to sporting events and concerts, and a large majority of kids are back for in-person instruction in school.
While this is good news, one survey in March noted that only a third of Americans have returned to pre-pandemic routines. I have noticed that people are slow to sign up for activities. I’m not sure it’s related to a fear of COVID, as studies show that fewer and fewer people are as concerned about the pandemic as they once were. I think people became comfortable with slowing down and clearing a few events off their calendars.
Our biggest challenge as Rotarians in April of 2022 is this: how can we get our clubs back in the swing of things? How can we rededicate ourselves to working hard to better our community and our world with Service Above Self?
We’re looking forward to exciting events ahead – great Tuesday noon meetings, Thirsty Thursdays with built-in service projects, and work in the community including the very fun Brookings Marathon! And on May 31 we will have a very special celebration of our club’s “100% Paul Harris Fellows” designation. Let’s be sure to put Rotary back on our calendars and get back in the swing of things!
-President Don
President's Message - April 2022 2022-05-30 05:00:00Z 0
BOWLS FOR BACKPACKS! 2022-05-30 05:00:00Z 0


All Things Seem Possible
American naturalist, photographer, and writer Edwin Way Teale put it this way: “All things seem possible in May.” Indeed, May brings the gifts of spring and the promise of summer.
April’s Rotary Presidents’ Elect Training Seminar (PETS) held in Mitchell was similar to the feeling that May brings. The new Rotary year will start soon (July 1) and with it comes new leadership, new projects, and a rededication of clubs and District 5610 to “IMAGINE” – the 2022-23 Rotary theme. It holds the promise of doing good.
Our district’s response to the Ukraine crisis is inspiring. See the pictures of food and supplies being unloaded by the Barlad, Romania club in this issue of the COG. Those supplies were sent there by YOU, and me, and Rotarians across the United States. We hope to change lives in a place where change and salvation is greatly needed.
We’re back at work on local projects as well – we’ll be serving at the Harvest Table on October 10th, and we’re helping to make the Brookings Marathon a success on May 14. The coats we collect on Thirsty Thursday, May 5, will be used to keep those less fortunate warm when winter sets in once again. And in June, we’ll once again team up with other local service clubs to help provide cereal for local children who might otherwise not have breakfast this summer once school lets out. Thanks to the Brookings Backpack Project for bringing this project idea to us.
It is possible to make positive change in our world, and the Brookings Rotary Club is just the group to make that happen! IMAGINE how you can be a part of Service Above Self. See you on Tuesdays – and bring a friend!
President Don
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE - May 2022 2022-05-30 05:00:00Z 0


SERVICE PROJECT: Bring non-perishables for the Brookings Food Pantry!
THIRSTY THURSDAYS! 2022-03-03 06:00:00Z 0

Teen Career Corner Hosts Monthly Speakers

Guest speaker Realtor Shane Andersen from the Brookings Home Team powered by Century 21 spoke to teens at February’s “Teen Career Corner” hosted by the Brookings Public Library and sponsored by the Brookings Rotary Club. Andersen discussed the use of social media technology in marketing a business and to support community growth. Each month, a volunteer speaker representing a different career field addresses the teens, supported by books and other materials related to the topic. Rotary’s support also included the purchase of material display racks for the Teen Career Corner on the first floor of the Library. Other speakers have discussed the use of reliable web sites for career information (Kay Norton), and careers in the fine arts (Chuck Bennis) and the military/National Guard (Adam Holtquist). On March 28, Else Munsterteiger will speak to the young people about careers in the mental health field. April’s presentation will focus on how to get a summer job. Before each presentation, the teens are treated to pizza and soda.
Teen Career Corner Hosts Monthly Speakers 2022-03-03 06:00:00Z 0


The Club That Eats Together, Meets Together
As a kid, I remember the slogan “the family that prays together, stays together.” Alfred J. Scalpone was a television network executive and advertising writer who is credited in the Oxford Dictionary of Famous Quotations as the author of the phrase. It was written for a priest who was the producer of the “Family Theater” weekly radio series on the Mutual Broadcasting network.
At our first meeting in January, we had 34 members attending in person – the most since April of 2020 when the pandemic set in. It was also the first meeting that food was back on the table for members who ordered it. The excitement was back in the air at that meeting, and, in addition, we had a dozen or so members attending via Zoom. That would make it the best attended meeting in almost two years!
All I could think is – “The Club That Eats Together, Meets Together.”
Our Brookings Rotary family is awesome. Gregg Jongeling has done a great job with technology, including new microphones at the Brookings Activity Center. When he is out of town, Jackie Lanning and Jim Gilkerson step in without missing a beat. We have a new slate of officers ready to go for the new Rotary year that starts July 1. We are launching our first “Thirsty Thursday” at the Mosaic Wine Bar at 5pm on February 3 – a new tradition for the first Thursday of each month and an opportunity to socialize with other Rotarians. And we’re starting to gear up for Spring service projects like the Brookings Marathon.
It's great to know that we remain strong in spite of a resurgence in the pandemic. Choose the events in which you want to engage – Rotary will meet you on your terms. Let’s all remember what a vital force we are in the Brookings community Tell a friend and invite a person to join you for lunch!
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE - February 2022 2022-03-03 06:00:00Z 0


Let’s Talk About Progress
One year ago I wrote the President’s message for the COG. It’s fun to read it now.
We mention forming a “re-start committee” to figure out when we should meet in person again after one year of COVID-induced Zoom meetings. We talked about the growing number of Rotarians getting vaccinated, and how we were looking at new meal options and exploring other places to meet besides the Brookings Activity Center (BAC). We also talked about what technology we would need at the meetings to keep everyone engaged, even if they aren’t comfortable or able to attend in person.
We’ve made progress! Now, our club is meeting in person each week with meals from a variety of great vendors, and after a lot of research it turns out the BAC is still the best location for us. Gregg, Jackie, and Jim have an amazing Zoom set-up on the big screen TV, and with more than 30 people attending regularly in person, we still have about 15 watching the Zoom option – some of those from out-of-state. As I recall, pre-COVID we usually had about 45 attending in person, so let’s call that a break-even.
We had 15 Rotarians and 5 guests at our first Thirsty Thursday social gathering in February – what a fun time! It looks like a new tradition is born. And I am thoroughly enjoying our Tuesday meetings, with spontaneous raffles, sing-a-longs, Students of the Month, and plenty of Scholar Dollars.
There are lots of problems in the world right now, which means the world needs Rotary more than ever. We continue to be a vital part of our Brookings community, doing our part to make this “someplace special.” So let’s talk about progress – as Ralph Waldo Emerson penned, “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”
-President Don
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE - March 2022 2022-03-03 06:00:00Z 0


South Dakota State Representative Tim Reed (7th District) addressed the Brookings Rotary Club Tuesday, and helped us celebrate the return of lunch! (Thank you, Cafe Coteau, for the delicious soup and salad!) Great turnout in person, with another 15 or so attending via Zoom. Next week's speaker is Brookings Mayor Ope Niemeyer. Rotarians, bring a guest and YOUR lunch and THEIR lunch is "on the house!" Just let Gregg know of your plans.


A New Resolve
Imagine this: it’s 12:00pm on Tuesday and people are struggling to find a seat at the Brookings Rotary Club meeting in the Activity Center. The room is packed and lively with fellowship. It’s noisy with members sharing stories, introducing guests, making a plate for lunch, networking… being Rotarians. In addition to the packed room there are 15 people Zooming in online. The speaker is prepared and impressed with the turnout – the bell rings and we rise to the occasion.
That is my vision for our club in 2022. It’s not a New Year’s Resolution, but a Resolve to enliven our club. And I need your help.
When I first walked into a Brookings Rotary meeting in August of 2017, that’s the way it seemed to me – bustling, active, energized. The Rotary Club of Brookings cares deeply about our community, but, frankly, in this new year we need a little “self help.” We need to care about our club and make that a priority in 2022.
Our club is not alone in the “where is everybody” syndrome. Since we’re still in the pandemic the situation is fluid, but Pew Research indicates that COVID negatively impacted personal relationships and how people spend their free time. My own perception is that people are slower to rejoin activities, later to sign up for involvement, and in some cases, have refocused their priorities. As members of the Brookings Rotary Club, we need to make Rotary a priority in the new year.
So how are we going to do that? The Board of Directors has some ideas and a plan, but we need your participation:
  • Call someone you know in Rotary who hasn’t attended in a while and invite them to return back to meetings in person;
  • Food is being served at the meetings starting in January – invite a guest and share lunch (you will both get lunch FREE that day);
  • Make your own attendance a priority!;
  • The first Thursday of each month, starting February 3rd, will be “Thirsty Thursday” with the February gathering at the new Mosaic wine bar at 5pm. As good Rotarians we may “rotate” from place to place so stay tuned.  Rotarians and friends can gather for fun and fellowship regardless of whether or not you attend on Tuesdays; and
  • We have a new membership form that talks about Rotary’s impact in our community and the world, and encourages people to make friends with community leaders, exchange ideas and make contacts, and to take action and make a difference in the community.
We need to have that difficult conversation about getting new members into our club. Some members have left the community to take jobs elsewhere, and frankly, we haven’t recruited people to take their places. We have fewer members today than one year ago, and two years ago, and three years ago. There is only one way to turn this trend around – YOU need to invite someone to join.
I’m resolved to enliven our club in the new year. I hope you will share my vision!  
President Don
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE - JANUARY 2022 2022-01-04 06:00:00Z 0
Christmas-time Holiday Community Projects! 2021-12-21 06:00:00Z 0


‘Tis the Season
It may be a little early for a New Year’s Resolution, so I’ve decided to start with a December resolution – Have. More. Fun.
This is the Season of Giving, and Rotarians know all about giving time, talent, and treasure to help the Brookings community. We also know how to make a difference in the world. But I wonder, sometimes, if we have forgotten how to have fun while we give.
The experts will tell you that giving is GOOD for us. Helping others lowers blood pressure, increases self-esteem, reduces depression, lowers stress, and even promotes a longer life and greater happiness. Christmas can be hectic, but let’s keep this in perspective. Christmas and the time leading up to it is a celebration! Remember the song – “tis the season to be jolly.”
If you’ve been absent from Rotary recently, this is a great time to get back in the habit of attending Rotary meetings every Tuesday at noon and sharing the fellowship. We have a great lineup of guests this month, all selected to lift your spirits – starting with the Statesmen on December 7. And meals return to Rotary in January!
Resolved! More fun is on the way.
President Don
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE - DECEMBER 2021 2021-12-21 06:00:00Z 0


World-Changing Information – There are Two
It was great to see so many Brookings Rotary Club members at the District Conference in Deadwood October 14-16! There were wonderful learning sessions, plenty of fellowship, and it was inspiring to hear of all the work our clubs are doing in our communities – including here in Brookings.
But there was one incredible piece of information that was news to me, and others, present at the conference – there are two known cases of the wild polio virus remaining in the world.
Over the years, Brookings Rotarians have heard the constant plea to make a financial contribution to PolioPlus. Our club has faithfully answered the call. When Rotary and its partners formed the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988, there were 350,000 cases of polio in 125 countries every year. Now there are two this year – one each in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Rotary members have contributed more than $2.1 billion and countless volunteer hours to protect more than 2.5 billion children. While we’re not claiming victory, clearly victory is in sight.
We’re not giving up. Rotary is pledging $50 million each year to continue to vaccinate children around the world – funds that are matched with $100 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
November is Rotary Foundation Month. Again, we’ll be asked to give our time and financial resources to The Rotary Foundation (TRF). This five-star rated foundation with outstanding financial oversight transforms lives close to home and around the world. The Rotary Club of Brookings has been the recipient of several District Grants over the years – funds that are returned to local clubs after we donate them to TRF.  When you hear the talk this year about making a contribution, please remember – we are changing lives through our donations to Rotary, and PolioPlus is the example of our efforts.
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE - NOVEMBER 2021 2021-11-08 06:00:00Z 0


Members of the Brookings Kiwanis, Lions, Optimists and Rotary clubs pause for a group picture after joining forces Monday morning to unload the Century 21 Krogman & Co. truck that was “stuffed” last week with donations of food and other necessary items. The combined efforts of the clubs, along with generous donations from the community, resulted in hundreds of pounds of non-perishable food delivered to the Brookings Food Pantry. Cleaning and hygiene supplies were taken to the Salvation Army, and baby care needs like diapers and wipes were delivered to the Harvest Table Program at First United Methodist Church, where Community Life Center Manager Vonda Kirkham exclaimed, “This is just like Christmas!” Members of the four service organizations agreed the project was a success, and future collaborative community service efforts would be planned.

"Harmony Park" Opens in Larson Park!

Thanks, Rotarians, for your great ideas, hard work, and desire to serve others!
"Harmony Park" Opens in Larson Park! 2021-10-07 05:00:00Z 0

"Harmony Park" opens in Larson Park!

We are grateful for this wonderful regional coverage! Great job, Rotarians!
"Harmony Park" opens in Larson Park! 2021-10-07 05:00:00Z 0


Fellow Rotarians,
Fall brings changes, and this year has brought one for me that, unfortunately, makes it such that I must step down as the Rotary Club of Brookings’ President effective immediately.  Don Norton has graciously accepted the board’s appointment to President and agreed to serve out the remaining nine months of the current term, and Erich Olson will remain as our President-Elect. I am grateful for Don and Erich’s leadership and willingness to serve, and also that I am able to assume the role of Past President and will remain on the board.
Now about that change I mentioned:
I recently accepted an offer to become the Assistant Director for the South Dakota Center for the Prevention of Child Maltreatment ( and the Project Lead on a five-year grant from the Health and Human Resources Administration (HRSA) to facilitate the coordination of Early Childhood Systems in our state. I will be working from Brookings, but the job requires some travel and the one non-negotiable day that I must be in Sioux Falls is, you guessed it, Tuesdays!
Although I will miss seeing you on Tuesdays, I will remain a member of the Rotary Club of Brookings  and will join you remotely when I am able to. I will also remain on the District 5610 committee that is working on a global grant to impact human trafficking, and, since CPCM is one of the partners we’ve been communicating with on the project, I may, through this new job and relationships, be able to help facilitate the work more effectively.
We never know all of where life will take us or where we will be called upon to serve. When I assumed my role as President, Mary Kidwiler told me, “Well, now you’ll really learn how many weeks are in a year!” but, as it turns out, I only learned how many weeks are in a quarter. Thank you very much for the opportunity to serve as your Club President. You’re in good hands!
Be well, Friends.
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE OCTOBER 2021 2021-10-01 05:00:00Z 0


Four Brookings service organizations – each with its own strong legacy of community as well as global service – will combine efforts for the first ever “Celebrate Community” collaboration to address food insecurity and household needs of area residents.
Participating are the Brookings Kiwanis, Brookings Lions, Brookings Optimists and Brookings Rotary clubs.
The weeklong event will take place Sunday through Saturday, Oct. 10-16. A truck donated by Century 21 Krogmann & Co. will be parked in the 22nd Avenue lot of the Brookings radio stations, where community donors may drop off non-perishable food items, baby care supplies including diapers and wipes and cleaning supplies. The truck will be available for donations from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day.
The donations will be sorted by members of the service clubs and delivered to the Brookings Food Pantry, Salvation Army and Harvest Table for distribution to those in need.
“Celebrate Community” is supported by the international leadership of all four organizations to maximize the outcome of the project and have the greatest impact on community need.
“This inclusive project fits the needs of our community and is of interest to the majority of the membership in our organizations,” said Sally Damm Norby, representing the Optimists and Lions. “By teaming up we can magnify our impact in the Brookings area.”
Brookings Rotarian Darla Biel concurred. “This is a wonderful example of how the Brookings community works together. It’s the type of project that everyone can participate in easily and address a real need in our community.” Biel noted that the 2021-22 Rotary theme is “Serve to Change Lives.”
Lion Paul Fixen agreed. “This is a very efficient and effective approach to addressing a priority need of our community and to participating in a global cause of Lions International and for practicing our motto ‘We serve’!”
All unexpired non-perishable food items are welcome, as well as disposable diapers and baby wipes and cleaning supplies of all types.
Club leaders encourage all community members to consider donating to help “Stuff the Truck!” Oct. 10-16.
Representatives of local service club organizations meet to plan details for the upcoming collaborative “Celebrate Community” Oct. 10-16. The community-wide project will collect non-perishable food items, baby care products and cleaning supplies for distribution to those in need. Pictured from left are Sally Damm Norby (representing Optimists and Lions), Darla Biel and Kay Norton (Rotary), Carol Thomas (Optimists) and Paul Fixen (Lions).

Brookings Rotary Launches Library Teen Career Corner

The Brookings Rotary Club has launched its sponsorship of the Teen Career Corner at the Brookings Public Library. Funded in part by a matched grant from District 5610, the Rotary Career Corner will feature resources for teens to explore career opportunities in a comfortable, relaxed setting, including books and other printed materials, plus volunteer speakers representing various careers. Pictured below, Rotarian Kay Norton launched the series by introducing teens to the South Dakota Department of Labor website that allows young people to explore careers based on their interests, desired salary, level of education required, and availability of jobs. Next month’s program will feature speaker Chuck Bennis, who will talk about career opportunities in the fine arts. For more information, contact Brookings Library Young Adult Services Coordinator Katie Burggraff.
Brookings Rotary Launches Library Teen Career Corner 2021-09-29 05:00:00Z 0

September Students of the Month

Brookings High School seniors Aditya Tummala and Joshua Park are announced as the Brookings Rotary Club’s September Students of the Month. The students joined the Club’s recent meeting via Zoom to address the members and receive their recognition. 
Tummala is the son of Hemachand Tummala and Vijaya Gaddipati. At BHS he has been involved in National Honor Society (vice president), HOSA, Orchestra and All-State Orchestra, Speech and Debate (president and Outstanding Distinction), Math Club, Tennis, Science Olympiad, Student Council, Quiz Bowl, Soccer and Environmental Club. He received International Science and Engineering Fair Overall Category 3rd Place and NIH-NIDA Addiction Science First Place Award. Tummala was named an AP Scholar with Distinction and State Champion in International Extemp. He also was co-director of Dakota Debate Institute.
Tummala plans to attend a four-year university to pursue biomedical engineering.
Park is the son of Juyeon and Kunsoon Park. He is a member of National Honor Society, HOSA (vice president), All-State Choir, Thespians, Debate, Orchestra, Marching Band (section leader), Science Olympiad (captain), Jazz Choir, Quiz Bowl and Soccer. He served on Choir Council, was named an AP Scholar with Distinction and attended Boys State. A pianist, Park recently was named BHS 2021 Homecoming Lord.
Park plans to attend a four-year university to pursue pre-med.
Each month during the school year, the Brookings Rotary Club recognizes two students who excel in exhibiting its motto “Service Above Self” and fulfill the ideals of the organization’s Four-Way Test: Is it the truth?  Is it fair to all concerned?  Will it build goodwill and better friendships?  Will it be beneficial to all concerned? 
For more information about the Brookings Rotary Club, contact Kay Norton at The club meets each Tuesday at 12 p.m. at the Brookings Activity Center, with a Zoom option available. The club is part of Rotary International, a service organization with more than 1.2 million members in 35,000 clubs in about 200 countries and territories around the world. This year’s international theme is “Serve to Change Lives.”
September Students of the Month 2021-09-28 05:00:00Z 0

Rotarians Help with Salvation Army Share the Warmth Project

It may have been 80+ degrees outside this week, but Brookings Rotarians helped the Salvation Army prepare for the cold weather ahead by sorting donated coats for distribution later this fall. Pictured are Cathy Voelzke, Larry Janssen, Marcia Janssen, Erich Olson, and Dan Little - "Serve To Change Lives!"
Rotarians Help with Salvation Army Share the Warmth Project 2021-09-17 05:00:00Z 0

President's Message September 2021

Happy September, Fellow Rotarians!
            Having had the honor of serving as the Club President for two full months, I feel more confident about how things are rolling along, but I am just one small cog (See what I did there?) in the wheel of our club. Full engagement in Rotary, by  all of us, is needed to keep the gears running smoothly and our mission and projects moving forward.
            In fact, Participant Engagement is so important that Rotary International has set it forth as one of the priority areas in their five-year strategic plan.  “People of action strive to understand the needs of others. Rotary is a great organization because we create meaningful relationships across decades and continents. But just like the people and communities we serve, our participants need to feel seen and heard.”
            Rotary International acknowledges that when members don’t experience their membership as personally and professionally relevant, they will not stay engaged, and, to back it up a notch, when visitors and speakers don’t feel welcome or see Rotary as a place where their skills and knowledge are needed, they will not even seek to learn more about the organization, let alone consider joining.
            The current Rotary International strategic plan asks clubs to consider if their programs, learning and service opportunities are attracting new people of action. Also, when our District Governor, Doug Lind, visited Brookings recently, he emphasized the importance of retaining current members. We must do both: attract new members and retain current ones. Silver and Gold.
            What role will you play to help our club increase Participant Engagement? Might  you tell others about the service, learning and professional development opportunities that Rotary offers? Will you invite someone to a meeting? Can you suggest new programs that our current members will find valuable and meaningful? What will you do to reach out to fellow Rotary Club of Brookings’ members that we haven’t seen in awhile--to let them know they are missed, and to invite them to return? And, finally, if you are a member who is currently feeling unseen or unheard, will you please call me and let me know how we can engage you again?
            It takes us all to create a vibrant, engaged membership. Let’s work together to keep the wheel rolling forward another 100 years!
President's Message September 2021 2021-09-17 05:00:00Z 0

District Governor Doug Lind Visits Brookings Club

District 5610 Governor Doug Lind and his wife, Penny, visited the Brookings Club in August, and enjoyed a variety of social and business gatherings with our Club. His official message focused on the importance of membership, stressing "intentional retention" of current members.
District Governor Doug Lind Visits Brookings Club 2021-08-18 05:00:00Z 0

President's Message June 2021

The Regeneration that is Spring
When Rotarians gathered to help with the Brookings Marathon in May (thanks to Bruce Lushbaugh and Jim Gilkerson), the trees along the running route were in bloom, the weather was cool and crisp, and we helped guide the way of 550 marathon runners through the beautiful and visually stunning streets amid blue skies and cheering sideliners. Brookings showed itself off in Spring splendor.
What made that beautiful morning of May 2021 more than just a running event was the spirit of regeneration. We were outside, mostly without masks, fully vaccinated. It was a convergence of the regeneration of the trees, the flowers… and our lives. You could feel that we were slowly emerging on the other side of COVID.
We made it, but more importantly, Rotary helped others make it though. Rotary was the group to call - people would say, “you can always count on Rotary. Let’s see if they can help us build musical instruments in the parks, and paint designs on the Born Learning Trails, and ring the Salvation Army bell. Perhaps Rotary members will collect winter coats again this year, help out at Garden Glow at McCrory, and help stock Jack’s Pantry and the Brookings Food Pantry.” Perhaps Rotary’s most important job this past year was to remind people that spring will come again.
And so Spring has arrived with a brand new gift of positivity for us. As I prepare to turn the gavel over to Darla Biel, after a year filled with 41 weeks of Zoom-only meetings, I’m looking at the bright side of a fantastic year ahead!  Let’s enjoy!
-President Don
President's Message June 2021 2021-07-18 05:00:00Z 0

Brookings Rotary Club Announces Six SDSU Scholarships

Six area high school seniors each recently received a $1,000 scholarship to South Dakota State University from the Brookings Rotary Club. The club raises $6,000 annually for the scholarships through its “Scholar Dollars” at weekly club meetings, and recipients are chosen by committees at the high schools.
Awardees for 2021 and their declared majors at SDSU are:
Brookings High School – Brittany Birgen (Nutrition and Dietetics); Rachel Burke (Biology); Abigail Schuldt (Chemistry and Biochemistry);
Deubrook High School - Ethan Olson (Architecture);
Elkton High School - Hannah Krog (Nursing);
Sioux Valley High School - Zoe Murphy (Human Biology).
Brittany Birgen
Abigail Schuldt
Hannah Krog
Ethan Olson
Brookings Rotary Club Announces Six SDSU Scholarships 2021-07-18 05:00:00Z 0

McCrory Gardens' Rotary Area Receives Annual Planting

Rotarians Della Tschetter, Michael Gonda and Reva Johnson helped plant and refresh the Rotary Garden located within McCrory Gardens on the SDSU campus. Volunteers from the Brookings Rotary Club maintain the area each year for visitors to enjoy while strolling through the botanical garden.
McCrory Gardens' Rotary Area Receives Annual Planting  2021-07-18 05:00:00Z 0

Baby (It Soon Will Be) Cold Outside!

Even in the middle of summer, the Brookings Salvation Army is planning ahead for the upcoming cold-weather needs of the community. Members of the Brookings Rotary Club recently volunteered to help sort and organize donations. Pictured, Michael Gonda begins sorting while Larry Janssen, Marcia Janssen and Yvette Campbell work their way through numerous containers of coats and other winter garments. Participating but not pictured was Deb DeBates.
Baby (It Soon Will Be) Cold Outside! 2021-07-18 05:00:00Z 0

Rotarians Refresh Born Learning Trails in Hillcrest Park

Rotarians Reva Johnson (under hat) and Michael Gonda helped volunteers from the Brookings Area United Way and the Brookings County Youth Mentoring Program refresh the Born Learning Trails in Hillcrest Park that were installed last year. The family-friendly trails were created as a joint project between the BAUW and the Brookings Rotary Club, which donated District 5610 grant money and membership labor to help design and install the trails in Hillcrest and McClemans Parks.
Rotarians Refresh Born Learning Trails in Hillcrest Park 2021-07-18 05:00:00Z 0

President's Message July 2021

Happy July, Fellow Rotarians! Just like that, a new Rotary year has begun!
A few months ago, Past-President Don Norton gave me the opportunity to share a little about my Rotary journey, and I chose to start at the very beginning—back to my hometown of Sharon Springs, KS, located in Wallace County, that borders Colorado and is home to the highest point in the state, Mt. Sunflower.
Sharon Springs is also home to the Wallace County Free Fair, a three-day community event that draws families from all over Western Kansas—mostly not for the turtle races and rodeo and demolition derby, although those are fun, too—but primarily for the home-owned and operated carnival. Step right up! Ride tickets are just .25 cents!
I am proud to say that my father, himself a Rotarian, was a founding member of the Wallace County Amusement Association that had the idea to buy retired carnival rides, fix them up over the winter months, and bring them out during fair week to provide a low-cost, fun event for families while also raising funds for the Senior Center, the fairground’s upkeep, and the swimming pool. Another benefit was the friendships that were strengthened as community members worked together to bring a shared vision to life. The first ride the Association purchased and refurbished was a ferris wheel that the community dubbed “The Big Apple.” It still operates today, almost 35 years later!
I am proud to be my father’s daughter and to have learned community service, collaboration, and future visioning from him. I am proud to be a Rotarian and to serve with all of you, but just like ferris wheel cars that go up around together, my year as your Club President will not happen in isolation.  “My 2021-22 car” follows the excellent leadership of Past-President Don, and when this year is over, President-Elect Erich will be right behind to carry our next initiatives forward. I am thankful for the structure of Rotary International and District 5610, and for all the parts in the wheel that each of you plays. Together, we will move through the year, serving our community and creating stronger friendships in the process. And I bet we’ll even have some fun! See you on Tuesdays!
President Darla
President's Message July 2021 2021-07-18 05:00:00Z 0
Service at the Brookings Marathon! 2021-05-18 05:00:00Z 0
Scenes from our Re-Start Celebration April 20, 2021! 2021-05-04 05:00:00Z 0

New Members Welcomed In-Person

Several new members joined the Brookings Rotary Club this past year, but have only been able to attend via Zoom. On April 20, President Don and President-Elect Darla (pictured far right and second from right) welcome Yvette Campbell, Calista Fjeldos, and Ann Volin. Other new members will be "officially" recognized when they, too, are able to attend in-person. WELCOME, ROTARIANS!
New Members Welcomed In-Person 2021-05-04 05:00:00Z 0

Rotarian Steve Sewell wished Godspeed on his return to West River region

Rotarian Steve Sewell received best wishes - and a sleeve of Rotary golf balls from President Don! - at his last official in-person meeting with the Brookings Rotary Club. Lt. Col. Sewell has been relocated to the West River region of the state with his wife, Chris, and daughter, Brooklyn. Don't be a stranger, Steve!
Rotarian Steve Sewell wished Godspeed on his return to West River region 2021-05-04 05:00:00Z 0

Jennifer Soma Honored for "Polio Plus One"

Brookings Rotarian and Past Club President Jennifer Soma recently received her "Polio Plus One" designation. She is shown here receiving her pin from President Don Norton. (Masks removed for photo)
Jennifer Soma Honored for "Polio Plus One" 2021-05-04 05:00:00Z 0

President's Message May 2021

Looking Around the Room
It is such an honor to stand at the lectern in front of the Rotary Club of Brookings. April 20th was the first time I’ve had that opportunity as your president. As I looked around the room, I noticed the scholars and educators, financial experts, non-profit managers, business owners, public servants, distinguished guests, and those retired from their magnificently accomplished and dedicated careers. And there were even more equally impressive members on the big-screen TV Zooming in.
The women and men of our club are an accomplished and capable group. So many long-term members and so much dedication to Rotary!
In a broader sense, looking around our meeting room, I could see our potential to reach the fullness of our purpose. We’ve accomplished much this past year. We reimagined the traditional way of conducting our meetings. With respect to restrictions, we completed important service projects. With dedication to purpose, we fed the hungry and gave clothing to the needy. We have done so much in spite of these extraordinary circumstances, yet we really haven’t fulfilled one of our more important purposes.
What is our purpose as Rotarians? The answer is to ensure that our club thrives for the future of our community, so that all may know Service Above Self and live out the principles of the Four-Way Test. We need to do even more to ensure that our club is sustainable.
2020 taught us the importance of and the need for our club to change the way we meet and the way we engage our community. We can keep the camaraderie of our existing membership, but we also need to grow: in the number of members, in dedication to service projects, and in our commitment to our community and our world. Looking around the room and on the screen, I can see the people who can make this happen.
Leadership educator John Maxwell put it this way: “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.”  We certainly have changed. Let’s make sure we continue to grow!
President Don
President's Message May 2021 2021-05-04 05:00:00Z 0


After a full year of meeting via Zoom, the Brookings Rotary Club plans to resume in-person meetings on Tuesday, April 20 at 12 p.m. The meetings will re-convene at the Brookings Activity Center, although members and guests may still choose to participate virtually through hybrid technology.

The “2021 Reunion Celebration” will feature welcome back gifts, cake and long-anticipated fellowship for all participants, which will include masks and social distancing strategies for those attending in-person.

“Our primary objective is the safety and wellness of our members,” said Don Norton, Club President. “But we are hoping that by April 20, with increased numbers of vaccinations and continued masking and distancing precautions, we will be able to offer an in-person meeting option, as well as continuing to Zoom the meetings for those who have not yet been vaccinated or who do not yet feel comfortable meeting in person.”

The Activity Center is scheduled to re-open on April 19, and a technology grant from Rotary District 5610 will help the club provide the equipment needed to offer the hybrid option.

Norton said the club formed a “Restart Committee” months ago to explore options, but club leadership could not make any decisions until recently because of continued risk and community protocol restrictions. Then earlier in March, Rotary District 5610 offered pop-uptechnology grants designed to help clubs stay active and accessible for all members, and the Brookings Club was awarded one of the 18 approved grants. The grant, combined with club budget funds, will be used to purchase equipment that will allow in-person meetings to be “Zoomed” to those who prefer to continue meeting virtually. “We will continue to be interactive with all members, whether they are attending in-person or via Zoom,” explained Norton. “And we will buy all the equipment we possibly can from local businesses, so that’s a great way to help support our local businesses.”

Rotary District 5610 Governor Dan Little, D.V.M., who is also a member of the Brookings club, said the district grant funds were available because of limited travel expenditures this past year due to Rotary International’s precautions against travel during the pandemic. “Now those funds can be used to help our district’s clubs stay vibrant and keep membership strong,” said Little.

“RI has indicated that districts and individual clubs may make their own decisions about re-convening in-person, based on community and regional situations,” Little continued. “I applaud the Brookings Club for taking advantage of this grant to celebrate the opportunity to offer both in-person and virtual meeting options, and for cautiously inviting their members to make their own choices about how they wish to participate.”

Norton said that all Rotarians – whether they attend in-person or virtually – will receive a "Welcome Back!” bag with Rotary-themed gifts. And the club also has purchased new signage to encourage current and prospective members to celebrate Rotary’s motto of “Service Above Self.”

“Our members have continued to creatively and actively participate in service this past year, while abiding by community regulations,” said Norton. “Service projects have included food drives for the community and SDSU pantries, the installation of a Rotary clock on Main

Avenue commemorating our club’s 100th anniversary, and projects with the Boys & Girls Club, the Brookings Area Youth Mentoring Program, McCrory Gardens, the Brookings Arts Commission, the Brookings Marathon and more.” The club also continues to sponsor a student’s education in Tanzania, supports Rotary International’s global polio eradication effort and raises money each week through club “Scholar Dollars” for six annual scholarships to SDSU awarded to area high school students.

“The pandemic certainly presented unexpected challenges for us,” said Norton, who took office – virtually – July 1. “But after missing only two meetings in March 2020, Past President Jennifer Soma hit the ground running by launching the Zoom meetings last April. And we’ve never looked back. Our service to community and the world has never been needed more.”


March Students of the Month

Brookings High School seniors Nathan Cole-Dai and Ian Ainomugisha have been honored as the Brookings Rotary Club’s March Students of the Month. 
Cole-Dai is the son of Phyllis and Jihong Cole-Dai. A National Merit finalist, he has been a member of Environmental Club, German Club and National Honor Society and also has been active with Broboca (the school newspaper), Bobcat Yearbook, Orchestra, Jazz Strings and the BHS Fall Musical Pit Orchestra. He works as a cashier at Hy-Vee and is a volunteer with Feedings Brookings. Cole-Dai has three orchestra letters, won first place in the local Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., essay contest, was an Orchestra section leader for seven semesters, and was a U.S. Presidential Scholarship nominee.
He plans to pursue a degree in biology or environmental studies, and is considering Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis.
Ian Ainomugisha is the son of Emmanuel Byamukama and Agatha Ampaire. He has been very active in music, including the BHS Marching Band, where he served as Drum Major. He also has been active in Jazz Band, Winter Drumline and Concert and Symphonic Bands. Additional honors include recognition as Lead Tenor, Outstanding Soloist, Outstanding Freshman and Outstanding Senior.
He is a Boy Scout and a member of National Honor Society. Ainomugisha plans to study computer science at Rice University.
Each month during the school year, the Brookings Rotary Club recognizes students who excel in exhibiting its motto “Service Above Self” and fulfill the ideals of the organization’s Four-Way Test: Is it the truth?  Is it fair to all concerned?  Will it build goodwill and better friendships?  Will it be beneficial to all concerned? 
For more information about the Brookings Rotary Club, contact President Don Norton at The club, currently meeting virtually each Tuesday at 12 p.m., is part of Rotary International, a service organization with more than 1.2 million members in 35,000 clubs in about 200 countries and territories around the world. This year’s international theme is “Rotary Opens Opportunities.”
March Students of the Month 2021-04-06 05:00:00Z 0

President's Message April 2021

Spring – the Season of Renewal
“Little darlin’, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter. Little darlin’, it seems like years since it’s been here.”  From “Here Comes the Sun” written by George Harrison.
George Harrison was stating a universal truth when he penned “Here Comes the Sun” back in 1969. He said he was inspired in April of that year because “it seems the winter in England goes on forever and when spring comes, you really deserve it!”
And so it is with the Rotary Club of Brookings. After our “long cold lonely winter” of 2020, we’re restarting our in-person club meetings at the Brookings Activity Center (BAC) on April 20. We deserve a celebration! Some club members wanted to start the in-person meetings sooner. Some wanted to start later. This probably means that the timing is just about right. The BAC plans to open to outside organizations the day before we arrive.
But spring in South Dakota can be fickle. The high temperature in Brookings was 81 degrees on March 29 this year. The high temperature was 36 degrees the next day.  Caution is the watchword for Spring, and so it is for the restart of our club. We want everyone to be safe and feel confident that they are safe when they return. Here are some points to think about:
  • If you have completed your vaccination cycle, you should be fine at the “Reunion Celebration.” If you’re concerned, check with your doctor;
  • We will continue to sit socially distanced;
  • We will have hand sanitizer available at our meetings – we always have;
  • Bring your own food – there will be no charge for meals, but coffee, water, and milk will be available at the meetings. Everyone eats what he or she likes; and
  • By all means, if you feel ill or just aren’t ready to join the group in person, stay home and join us via Zoom. The Restart Team has worked hard to make our new meeting format interactive and fun!
Speaking of fun, each Rotarian, either attending in person or at home, will receive a gift bag with Rotary-branded goodies, our 100th Anniversary Pin, the RI slogan pin for this year, and other prizes.
It’s time to CELEBRATE!
President's Message April 2021 2021-04-06 05:00:00Z 0
Rotary Provides tech, volunteers to Boys & Girls Club of Brookings 2021-03-16 05:00:00Z 0

President's Message March 2021

Happy March!
It was just about one year ago that this virus from China was making its way to South Dakota. I remember thinking: “Maybe it will miss us and just stay on the West Coast.” “I’m sure it will be over by June.” “Do we really need to scrub down our shopping bags?” On March 6, I left my office at SDSU and started working from home.
Then-President Jennifer Soma didn’t miss a beat. The Brookings Rotary Club started meeting via Zoom, and more than 60 of us have tuned in from time to time. We still gather together for fellowship at 11:45am every Tuesday. The Zoom meetings are not the same as in-person gatherings … we all know that… but in spite of it all, we have continued the tradition of Service Above Self during these past 12 months with outstanding community service projects and a tradition of fellowship that is now 101 years strong.
Here’s some GOOD news – we see the light at the end of the tunnel (and it is not an oncoming train!). We’ve formed a “Re-Start Committee,” headed up by Club Administration Chair Gregg Jongeling. We’re planning how and when to start meeting in person again. We want to do it right, and we want to do it safely.
We’re looking at many potential meeting locations, meal options, and technology. I am confident that our club will have an “online” option each week for those who are not yet ready to meet in person when we start to get together, and for members who are out of town. District 5610 is providing a grant to help clubs continue to engage with members and grow membership, including purchasing technology that will allow for clubs to continue to provide meetings via Zoom.
With a growing number of members getting vaccinated, we’re almost there! Stay strong, and keep tuning in. Great news is on the horizon!
President's Message March 2021 2021-03-01 06:00:00Z 0


The Brookings Rotary Club surpassed its goal of 2,021 donations as part of last week’s “Stock Jack’s Cupboard” service project.
Jack’s Cupboard is a free on-campus pantry resource for SDSU students who are experiencing food insecurity.
Rotarians collected non-perishable food and toiletry items for a week at the drop-off location at Dacotah Bank, culminating with car-side pickup on Tuesday, Feb. 16. This effort garnered about 600 items, which were delivered by Rotarians to the Cupboard the next day. Then, with monetary donations made by club and community members, Rotarians shopped at Hy-Vee for the remaining items to help them reach their goal, delivering the remaining items to the Cupboard on Friday. Cupboard volunteers and SDSU students Erica Koster and Kendra Eichten assisted with the unloading.
“Thanks to the community for its support of this project,” said Rotary Club President Don Norton. “Once again, Brookings area residents have come through to help Rotary provide ‘Service Above Self.’ ” Norton noted the register receipt from Hy-Vee was 20 feet long.
“We are very grateful for the support and generosity of Hy-Vee, and especially to management staff Nathan and the cashier and bagging employees, who helped us shop for five cartsful of items!”
Norton also recognized the help of the Brookings Register and radio station KBRK for their help in informing the public about the project.
Rotarians who volunteered included Yvette Campbell, Steve Carnes, Jennifer Soma, Keith Bartels, Don Norton, Kay Norton, Jim Gilkerson, Deb DeBates, Rebecca Harman, Marcia Janssen, Larry Janssen, and Rich Widman.
"STOCK JACK'S CUPBOARD" A HUGE SUCCESS! 2021-02-23 06:00:00Z 0

December and January Students of the Month

Brookings High School seniors Quentin Eck, Jason Poppen and Abigail Schuldt have been honored as the Brookings Rotary Club’s December and January Students of the Month. 

Eck is the son of Jason and Kimberly Eck. At BHS, he has been involved in XC Varsity Team (captain), on the basketball team as both a player and a manager, track, German Club (secretary)and intramural games. He was a Top 8 Finalist in the South Dakota Big Idea Competition. He is a volunteer at the Children’s Museum. Eck plans to continue his education next year majoring in business with a focus on entrepreneurship.

Poppen is the son of Keith and Nan Poppen. At BHS, he has been involved in SADD (serving as an officer), Health Occupations Students of America (placing second and third in the Medical Law & Ethics State Competition, qualifying for national competition), Clay Target Team (lettering his sophomore year), intramural basketball and intramural soccer. He also is a member of National Honor Society.

The senior received six- and nine-year participation awards for Piano Festival and received second place youth overall in the Medary Creek Brookings Hospital Fundraiser Shoot. He also qualified for State 4-H Archery Competition. In the community, Poppen has volunteered at GAP at the United Methodist Church and is active at Brookings First Assembly of God. He also has participated in Share the Warmth and enjoys the Beacon Hill Gun Range and playing guitar. He plans to attend North Central University in Minneapolis, where he will major in biblical and theological studies.

Schuldt is the daughter of Kristie and Troy Woods. At BHS, she has been active in German Club, Multicultural Club, Conspiracy Club (president), Oral Interpretation, Environmental Club and Sexuality & Gender Alliance Club. She is currently the secretary of National Honor Society and has been in the top 1 percentile in all four years of high school.

Her hobbies include gardening, going to the gym, binding books, antiquing and playing with her golden doodle. She plans to attend SDSU as a biochemistry and chemistry double major with a botany minor.

Each month during the school year, the Brookings Rotary Club recognizes students who excel in exhibiting its motto “Service Above Self” and fulfill the ideals of the organization’s Four-Way Test: Is it the truth?  Is it fair to all concerned?  Will it build goodwill and better friendships?  Will it be beneficial to all concerned? 

For more information about the Brookings Rotary Club, contact President Don Norton at The club, currently meeting virtually each Tuesday at 12 p.m., is part of Rotary International, a service organization with more than 1.2 million members in 35,000 clubs in about 200 countries and territories around the world. This year’s international theme is “Rotary Opens Opportunities.”




December and January Students of the Month 2021-02-23 06:00:00Z 0

Jack's Cupboard needs our help!

Rotarians - our "Stock the Jack's Cupboard" project begins this week. Remember our goal is 2,021 individual items. Donations are accepted at Dacotah Bank Tuesday, Feb. 9 through Tuesday, Feb. 16 during regular bank hours. AND if you can volunteer to help for an hour or two on Tuesday, Feb. 16 or Wednesday, Feb. 17 (to deliver the donations) please let Kay Norton know right away!
The Brookings Rotary Club invites the community to participate in its February service project in conjunction with the “Day of Kindness.”
Rotarians will help replenish Jack’s Cupboard with non-perishable food items, with collection of donations taking place at Dacotah Bank from Feb. 9-16. Jack’s Cupboard is a free food pantry resource for SDSU students who are struggling with food insecurity.
Beginning on Tuesday, Feb. 9, community members may drop off donations at Dacotah Bank, 1441 6th St. during regular bank hours (see list of requested items below). If donors prefer to make a cash gift, drop it off with the receptionist at the bank, and Rotarians will do the shopping.
Then on Tuesday, Feb. 16, Rotarians will be on site at the bank 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. to personally accept donations (no-contact car pick-up is available) and the first 50 donors that day will receive a special gift.
Rotarians will deliver the donations to the Cupboard on Wednesday, Feb. 17, when a week of community-wide service activities culminates with the “Day of Kindness.”
The club has set a donation goal of “2,021” individual items.
Items especially requested by the Cupboard include: hearty soups, pre-packaged pasta, noodles, macaroni and cheese, bread, oatmeal, pasta sauce, evaporated or powdered milk,
rice, canned vegetables, canned fruits, dried fruits, cereal, canned meats, peanut butter, jelly, condiments (BBQ sauce, ketchup, mayo, salad dressings), granola bars, crackers and baking Items (baking soda, baking powder, salt, etc.).
Toiletries also are welcomed donations.
“This is another wonderful opportunity for the Brookings Rotary Club and the community to collaborate on an important project, this time benefitting SDSU’s students,” said Club President Don Norton. “We appreciate everyone who participates in helping keep our students healthy with Jack’s Cupboard donations.”
For more information or to arrange a donation by porch pick-up, contact Norton at (309) 259-0047.
Jack's Cupboard needs our help! 2021-02-08 06:00:00Z 0

Rotarian Reva Johnson Honored as Paul Harris Fellow Plus-8

Congratulations and much gratitude to Brookings Rotarian and Past President Reva Johnson, who recently received her Paul Harris Fellow Plus-8 pin. She received the pin from Club President Don Norton, both briefly unmasking for the photo. Thank you for your commitment to The Rotary Foundation, Reva!
Rotarian Reva Johnson Honored as Paul Harris Fellow Plus-8 2021-01-28 06:00:00Z 0

Mayor Keith Corbett Named Honorary Rotarian

Congratulations to Brookings Mayor Keith Corbett, left, on being named an Honorary Member of the Brookings Rotary Club. Pictured here, Club President Don Norton presents retired General Corbett with his designation. The mayor also received a wall plaque with the 4-Way Test.
Mayor Keith Corbett Named Honorary Rotarian 2021-01-28 06:00:00Z 0
Rotarians Ring the Bell for Salvation Army 2021-01-03 06:00:00Z 0

November Students of the Month

Brookings High School seniors Samyok Nepal and Bidhi Kasu were honored as the Brookings Rotary Club’s November Students of the Month. The students joined the Club’s Zoom meeting to address the members and receive their recognition.
Nepal is the son of Madhau Nepal and Kopila Nepal. At BHS, he has been active in Science Olympiad (captain), Science Bowl (captain), National Honor Society (president), Quiz Bowl and Debate (national qualifier). In the community, he has participated in Bobcat Notify and Brookings Math Circle (co-founder and instructor). He was a National Merit Semifinalist and a Congressional App Challenge winner. Nepal plans to study computer science after taking a gap year to travel and code.
Kasu is the daughter of Bijaya Pradhan and Bishal Kasu. At BHS, she has been involved in Environmental Club (co-president), Student Council (co-president), Multicultural Club (president), Spanish Club (president), Speech and Debate, Science Olympiad (state finalist in four events), Thespians, National Honor Society, HOSA, Quiz Bowl and Book Club. She also served as Writing Director for Girl Genius Magazine and was a recycling volunteer in the community. An AP Scholar with Distinction, she received the Music Scholar Award three times for her participation in Orchestra.  Kasu plans to pursue a pre-medical track following high school graduation.
Each month during the school year, the Brookings Rotary Club recognizes two students who excel in exhibiting its motto “Service Above Self” and fulfill the ideals of the organization’s Four-Way Test: Is it the truth?  Is it fair to all concerned?  Will it build goodwill and better friendships?  Will it be beneficial to all concerned? 
For more information about the Brookings Rotary Club, contact President Don Norton at The club, currently meeting virtually each Tuesday at 12 p.m., is part of Rotary International, a service organization with more than 1.2 million members in 35,000 clubs in about 200 countries and territories around the world. This year’s international theme is “Rotary Opens Opportunities.”
November Students of the Month 2021-01-03 06:00:00Z 0

President's Message for January 2021

Rotary for a New Generation in a New Year
Here’s a little background – and a New Year’s Resolution.
In 2021, people who were born in 2003 will turn 18 years of age – the age of majority where people are considered an adult. Some say these new adults are not of the “Millennial” generation, although they are associated with some of the same characteristics. They are after the Millennials, referred to as “Generation Z” – as opposed to many of us who are “Baby Boomers” or members of the “Greatest Generation.”
You may not believe all the stereotypes about being of a particular generation, but those new 18-year-olds probably never used a rotary dial phone or a pay phone, don’t have a VHS tape, never played an audio cassette, and never looked up a number in the Yellow Pages. And, sadly, many of these new adults have no idea what Rotary is all about.
Our club does a fair job of reaching out to young people in the Brookings area. We give scholarships to SDSU, we have a “Senior of the Month” or two join us during the school year, and we’re pretty visible through our service projects. While some young people will leave the community, others will stay or return to fulfil their roles as community leaders. We need them to know about Rotary, and our current efforts to reach young people are not enough. That’s where the New Year’s Resolution comes in.
In 2021, let’s resolve to reach out to our young people in ways that we never have before. Clearly, 2020 set a precedent of conducting our meetings virtually. While we will be back in person sometime in the new year, I think we’ll always have an online version of our in-person meetings. This will be great for our members who travel out of town, and it will be even easier to invite young people to our meetings, both in person and online. There’s even a new technology initiative in District 5610 that can assist us! Let’s actively rekindle our Rotaract Club, and maybe start an Interact Club at the high school.
The GOOD news is that Gen Z members are entrepreneurial, tech savvy, independent, competitive, and social. Give them a worthy cause, and they want to make a difference. We need to meet them. We need to engage them. They are the future of Rotary in Brookings.
President's Message for January 2021 2021-01-03 06:00:00Z 0

October Students of the Month

Brookings High School seniors Serena An and Cherish Stern were honored as the Brookings Rotary Club’s October Students of the Month. The students joined the Club’s Zoom meeting to address the members and receive their recognition.
Miss An is the daughter of Wenfeng An and Ping Ye. A National Merit Semifinalist, she also qualified for the Math Olympiad Program in 2019 and 2020, was a statewide piano award winner in 2018 and 2019 and an All-State Band qualifier earlier this year. At BHS, she has been active in Quiz Bowl, band, Math Club, Science Olympiad, Speech and Debate, and National Honor Society. She also has been involved in teaching at the Brookings Math Circle, Research Math and is studying Korean and Mandarin. She plans to major in math and is considering a gap year to study languages.  
Miss Stern is the daughter of Michael and Laura Stern. The Head Drum Major at BHS, she also was honored as Homecoming Queen and Most Improved Female Track Athlete. She received the FFA Greenhand Award and AP Scholar Award. Other activities at BHS include band, wrestling, figure skating, orchestra, Environmental Club, Debate, theater/Thespians and Board Game Club. In the community Miss Stern is involved in her church youth group and Northview Lads & Lassies 4-H Club. She has been employed at Hy-Vee her junior and senior years and was formerly a volunteer at youth wrestling practices. She plans to pursue a pre-medical track.
Each month during the school year, the Brookings Rotary Club recognizes two students who excel in exhibiting its motto “Service Above Self” and fulfill the ideals of the organization’s Four-Way Test: Is it the truth?  Is it fair to all concerned?  Will it build goodwill and better friendships?  Will it be beneficial to all concerned? 
For more information about the Brookings Rotary Club, contact President Don Norton at donnorton75@gmail. The club, currently meeting virtually each Tuesday at 12 p.m., is part of Rotary International, a service organization with more than 1.2 million members in 35,000 clubs in about 200 countries and territories around the world. This year’s international theme is “Rotary Opens Opportunities.”
October Students of the Month 2020-11-03 06:00:00Z 0

President's Message for November 2020

The Spirit of Giving
We frequently think of December as the month to demonstrate the “Spirit of Giving.” But the Brookings Rotary Club will celebrate that spirit at our meetings beginning in November.
November is Rotary Foundation Month. Naturally, we will feature our District Rotary Foundation Chair, Tracy Dahl-Webb, at our meeting on November 17, talking about the good works of the Foundation to advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through the improvement of health, the support of education, and the alleviation of poverty.
In Brookings, we translate the spirit of giving through the many outreach programs that help families daily to cope with poverty and hunger. Our program speakers will represent the Brookings County Food Pantry, the Backpack Project, and Feeding Brookings. We also can put the spirit into action at the Brookings County Youth Mentoring Project by addressing envelopes. The CDC identifies mentoring programs as one approach communities can take to help kids through difficult times. The BCYMP needs volunteers to address envelopes for their year-end campaign, and Rotarians will be there to help.
Another demonstration of the spirit of giving will be on December 1st when Rotarians ring the Salvation Army bell at Lewis Drugs from 1 to 8pm. I have fond memories of Kay and our two sons ringing the bell together to welcome in the Christmas season.
In a year when we could be tempted to lose our spirit, let’s work together to bring the spirit of giving to the Brookings Community. That’s what Rotary is all about – Service Above Self!
President's Message for November 2020 2020-11-02 06:00:00Z 0

Mark Sternhagen Speaks About Polio Experience


Polio victim shares his story with Brookings Rotary Club

 Courtesy photo: Mark Sternhagen, of Brookings, spoke to the Brookings Rotary Club Tuesday via Zoom about his experiences as a polio survivor. Rotary International is a major partner in helping to eradicate polio worldwide.

By: Brookings Rotary Club - Updated: 48 minutes ago

Posted Oct 22, 2020

Local author, teacher Mark Sternhagen relates personal experiences as survivor of virus

BROOKINGS – Mark Sternhagen, of Brookings, was uniquely qualified to discuss his personal experiences with members of the Brookings Rotary Club as the speaker for the club’s virtual meeting this week, which focused on World Polio Day Oct. 24. Sternhagen contracted the disease in 1957 when he was just a baby.

The Salk vaccine that prevents polio was approved in 1955. “In December 1956, when the vaccine was being administered in my hometown of Scotland, South Dakota, I had a fever, so I wasn’t vaccinated,” Sternhagen told Rotarians via Zoom. “I got polio the following August, when I was 18 months old.”

After many years of wearing a leg brace and using crutches, Sternhagen now navigates with the use of a wheelchair. An active spokesperson for those with disabilities, he serves as an advocate for fellow members of the Brookings Committee for People Who Have Disabilities, and is a board member for LifeScape in Sioux Falls – an organization from which he used to receive services as a youngster. He is the author of two books, and holds several college degrees, including a master’s from SDSU in industrial management.

Brookings Rotarians have a passionate interest in learning more about a polio survivor’s story. Rotary International through The Rotary Foundation plays a critical role in an international effort to eradicate polio worldwide. Donations from the more than 1.2 million Rotarians around the globe contribute to PolioPlus, aided by corporate gifts from such sources as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. And the efforts are working.

“When Rotary and its partners launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988, there were 350,000 cases of polio in 125 countries every year. We’ve made great progress against the disease since then,” said Brookings Club President Don Norton. Today, polio cases have been reduced by 99.9 percent, and just two countries continue to report cases of wild poliovirus: Afghanistan and Pakistan.

With polio nearly eradicated, Rotary and its partners must sustain this progress and continue to reach every child with the polio vaccine. Without full funding and political commitment, this paralyzing disease could return to polio-free countries, putting children everywhere at risk. Rotary has committed to raising $50 million each year to support global polio eradication efforts. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged to match that 2-to-1, for a total yearly contribution of $150 million.

“For more than 30 years, Rotary and its partners have driven the effort to eradicate polio worldwide. Rotary’s PolioPlus program was the first initiative to tackle global polio eradication by vaccinating children on a massive scale,” said Norton. “Rotary members have contributed more than $2.1 billion and countless volunteer hours to protect more than 2.5 billion children in 122 countries from this paralyzing disease.

“And we remain committed to continue until this totally preventable disease is completely eliminated from the earth,” Norton emphasized.

Sternhagen, an author and retired professor, said he and other polio survivors don’t want sympathy, but rather empathy. “I ask people to consider, ‘what if it were me?’ ” He is encouraged by current efforts to create a vaccine for the current COVID-19 virus, speculating there might have been an additional two million cases of polio if the Salk vaccine had not been developed when it was. “It gives me hope. After all, we found a vaccine for polio.”

To learn more about Sternhagen’s story and his publications, visit his website at For more information about the Brookings Rotary Club, visit or contact President Don at

Mark Sternhagen Speaks About Polio Experience 2020-10-22 05:00:00Z 0

Brookings Rotary Club Announces Honorary Members

In appreciation for their exceptional efforts helping the Brookings Rotary Club share its message of "Service Above Self" throughout the community, Brookings Register Managing Editor Jill Fier and KBRK on-air radio personality Bob Wayne have been recognized as Club Honorary Members. Club President Don Norton presented both media representatives with plaques on October 13.
Brookings Rotary Club Announces Honorary Members 2020-10-19 05:00:00Z 0

Rotary Coat Drive Collects more than 200 donations!

The Brookings Rotary Community Coat Drive, organized to help the Share The Warmth event sponsored by the Salvation Army to provide cold weather garments for area residents in need, was a huge success. In three hours, we gathered more than 200 coats, jackets, snow pants, and hats/mittens/scarves/socks. Thanks to Dakota Bank for extending the use of their parking lot for the drive-through collection, and for bringing coffee out to the volunteers!
Rotary Coat Drive Collects more than 200 donations! 2020-10-19 05:00:00Z 0

President's Message for October 2020

Using Our Energy Wisely
It’s so easy to let our current circumstances drain our positive attitudes! That’s why I love our weekly Rotary meetings. It builds up positive energy. I’ve been doing some research into staying positive, and here’s what I found:
1.         Hold on to an Anchor. For some, your personal anchor may be your faith. For businesses, it may  be the vision or mission of the organization. For Rotarians, the anchor includes “Service Above Self.”  When you’re “grounded” in something bigger than you are, it’s a little easier to keep the big picture in mind as you move toward a positive future.
2.         Navigate the Negativity. Attitude expert Matt Booth says the number one rule for keeping a positive attitude is to tune out as much negativity as possible. This may mean turning off the evening news and social media, and picking up the Rotary magazine to read about the good works Rotarians engage in globally.  
3.         Manage Your Energy. This is another tip from Matt. Physical and mental energy management should be thought of like time management. Rest, get some exercise, drink plenty of water, and get involved in a positive activity – like a Rotary service project.
October started out with a great service project as Rotarians helped gather garments for the Salvation Army “Share the Warmth” coat drive. We’ll have others coming up, like decorating at McCrory Gardens and ringing the Salvation Army bell. And the week leading up to October 24th, we’ll be celebrating World Polio Day with author Mark Sternhagen speaking at our meeting October 20th. Rotary’s work to eradicate polio is a real “positive” – and one of the noblest projects in history.
Let’s channel our positive energy and continue to live out our mission of “Service Above Self” right into the holidays! I look forward to seeing you each Tuesday via Zoom, with our pre-meeting social time at 11:45 a.m.
President's Message for October 2020 2020-10-01 05:00:00Z 0

Plan To Donate to the COAT DRIVE!

            The Brookings Rotary Club invites members of the community to join in its upcoming Coat Drive to benefit the Brookings Salvation Army.
            Community members may drop off their donations of new or gently used coats, jackets, snow pants, hats, gloves and winter scarves to the truck in the parking lot at Dacotah Bank, 1441 6th St., this Thursday, October 1 between 9 a.m. – 12 noon.
            Donations are needed for all children’s and adults’ sizes and will be taken to the Salvation Army to help in its annual Coat Drive that is currently underway. Rotarians will be on site Thursday morning to welcome donors and assist with loading their contributions into the waiting truck.
            Questions may be directed to Michael Gonda, Service Project Chair, at
Plan To Donate to the COAT DRIVE! 2020-09-28 05:00:00Z 0
Brookings Rotarian is District 5610 Governor 2020-09-15 05:00:00Z 0

President's Message for September 2020

Tune In and Stay Tuned
When I was growing up, we had a black and white television set that would get four stations in the VHF (Very High Frequency) band. If I’ve lost you already, those were the channels that are lower in number – like 2, 5, 7, and 9.  There were some channels in the UHF (Ultra High Frequency) band, but getting those channels to play was a real project.
You would turn the VHF tuning dial to “U” and then grab the finicky UHF knob and turn it to somewhere around the number you wanted – like channel 32. If you were able to land on it, the picture was grainy and it would fade in and out. Long before cable – long before satellite – long before Zoom.
Sometimes I feel like I’m back in the 1960s as we “tune in” to Rotary every Tuesday via Zoom. We see each other on the screen; our individual pictures are small, a little grainy at times (sometimes our entire head is not in the picture!), and the audio connection may be muffled or not in synch with the picture.
But just like our favorite programs from those early days of TV, if you enjoy the show, you’ll tune in and stay tuned. It gives me great joy to see and hear you all “on the Zoom” Tuesdays at noon. Other than face-to-face, this is the next-best option.  I wouldn’t miss this chance to be together each week.
At our meetings in August, we learned how classes and school activities would resume in Brookings, we shared stories about famous people we’ve met, and we learned about law enforcement from the South Dakota Secretary of Public Safety. At the August 25th meeting, we celebrated the news from the WHO that the African region was declared wild poliovirus free. We shared our joys with “Scholar Dollars” and we met the recipients of our scholarships to SDSU for this fall semester.
In September, we’ll focus on SDSU, beginning with President Barry Dunn on September 1. Then we’ll hear from athletic coaches – I can’t wait to hear what they’re planning.
These programs really are worth watching – especially if they “star” our Rotary family. Remember, we won’t be meeting like this forever. Look at the camera, keep smiling, and stay tuned – the best is yet to come!
President's Message for September 2020 2020-09-02 05:00:00Z 0

President's Message for August 2020

No Need to be a RINO!
It was a few years ago when I first heard the expression "RINO." That’s a “Rotarian in Name Only.” The phrase is used to refer to a Rotary club member who rarely participates in club activities, and sometimes doesn’t see the big picture of the organization.  
As I mentioned at our July 7 meeting, I was a RINO for many years, but that changed in November of 2011. While traveling in India in preparation for bringing a leadership class to that country, two Rotarians from a club in New Delhi drove an associate and me to a remote village several hours away where we saw desks that had been donated by a good friend and fellow Rotarian from our home club. Suddenly, Rotary was more than just lunch and a speaker on Tuesday.
Here in Brookings, even though we continue to meet via Zoom each week, that’s no reason to be a RINO!
At our meetings each week, we learn more about the deeper meaning of Rotary. We’re hearing reviews of articles in The Rotarian magazine, exploring The Brookings Rotary Club Legacy Book for the Rotary Foundation, and discovering the personal stories of our members and what Rotary means to them.
While meeting online is not an ideal arrangement, we’re able to “see” each other and share in fellowship that is a hallmark of our club. Remember, the meeting starts at noon each Tuesday but the Zoom starts at 11:45 a.m. to enable members to chat. Join in!
In the meantime, it’s Service Above Self with community projects, scholarships, and new members. This is no time to be a RINO - we have work to do. Onward!
-President Don
President's Message for August 2020 2020-08-03 05:00:00Z 0

Born Learning Trails

 Installation has begun on two “Born Learning Trails” in Hillcrest and McClemans Parks, thanks to support from the Brookings Rotary Club and the Brookings Area United Way.
Born Learning Trails are a series of 10 reinforced signs that offer fun, evidence-based learning activities for young children and their families and are a source of free outdoor play in the community.
Funding for the project was made possible by a donation from the Brookings Rotary Club, this year celebrating its 100th year, as well as a grant from Rotary District 5610, the Brookings Area United Way, and labor from the Brookings Park District and local Rotarians.
Installation is underway in both parks.
The Brookings Rotary Club is part of Rotary International, a 115-year-old service organization with 35,000 clubs and more than 1.2 million members around the globe. The local club, celebrating its centennial anniversary this year, meets at 12 p.m. each Tuesday, currently via Zoom, and guests and prospective members are welcome. For more information contact President Don Norton,
Brookings Rotarian Michael Gonda, left, and Dhwani Kharel, United Way intern, work on painting part of the Born Learning Trails at McClemons Park.
Members of the Brookings Rotary Club and representatives of the Brookings Area United Way joined forces to help with the installation of the Born Learning Trails at Hillcrest Park. Pictured from left are Rotary President Elect Darla Biel and volunteer Ali Teesdale. Brookings Rotarian and District 5610 Governor Dan Little is in the back.
Born Learning Trails 2020-07-22 05:00:00Z 0
FOOD DRIVE! 2020-07-16 05:00:00Z 0

President's Message for July 2020

Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive
It was great to hear Past President Jennifer Soma at our June 30th meeting recount her year as Brookings Rotary Club President. What a year it was!
  • We celebrated its 100th birthday proclamations from the Mayor and Governor;
  • We gifted to the city a clock that will stand tall on Main Avenue – celebrating 100 years of Service Above Self;
  • We concluded giving “Brain Game” books to more than 400 families of newborns;
  • We began installation of the Born Learning Trails in Hillcrest Park;
  • We continued the tradition of giving six, $1,000 scholarships to area high school seniors attending SDSU in the fall;
  • We acknowledged our 4-Way Test contest winners;
  • We rekindled a Rotaract Club at SDSU;
  • We now have a club consisting of 100% Paul Harris Fellows; and
  • At our meetings, we heard from inspirational speakers, and club members who shared the joys and milestones of their lives by giving “scholar dollars” to continue with our philanthropic work.
Notice that up until this point, there’s been no mention of a global pandemic.
We’ve learned much over the past few months. COVID-19 is serious, but it has not deterred our purpose.  If anything, Rotarians here and around the world have found new ways to make lives better. We recently thanked front-line healthcare workers for their dedication in our skilled nursing centers by giving $20 gift certificates from local restaurants to 250 professionals who are keeping our older citizens protected. And we’re ready to move forward with District Governor Dan Little from Brookings at the helm.
This is an interesting time to be stepping in as President of the 100 year old Brookings Rotary Club. While we aren’t meeting in person, it’s important for each one of us to remember what Rotary is about. In the Johnny Mercer song, he points out some really tough situations in the Bible that were solved when people “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and latch on to the affirmative.” We will move forward by finding new ways to serve the Brookings community, and my goal, now more than ever, is to honor our friendships and tradition of Service Above Self.  
President Don
President's Message for July 2020 2020-07-16 05:00:00Z 0


The Brookings Rotary Club invites members of the community to join in its upcoming food drive to benefit the Brookings Food Pantry.
There are two ways to participate. Community members may drop off their donations of non-perishable, unexpired food items Monday through Friday, July 20-24, in the lobby at Dacotah Bank, 1441 6th St., between 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Donors also may request that a Rotarian pick up the food items. To request a donation pickup, sign up with name and address in the “Sign Up Genius” link established here (your contact information will not be used for any other purposes):
A Rotarian will stop by your home and pick up bagged contributions from your porch between 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on Saturday, July 25. 
Although all unexpired non-perishable food items are appreciated, the Food Pantry indicates the most needed items are: canned fruit, cereal, cream of chicken soup, cream of celery soup, pork and beans, creamed corn, peas, Chicken Helper, Hamburger Helper, Tuna Helper, Knorr or HyVee pasta and rice sides, canned beef stew, saltine crackers, baked beans, and especially strawberry and grape jelly.
Questions may be directed to Michael Gonda, Service Project Chair, at
FOOD DRIVE! Kay 2020-07-16 05:00:00Z 0

Sioux Falls Rotarian Couple Wins Brookings Raffle Basket

The Rotary District 5610 annual fundraising raffle was held virtually this year, raising about $50,000 for the organization’s philanthropic efforts. The gift basket donated to the raffle by the Brookings Rotary Club, one of many prizes donated by Rotary clubs throughout the district, was won by Cindy and Bert Olson, members of the Sioux Falls South Rotary Club. Pictured here, Brookings Club President Don Norton, left, presents the basket to the Olsons. The prize, valued at $250, contained items purchased from nine different Brookings retailers.
Sioux Falls Rotarian Couple Wins Brookings Raffle Basket 2020-07-14 05:00:00Z 0
Rotarians Honor Health Care Workers During National Skilled Nursing Care Week 2020-06-15 05:00:00Z 0


Brookings, SD — Brookings High School seniors Katie Osbeck and Cynthia Campbell were honored as the Brookings Rotary Club’s January Students of the Month. 

Katie is the daughter of Joel and Missy Osbeck of Brookings.  Some of her in-school activities have included: Volleyball, Track, Choir, Cross Country, and FCCLA.  Outside of school, she is involved with her church student leadership team and worship team.  Her honors and offices have included National Honors Society and Honor Roll.  Katie plans to attend Indiana Wesleyan University to pursue a degree in mathematics education.

Cynthia Campbell is the daughter of Dan and Kathleen Campbell of Aurora.  Some of her in-school activities have included: National Honors Society, Student Government, Multi-Cultural Club, Health Occupation Students of America, Spanish Club, Basketball, Track, Cross Country, Choir and Band.  Outside of school, she has been involved with American Legion Auxiliary Juniors, We Are Healers, Center for Native American Youth at Aspen Institute, Girls State, and National Native American Youth initiative.  Her honors and offices have included various offices in American Legion Auxiliary Jrs., Student Government, Most Inspirational JV Athlete, Athletic Scholar Academic Excellence, Music Scholar Award.  Cynthia plans to pursue a degree in physical therapy.

Each month during the school year, the Brookings Rotary Club recognizes two students who excel in exhibiting their motto “Service Above Self” and fulfill the ideals of the Four-Way Test: Is it the truth?  Is it fair to all concerned?  Will it build goodwill and better friendships?  Will it be beneficial to all concerned? 

Photo: Cynthia Campbell, Katie Osbeck, and Rotary President Jennifer Soma

Brookings Rotary Club 100th Year Centennial Celebration 2020-01-14 06:00:00Z 0


About a dozen potential Rotaract members at South Dakota State University showed up for our first official meeting on November 18th, 2019. Fittingly, the meeting was held in the “Wahlstrom Room” in the Animal Science Complex at SDSU, named in honor of longtime Rotarian Rick Wahlstrom! Jennifer Soma, Kay Norton, Don Norton, Toby Uecker, Michael Gonda, and Nicole Rawden shared with these students the mission of Rotary and how Rotary has impacted their lives. The students then elected a club President, Brittany Kludt. We hope to coordinate more activities and projects in the upcoming semester. If you have questions, Kay Norton and Michael Gonda are serving as co-advisers for Rotaract.  Like our page on Facebook at Brookings Rotaract.

Rotarians deliver Brain Game Booklets: Fun Ways to Help Your Baby's Mind Grow

A new shipment of "The Brain Game: Fun Ways to Help Your Baby's Mind Grow" booklets were delivered to Brookings Health System to distribute to the parent(s) of every baby born in 2019. The Brookings Rotary Club is sponsoring this community health education project in partnership with Brookings Health System. The Brain Game was developed by pediatricians, neonatologists and child development specialists as a "how to" guide for parents raising children from birth to three years of age. This booklet was developed as a health education project of the La Crosse Rotary Club of Wisconsin for distribution to parents of newborn infants at their hospital. Today, the booklet, recently updated, has been made available and adopted by many other Rotary Clubs in the U.S. for health education projects in their community.
The idea for implementing this project came from Marcia and Larry Janssen visiting the Lacrosse Rotary Friendship Booth at the 2017 Rotary International Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. The Brain Game project was featured and carefully explained how other Rotary Clubs could adopt and implement this project with their local hospital. A District 5610 Grant was received to help fund this Brookings Rotary Club project.
Pictured (L-R): Marcia Janssen, Brookings Rotary Club, Sara Schneider, Brookings Health System Foundation Director, Mary Schwaegerl, BHS Obstetrics Director, and Larry Janssen, Brookings Rotary Club.
Rotarians deliver Brain Game Booklets: Fun Ways to Help Your Baby's Mind Grow 2018-12-31 06:00:00Z 0

President's Message for June

How do 365 days go by so fast? This last year has been one for the memory books. Did we ever think we would be where we are as a world, country, state, or city? It started off with a bang by having eight of us travel to Hamburg, Germany, for the Rotary International Conference. Larry and Marcia Janssen, Michael and Tiffani Gonda, Brad and Michelle Blaha, and my daughter Grace and I joined over 25,000 Rotarians from 175 countries who came together during the first week of June. We were able to meet new friends and learn how we can help one another; therefore following the 2019-2020 Rotary Motto: Making a Difference.

We Rotarians are a group that keeps on giving and always finds a way to help our community. To help celebrate our 100th Anniversary, we fund raised to purchase a Rotary Clock to be placed downtown. Our last meeting in January we celebrated with cake, proclamations from our Mayor Corbett, Governor Noem, District Governor Ina Winters, and also heard memories from some of the previous Rotarian Presidents. Another highlight to the year was being able to sponsor a Rotaract Club at SDSU. One of our grants that we applied for through our District 5610 was approved which allowed us to help fund the “The Born Learning Trails”.

Considering what has happened during the last couple of months, many things have changed. We went from meeting on Tuesdays with lunch at the Brookings Activity Center to meeting via Zoom. Many of us hadn’t even heard of Zoom. Covid 19 (Corona Virus) changed everything. Nearly everything came to a standstill and it is likely that our world as we knew it, won’t be the same in the future.

Yes, we are moving ahead as best as we can! The dream of making all our members Paul Harris Fellows, was completed in April by the gifting of points from a number of our local Rotarians. I was told this has been a dream of many of our past presidents, so I am so happy it became a reality! We came together quickly and raised money for a “Covid Relief Meal and Thank You” for our Skilled Nursing Home staff which was funded by local Rotarians and a District Grant. There are things for us to look forward to! Our clock is slated to be delivered near the end of June and installed during July. Our 100th Celebration is scheduled for November 5th in conjunction with our District Conference which will be led by our very own District Governor Dan Little.

Thank you to all of you! I am thankful for the opportunity to serve you as your President. You are all awesome and I appreciate each of you! Time goes fast, so enjoy it while you can. In a blink of an eye, life can change.

Blessings my friends,


President's Message for June 2018-11-06 06:00:00Z 0
President's Message for December 2018-11-06 06:00:00Z 0

Rotarian of Distinction for 2018


Congratulations to REVA JOHNSON for being selected in the 2018 inaugural group of Rotarians of Distinction at the District 5610 Conference / Celebration held last week in Vermillion. The Rotarians of Distinction Award is presented to individuals who through service to their Rotary Club and community have distinguished themselves, even among all Rotarians who strive to place service above self. The 2018 inaugural group of recipients have traveled different paths in their Rotary service, but those paths have all resulted in a record of service that identifies them as ROTARIANS OF DISTINCTION. Nominated by then Assistant Governor Dan Little, Reva was one of only ten Rotarians from District 5610 to be so honored this year.

Rotarian of Distinction for 2018 2018-10-09 05:00:00Z 0

Brookings Couple Learn About School in Tanzania

By: John Kubal, The Brookings Register

BROOKINGS – When Brookings Rotarian Gregg Jongeling and his wife Vi had an opportunity this past May to join a safari to view and photograph the wildlife of the Serengeti Plain in Tanzania, Africa, they took it.

Additionally, they knew they would attend a graduation ceremony at one of the most successful educational projects that Rotary supports: The School of St. Jude, in the city of Arusha, in the Northern Region of Tanzania.

“In my case, I went for the safari; but I came back with the enthusiasm for the school,” Gregg said.

“We love to travel, so it was just an opportunity to go with a group,” Vi added.

The Jongelings paid their own way and joined Rotary Club members who had been sponsoring a student and were going over for the school’s third high school graduation ceremony.

The school was founded in 2002 by Australian Gemma Sisia and named in honor of St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes. From its opening with three students and one teacher, the school has grown to almost 2,000 students spread over three campuses. More than 1,000 of the students are boarded on two of the campuses. St. Jude’s is totally funded through charitable donations and receives no government funding.

While the school is named after a Catholic patron saint, it is per se ecumenical, and religious instruction is not part of the curriculum.


Passing the ‘poverty test’

One of the most unique aspects of St. Jude’s is its process for selecting students.

“The students that they select here are the brightest they can find. There are a lot of students trying to get in and they test them,” Gregg explained.

He noted that gender and religion are not issues in the selection process. Affluence, however, is. The students selected must also pass a “poverty test.”

“They must be very poor,” Gregg said. “And they only take one student from a family, with the idea that one student will be able to bring the entire family up out of poverty.”

Comparing and contrasting St. Jude’s with Tanzania’s government-sponsored schools, Gregg noted that in the latter schools, Swahili is the primary language through the primary grades. Then a test determines which quarter of the students will move on to middle school and beyond.

“Only the top quarter (of all students) will go beyond primary school,” he added.

Meanwhile, at St. Jude’s, all instruction is in English.

“They (St. Jude’s) have a different attitude,” Gregg explained. “At a school like this, it’s more of the Australian/American teaching, with the idea that the students participate, the students can question, the students can be involved in the teaching.

“Whereas in the government schools, it’s pretty much they might write the lesson on the board and the teacher might leave for that hour; or they can never question authority.”

Citing the value of fluency in English, he noted such skills would enable one having them “to work in the tourism industry, which is the big industry in Tanzania, and make four to 10 times what a regular laborer who doesn’t have an education could make.”


Aid from Rotary

St. Jude’s prepares its students for going on in such fields as science, engineering and medicine.

“A lot of them are looking toward medicine and being doctors. A number are going to be in the engineering field,” Gregg said.

Virtually 100 percent of St. Jude’s graduates will go on to college following high school graduation. And most of the students do an internship before starting college. Many of them will assist at St. Jude’s. “A number of them also go out and assist or teach in government schools because they’re so much better prepared,” he said.

However, there are very few opportunities for higher education in Tanzania; so St. Jude’s high school graduates are helped with scholarships to attend colleges and universities in Kenya and the Union of South Africa.

Gregg noted that Rotary International is a key financial supporter of St. Jude’s, with major contributions coming from its clubs in the Syndney, Australia, area.

Additionally, Pat and Willis Sutliff of the Rushmore chapter of Rotary in Rapid City have helped create “The American Friends of the School of St. Jude,” a 501(c)(3) corporation as a vehicle for Americans to make tax-exempt contributions to the school.

In U.S. dollars, it costs $4 million annually to operate St. Jude’s. The Brookings Rotary Club has approved the use of its scholarship fund to support half the annual $2,640 cost for a student; and the Jongelings are providing the remaining half.


St. Jude’s in action

The Jongelings had the opportunity to visit the school and also to visit one of the students at home.

Vi especially enjoyed meeting and interacting with St. Jude’s students.

“They were so open and so loving and just beautiful children. We participated in a lot of their classes. And you didn’t just sit and watch them do things,” she said.

First- and second-graders were eager to demonstrate their reading skills for the Jongelings.

“We were delighted to meet Glory, a third-grade student sponsored by Rotary District 5610,” Gregg added. (The district encompasses all of South Dakota and parts of Iowa, Minnsota and Nebraska.) “We traveled to her home to meet her mother and learn of the obstacles Glory must overcome to continue her education.”

Glory’s mother does not speak English. Her young daughter is teaching her.

“That’s the idea, that she can teach her mother English and maybe basic math and things that might help her to get a job working in the tourism industry, which will probably quadruple her income and put her into a whole different situation for life,” Gregg added.

“And that’s what they hope that they’re doing with every one of the students. By raising up 2,000 students, you hope you’re raising up 2,000 families.”

St. Jude’s goal is that after completing their education, its students “will come back and work through the country,” he said.

The Jongelings were able to visit St. Jude’s three campuses: Sisia has the primary students, who are bused in at 6 a.m. and returned home at 5 p.m.; Moivaro has the middle school students, who come in on Monday and return to their homes on Friday; and Smith has the high schools students who stay the entire semester on campus.

All students are fed three meals a day. And all receive an annual physical examination.

Geography plays a big role; being on the equator, St. Jude’s days are all equally 12 hours of daylight, 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and 12 hours of darkness, 6:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m.

Having seen St. Jude’s in action, Gregg, 32 years a Rotarian and retired Brookings city engineer, had a takeaway lesson of his own: “I like to say the school accepts the brightest students they can find and the poorest students they can find, with the idea of giving them an education so that they can become leaders in their country to try to bring the entire country of Tanzania forward and to help everybody in the country. That’s the goal of the school.”

And St. Jude’s founder has her own vision for the future of the school.

“Gemma’s stated goal is to have the prime minister of Tanzania come from her school some day,” Gregg said.

Perhaps prayers to St. Jude will again be answered.

Brookings Couple Learn About School in Tanzania 2017-08-28 05:00:00Z 0

Rotary Trivia Team Wins, Gives Back

Brookings, SDWith their knowledge of trivia and donation of school supplies, The Brookings Rotary Club recently helped support the Brookings Back2School Project.  The Rotary trivia team, “The Cogs,” won first place at Wooden Legs Brewery’s Giving Back Trivia Night on August 1st.  In addition to providing school supplies such as paper, markers, crayons, notebooks, and folders, the Rotary team gave their first-place winnings of $50 to the Back2School Project. 

Members of “The Cogs” included Ginger Thomson, Dave Gilkerson, Brad Blaha, Jay Vanduch, Rich Widman, Jason Croat, and Isaiah Crevier.  Rotarian Toby Uecker coordinated the effort and emceed the event.  The Brookings Rotary Club’s goal in 2017-18 is to offer monthly community service opportunities for members, thereby bettering the Brookings community.

The main objective of Rotary International is service, in the community and throughout the world. With more than 1.2 million members in 34,000 clubs worldwide, Rotary club members are volunteers who work locally, regionally, and internationally to combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, provide education and job training, promote peace, and eradicate polio.

Photo: L-R Back Row: Ginger Thomson, Toby Uecker, Dave Gilkerson, Brad Blaha, Jay Vanduch, Rich Widman, Jason Croat, and Isaiah Crevier.

Rotary Trivia Team Wins, Gives Back 2017-08-02 05:00:00Z 0

Johnson Elected President of Brookings Rotary Club

The main objective of Rotary International is service, in the community and throughout the world. With more than 1.2 million members in 34,000 clubs worldwide, Rotary club members are volunteers who work locally, regionally, and internationally to combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, provide education and job training, promote peace, and eradicate polio.

Photo: Reva Johnson, Brookings Rotary Club’s new president, accepts the gavel from past president Dan Little.  



Johnson Elected President of Brookings Rotary Club 2017-07-01 05:00:00Z 0
Rotary President Dan Little Appointed Area 4 District 5610 Assistant Governor Effective July 1, 2017 2017-06-01 05:00:00Z 0

Brookings Rotary Club Buys Equipment for Boys & Girls Club

Brookings, SD — Children who play in the gym at the Brookings Boys and Girls Club are better protected from harm, thanks to the Rotary Club of Brookings.  The Boys and Girls Club saw a need for safety mats to be mounted along the wall of the full-size gym.  The safety mats provide a layer of safety for all youth and allow for more robust activities to be possible because of this protection.  The local Rotary Club was able to purchase the mats with a matching grant from the Rotary District 5610 Community Assistance Program.
“The objective is to provide a safe environment for the over 350 children who attend the Boys and Girls Club daily, while they participate in a variety of activities in the gym,” said Brookings Rotarian Reva Johnson.  To celebrate the installation of the mats, Rotary members volunteered to work Saturday, April 1st, at the Willie Mac basketball tournament in the Boys and Girls Club gym.
The main objective of Rotary International is service, in the community and throughout the world. With more than 1.2 million members in 34,000 clubs worldwide, Rotary club members are volunteers who work locally, regionally, and internationally to combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, provide education and job training, promote peace, and eradicate polio.
Photo: L-R: Brookings Rotarians Del Johnson and Jason Flaskey work the Willie Mac basketball tournament.  The safety mats provided by the Brookings Rotary Club are along the wall in the background.
Brookings Rotary Club Buys Equipment for Boys & Girls Club 2017-04-25 05:00:00Z 0

Rotary Student of the Month

Brookings, SD — Brookings High School senior Shae Kizima was honored as the Brookings Rotary Club’s May Student of the Month. 

Shae is the daughter of Heather and Kevin Witte of Brookings.  Some of the activities in which she has been   involved are: National Honor Society, Student Council, Spanish Club, SADD, and Volleyball. 

She has also been a volunteer for the Brookings Regional Humane Society, Brookings Marathon, and Middle School Engineering Camp.  After graduation from BHS, she plans to attend the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and major in Gender and Women’s Studies.

Each month during the school year, the Brookings Rotary Club recognizes two students who excel in exhibiting their motto “Service Above Self” and fulfill the ideals of the Four-Way Test: Is it the truth?  Is it fair to all concerned?  Will it build goodwill and better friendships?  Will it be beneficial to all concerned? 

The main objective of Rotary International is service, in the community and throughout the world. With more than 1.2 million members in 34,000 clubs worldwide, Rotary club members are volunteers who work locally, regionally, and internationally to combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, provide education and job training, promote peace, and eradicate polio.

 Photo: Shae Kizima

Rotary Student of the Month 2017-02-28 06:00:00Z 0
Rotary Exchange Student attending BHS 2017-02-14 06:00:00Z 0

Helping people with disabilities make their own music

Music has been an important part of leading an ordinary life for students at the Music School for Children With Disabilities in Honor of Paul Harris in Lublin, Poland. Founded by Rotary members, the school serves 20 students with various disabilities, including Down syndrome, autism, and visual impairments. The Rotary Club of Lublin-Centrum-Maria Curie-Sklodowska has provided funding with help from Rotary Foundation Matching Grants and the Henryk Wieniawski Musical Society, which houses the school.
After their son Mateusz was born with underdeveloped eyes, Mariusz and Joanna Kania looked for ways to help him be active. When he showed an aptitude for music, they looked for a teacher and were thrilled to find the Paul Harris music school.
Helping people with disabilities make their own music 2015-05-01 00:00:00Z 0

Finding Safe Haven

For years, Angalia Bianca had slept in abandoned buildings throughout Chicago. She stole. She did drugs. She spent time in and out of jail for forgery, theft, trespassing, and possession of narcotics. But after she landed in prison for the seventh time, something changed -- Bianca knew she wanted a better life. She just didn’t know how to make it happen.
After serving her time, Bianca sought help from a local homeless organization, A Safe Haven, and moved to its shelter in the Rogers Park neighborhood. Bianca followed the program closely -- she attended all the required meetings, passed drug tests, and volunteered at every opportunity.
Finding Safe Haven 2015-05-01 00:00:00Z 0

Saving lives in Ghana

What is it like taking a large team to Africa?  It has probably been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. In mid February, I began leading Rotary members from all over the East Coast of the United States through Ghana. I’ve tried to give the team a warm Ghanaian welcome like I’ve received on my earlier trips. A large trip is a real blessing because each person sees Ghana and our work in a different way.

A highlight for the team was greeting the chief of Sagadugu. The team got excited about buying goats and food for children in the villages where I support eight churches. It was good to see the pastors of most of the eight churches, and I had to explain that we were just passing through on our way to Bolgatanga.
Saving lives in Ghana 2015-05-01 00:00:00Z 0

India celebrates three years without polio

Throughout India and around the world, Rotary clubs are celebrating a major milestone: India has gone three years without a new case of polio. The last reported case was a two-year-old girl in West Bengal on 13 January 2011. To mark this historic triumph, Rotary clubs illuminated landmarks and iconic structures throughout the country with four simple but powerful words, "India is polio free."
The three-year achievement sets the stage for polio-free certification of the entire Southeast Asia region by the World Health Organization. The Indian government also plans to convene a polio summit in February to commemorate this victory in the global effort to eradicate polio.
India celebrates three years without polio 2014-02-26 00:00:00Z 0