Notes from the Governor
One month into 2021, I’d like to share our progress on the goals that we established at the beginning of my DG year.
We have made tremendous progress on some goals – others not so much, due to (you know it) the pandemic. But as I’ve said repeatedly - “We can either be sad about where we aren’t or embrace where we are.” I certainly choose the latter. So, warts and all, here is where we stand…
Membership Our top priority – PERIOD.
At the beginning of the year, I was deeply concerned about Club membership. A twin crisis of COVID-19 and an economic downturn seemed to point to a membership cliff that our clubs would be unable to turn from.
Rotary Zone 33
While the 16 districts in our Zone, which stretches from Western Pennsylvania (Go Steelers) and West Virginia through the Carolinas, have experienced a net loss of over 800 Rotarians since 1 July 2020, our own district has not contributed to that loss and has actually had a net gain in membership during that period. In fact, we are 1 of only 2 of the 16 districts in Zone 33 that have actually gained members. 
Our goal of “no member lost” is the cornerstone of the great work that your Membership Chair Jonathan Lucus developed. We also recognized that in order to grow we needed to get creative and think outside the box. Our new Peace Builder e-club and standouts like the Fairfax, Falls Church, and Springfield clubs all embraced this concept and have been successful.
That is the good news. The bad? Our population is still aging and we are not collectively growing in certain key demographics like Millennials, women, and individuals of color. Our clubs have been slow to pivot to the changes in their local community. Specifically, they have failed to adapt to changing communities and changing cultures. Millennials are set to disrupt volunteering and philanthropy much like they changed the workplace. Relevancy and impact are key words for us to embrace. 
As Past District Governor Steve Cook once told me, “We have to get outside the four walls of our club and realize that some our best potential members don’t fit in traditional options.” What’s that mean? We need to stop trying to trim off a square peg to fit in the round hole and instead reconfigure our round hole to accept the square peg.
To build for the future, we need to be relevant and to show impact. Satellite clubs are a great way to be laser-focused on specific projects/programs that interest current and prospective members. Satellite clubs attract people who want to work on key social issues, such as ending human trafficking, addressing food insecurity, and others. Keep this in mind: while we join Rotary for the service, we stay for the fellowship – and that creates opportunities for satellite clubs to form around existing groups, such as scouting, or around social activities, such as golf leagues, bowling leagues, book clubs, walking or hiking clubs, or more. What draws us together, keeps us together.
Interested in establishing a satellite club? Contact me.
As you may know, I am an investor in the Foundation – not a donor. It pays tremendous dividends for us both overseas and here at home. Our Foundation continues to make great strides in our local community – my great thanks to PDG Ronnie Chankter and her team for their leadership.
The reality is that our Foundation is the catalyst for our success. However, if no one knows about the good work, what have we really accomplished? We need to do a better job of telling the world what we do and how our Foundation works.
This gets to the heart of an issue that we need to work on. Too often, we tell others what it is that Rotary does (i.e. we eradicate polio; we sanitize water, we provide health care, etc.) rather than ask “what is it that interests you?” Our response to that answer should be affirming and then explain that our Foundation can help them accomplish that goal. We need to communicate and act on what service and impact is important to others. This will build a stronger brand for the Foundation and for Rotary in our communities. We also must reach out to local businesses and develop new and exciting partners for our cause(s).
Youth and New Generations
Many of you have heard me on this issue – it is critically important to me – and to our future. Jim Holcombe and his Youth Services team deserve tremendous credit for guiding us through this pandemic. With schools operating virtually, goals we had in the beginning of the year of enhanced programs focused on STEM and other areas have just not been possible. 
Yet, despite the undeniable impact of COVID, we are making progress. Pat Locke and Mack Brooks of Springfield Rotary have shown us the pathway to adapt and overcome with Interact students. Daniel Kasmierski (Kaz) and Shannon Heath continue to find ways to develop service projects with Gainesville-Haymarket. And then there is Holly Graff who has developed and is running a speech and essay contest while working on a ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
I see growth and impact opportunities with community-based Interact clubs in religious institutions and other locations. In addition, I encourage clubs to connect with Angela Contee of Springfield Rotary who is working on an initiative to bring parents of Interact students to become club members. This accomplishes two things:
1. A depth of support for our Interact Club Members and future Interact Club Member's parents;
2. A goldmine of new Members for our clubs from individuals with a strong Rotary connection.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
“Rotary Opens Opportunities” – I love this theme. Rotary is open to all – no matter who you are, what you look like, or who you love. We need to remember that we are an inclusive organization – and act accordingly. Sadly, the reality is that the vast majorities of our clubs do not reflect the communities they reside within. 
Diversity makes us stronger. Diversity makes us relevant. It also makes us credible to the communities we work within.
Phrases like “I like my club just the way it is” are out of touch and a path to dwindling club membership. If the club doesn’t reflect the diversity of the local community, it is every member's responsibility to change that image.
We have made progress. At the District level, we made a point that changes would be made in how we address this subject. Our corps of Area Governors are now majority female. In the Chair-level positions, over half are women. Our next three District Governors are all women. One of the best assets in our district is our “teacher” – Dr. Deborah Jackson who is a woman of color and the best qualified individual to help educate our leaders in this District.
The “Committee of Nine” (now greater than nine members) has been meeting to address diversity. We are working on a major announcement about a partnership with an organization called Challenging Racism (CR). We believe this ambassadorial program will help our clubs in a way not considered before. My thanks to Steve Silcox of Arlington Rotary for introducing us to CR.
Our work here is critically important. When I put my name to the June letter supporting “basic” standards that our District has when it comes to individual’s rights, the response I got was predominantly positive. I experienced just a moment of what people of color experience for a life time.
Early in the pandemic, I was at a socially distanced outdoor event. An individual came up to me, identified themselves as a Rotarian and club leader and then called me “N**** loving race traitor”. This was done in front of my wife and daughter. The coward then turned and walked away. I talked with my confidant Dr. Jackson about this. She said something that I think about every day, “Now you know how we have felt for years.”
Our four-way test means that we cannot stand for racism. We have lots to do, and it will take time. Nevertheless, I have faith in our direction and the support of many, many people that I am proud to call Rotarians.
Leadership Shoutout
This has been an amazing and challenging time for us all. I am proud of our Club Presidents and Area Governors. We have a group of emerging leaders in our District ready to move up that we have not seen in a generation. René Laws is now District Governor Nominee Designate – and I know that she will be great.
Amelia Stansell is a great leader. This District needs and benefits from her energy, freshness and deep understanding of issues of human trafficking and young professionals in the workplace. I also am in awe of Katie Gould, Theressa Ellis, Enola Thaboun, Paula Kelly, and Erica Brouillette. I fully expect that from this group, a future District Governor will arise. Credit to Dr. Jackson and Don Wellen for their work with these leaders. My thanks also to District PI chair Lori Prencipe for her continued behind-the-scenes guidance (and wicked sense of humor). And I know our District will be in exceptional hands with DGN Sheila Brennan and my very good friend DGE Pat Borowski.
We all need to recognize that Rotary must change. Within the next 10 years, our Rotary District will look very different than it does today. We expect a greater role and responsibility of the Area Governor and thus we wanted to start the process of getting clubs to understand the importance of that role within their organization. I know both DGE Pat and DGN Sheila will be working to continue this change.
I am proud of the work we have done. I also have work yet to be finished. You can bet that I will be showing up every day to make this District and our clubs a better place. I hope that I can continue to count on all of you to continue to allow Rotary to open opportunities in your world, your clubs, and yourself.
Thank you for everything you do.
Yours in Rotary,

DG Harry Henderson
23 February 2021
Rotary Wheel - 1906
In This Issue
  • Sad Farewell
  • Learning and Connecting
  • Keeping Internationalism Alive
  • Call for Videos and Photos
  • Who's Your Hero?
  • Meals Alive
  • Once Size Doesn't Fit All
  • Food4Thought
  • New Members
Sad Farewell to Mert Bland,
Last Founding member of Rosslyn Rotary 
By Randy Fleitman, Rosslyn-Fort Myer
The Rosslyn-Ft Myer Rotary Club is sad to announce the passing of our last founding member, Dr. Merton Bland.  "Mert " left us peacefully, after a long illness.  

After a tour in the Army, during which he met his wife Janine in Paris, he served in the State Department for 25 years as a public affairs officer, visiting over 100 countries, learning many languages. He spent the next 25 years traveling around the world training teachers how to teach English.  He led our club in almost every office, and for many years arranged great speakers for our meetings.
In October, we held our only live meeting during the pandemic in order to honor Mert after the 40th anniversary of our founding.  He continued to join our zoom meetings up until December, listening intently. We will miss him, and extend our condolences to his family.   
Many District 7610 Rotarians will also remember Mert.  His family suggests you can make a donation in his memory to the Rosslyn Rotary Foundation at and leave a message for Janine Bland and Mert’s family. It demonstrates the high regard in which many people held Mert that they have already donated over $1,000, which we will use for the Tema Medical Center project in Egypt.
Mert and his wife Janine at our only in-person meeting during the Covid era
Memories of our Past Club President Mert Blan
I will always treasure my memories of Dr. Merton "Mert" Bland, as he was the member who recruited me to our Rosslyn-Ft Myer Rotary Club.  I attended my first Rotary meetings as a guest in Nairobi, Kenya, where I was very impressed with their activities and membership, but couldn't commit to joining because of the long trip from the Embassy.  

Years later, I eagerly accepted Mert’s invitation to come to a club lunch meeting in the Holiday Inn Rosslyn, where he and the others immediately made me feel welcome.  After I joined, I was always impressed with the high quality and diversity of the speakers Mert recruited for our meetings.  He livened our socializing with his humor.  
 I only recently became aware of the role he had played in establishing and leading our club before I joined, and was pleased to have the opportunity to present him with a special award noting our club's 40th anniversary. I was touched that, at Mert’s memorial zoom, his son said that Mert really appreciated our outdoor presentation ceremony. Even as his health declined, Mert still attended our zoom meetings.  He and his wife Janine have been fixtures in our club for over 40 years, and we will miss him greatly.  
North Stafford Rotary Club Always Learning and Connecting
By Tracy McPeck, North Stafford
The members of North Stafford Rotary Club are proud that René Laws, currently serving as Area Governor for Area 4, has been selected as our District Governor for Rotary Year 2023-2024. René has been involved with Rotary for eight years and has worn many hats, from serving as NSRC President to serving as District Diversity and Inclusion Chair. Congratulations, René!
January was a month of learning and networking with several enlightening presentations by members of local organizations. One such organization is the Thurman Brisben Center, a full-service shelter for people experiencing homelessness. Executive Director Dave Cooper described how the Brisben Center works with residents to improve their economic self-sufficiency through a number of initiatives, including a unique one-on-one coaching program, Mobility Mentoring. 
We also enjoyed learning about FAMPO, the Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, from Public Involvement Coordinator Stacey Feindt and Transportation Director Ian Ollis. The club learned how we as community members can become involved with our area’s transportation planning process. The topic of transportation might sound dry, but it was quite fascinating to learn what goes into current and long-term planning for sustainable transportation!
Keeping Internationalism Alive
By Michelle (Meesh) Peters, District International Service Chair
I have had the pleasure of meeting with many clubs in our district over the past few months and have been impressed with the innovative and very creative ways they are keeping their international mindset alive and thriving. The ability to use Ring Central and Zoom has opened many creative opportunities. I wanted to invite clubs to share what they are doing so they can get ideas and network resources. 

Some have been inviting guest speakers from their projects, some find recipes to create fun nights of fellowship with presentations from international guest, my club had an excellent author join us from Scotland to talk about the book she wrote! 

If I can support your club with any international initiatives, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. Michelle (Meesh) Peters your International Service Chair. ( and please share your awesome ideas using the link below so we can all benefit from some great ideas!
Call for Videos and Photos Showing People of Action
By Lori Prencipe, District PI Chair
Barry Gordon (Fairfax) and Lori Prencipe are developing a video to demonstrate 7610 Rotarians as people of action. Please send high quality videos and photos to
Videos and photos showing diversity in age, color, gender, locations and event types are of particular interest. Please also send photo/video releases if people outside of Rotary are included in the shot. In addition, if you have any upcoming events that might be good to include in the video, please let them know prior to the event. 
Who is Your Hero?
By Dee T. Russell, Mathews
A couple of years ago, I invited a member of the neighboring Middlesex Rotary Club to come to one of our morning breakfasts to talk about their Flags for Heroes program. I had seen their display of flags in a field one day, pulled over, asked about what they were doing, ended up sponsoring a flag in the name of our club and wanting our club to hear all about it. At the conclusion of the program everyone in the club thought it was a great idea, but as with all fundraisers, it requires manpower and time to accomplish properly. At that point, we already had so many events scheduled for the year and it was relegated to the back burner.

Then in 2020 EVERYTHING changed! Mathews Rotary Club, as all Rotary Clubs experienced a 2020 year like no other. The club began to meet via Zoom as we were unable to meet face to face due to Covid19 restrictions. We discussed all the fundraising events we do every year and determined we could not in good faith do most of our annual events due to the social distancing requirements.
Then we remembered the Flags for Heroes! Our club headed up by Ron Lambert started the process. We marketed our flags to our community to honor whoever their HERO was. It could be a member of the military, teacher, medical personnel, first responder, or anyone who was their hero. We defined a HERO as a person who is admired for their achievements and noble qualities. We decided to place our flags in an open field on our town’s Main Street starting 1 November, the day before the election, and then take them down 12 November, the day after Veteran’s Day.
Our community loved this event! They embraced it so much we sold out of our allotted number of flags in the first 2 weeks. We decided to order another small number of flags ending up with a total of 170 flags! Between a corporate sponsorship from our local Chesapeake Bank, other local businesses, and individual flag sponsorships we ended up grossing a little over $14,000. Although this was very financially helpful to our yearly fundraising goals, even after front end expenses were paid, it was and is not just about the money.
When you stand back and look at that sea of flags you cannot help but feel your chest tighten a little from the awe of the sight. Each of those flags represent a special person. Someone who is loved, respected, and admired for their achievements and noble qualities by a member of our community.
For any club who has considered starting this program….. we can only give this advice…..DO IT! 
Meals Alive
By Dave Borowski, Bailey's Crossroads
In January, the Baileys Crossroads Rotary Club volunteered to package 20,000 meals for Alive, Inc. which supplies staple meals to people in need in Alexandria, VA. It’s usually an entire production where we pack and seal packages that contain a fixed amount of soy flakes, dried beans, dried vegetables and rice. Each meal includes a vitamin pack to fortify the meal.
Our club has done this before as a massive club effort where members meet at a large hall and work for hours to pack meals. Because of Covid-19 some members and their families packed meals individually. Members participating included Kate Walter, Ava Nguyen, Neesa Hoskin, Pam Martinov, Samuel Macharia and Pat and Dave Borowski.
We had help from other Rotary Clubs including Alif Brahim from Rotary Club of Alexandria West and Gary Aiken from the Rotary Club of Annandale.
Communicating With Your Membership
One Size Does Not Fit All
By Lori Prencipe, District PI Chair
 How many times have you heard the following statement from a club member: “I had no idea we were involved in that service project. I would have participated had I known.”
Presidents all over our District have stories they could share of how difficult communicating effectively with membership can be. They use email, put it on DacDB, post to Facebook or their web page. Yet, come the Club Assemblies, there are always members who say, “When was that supposed to happen?” Just to put a fine point on this, just a few years ago, a high ranking District official mailed (USPS) jump drives with responsibility presentations to various members. Why did they not send it through email? Because over half the people involved had opted out receiving emails from the District.
In order for us to attract new and younger members, it is critical for old dogs to learn new tricks. Specifically, we have to improve our ability to adapt and learn how other organizations are communicating and take action to better engage our membership.
For example, the federal Medical Reserve Corps mobilizes volunteers through local chapters to assist with public health emergencies. They work with over 190,000 volunteers (including me) who have collectively logged hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours helping to get individuals vaccinated.

How do they communicate with their membership? The MRC chapters understand that a one size fits all approach does not work. Their volunteers are not going to continually check the webpage or their internal calendar for opportunities to do good in the local community. Instead, MRC takes a multi-faceted approach that prioritizes text messaging to get the word out.

Why text? Open rates for text messages are as high as 98%, versus email with a 20% open rate. Younger members almost entirely operate on text message. A Pew Institute survey found that Americans ages 18-29 send and receive up to 88 text messages every day.

Consider a few basic steps to improve your communications game:
  • Peer to peer texting (p2p): The most personal form of texting, one member of your club texts a different member of your club about an upcoming activity.
  • Broadcast texting: This allows you to send a text to the entirety of your membership at one specific time. You can also send targeted broadcast texts to just your fundraising committee or individuals involved with youth service.
  • Opt-in text messaging: This allows you to find out which members of your club are interested in supporting a specific task or activity by sending a text message with keyword or phrase like “Scouting” or “FlagsforHeroes”.

To make this work, you need data. Some members won’t want to put their personal cell phone online. So, keep a personal spreadsheet with all the cell phone data you can obtain. And get those members engaged who are telling you they didn’t know about a certain program or activity.
Interested in learning more? Contact me at
By Jim Kirkpatrick, West Springfield
People of Action - Photo by Enola Thaboun
The Rotary Club of West Springfield, in partnership with Britepaths, held its 2nd “Food4Thought” community event on the MLK Day of Service to provide snack bags to local school children who often go hungry on weekends and school holidays. Volunteers met at the Springfield Hilton parking lot on January 18 to unload bags from donors who dropped them off from their cars. Other volunteers met the previous week to prepare bags using food items provided by club members and Rotary. Almost 1,500 snack bags were packed and then delivered to three local schools plus ECHO and Koinonia. An additional $400 in cash donations was provided to local charities. Local sponsors were the Springfield Hilton, Andrews Federal Credit Union, Wilkinson Property Management and Realty, and Interstate Moving. 

According to Steve Cook, a club officer, Rotarians are “people of action” and love to organize events like this which have such have a direct and positive impact on the local community.  During the past year the club also donated thousands of dollars to charities which help families suffering financially due to the Pandemic.
New Members
These are the new members added in January 2021