DG Blog 29th June 2021

‘And now the end is near…. I did it my way’

Well, as they say, all good things come to an end. Despite it being a most difficult year, I have greatly enjoyed meeting almost all of the clubs and, individually, their presidents, albeit virtually, and hope that I can catch up with many of you at Michael’s conference later this year on the weekend of 16th October I can sympathise with the club presidents in particular having to adapt their approach to their year, and perhaps not having the chance to deliver on the ideas and initiatives they must have had planned for their clubs. However, I have been impressed with how so many clubs have not only continued their meetings and supported each other during this pandemic, but have risen to the challenges and continued vital project work – and found innovative ways of fundraising. Well done to all of you for working through this challenging year. We were all focused on growing Rotary, but this has proved to be a hurdle because of the extreme circumstances.

There have been several highlights for me this year.  

‘Staying Alive’

Firstly, seeing the determination and resilience of clubs and their Rotarians to continue with community service and fundraising despite the difficulties.  I am especially proud of the 200 plus Rotarians and families who volunteered to help out at vaccination centres. Without this infrastructure support from Rotary, I am honestly doubtful that some of the clinics would have run so efficiently. This initiative showcased Rotary at its best, and in many areas, Rotarians are already being asked to be ready for any autumn vaccination roll-out. 

‘Please Release Me…’

District business:

And it was a pleasure to be able to release much needed funds from district reserves and persuade General Council to agree with my proposed amendment to maintain District Grant funding at the previous year level rather than reduce it. I felt very strongly that it was right to do so. 

I must also thank my District team, all drawn from clubs who are prepared to give that extra service supporting District and service to the clubs. I will say this – I know that some in the Clubs are sceptical about – some even hostile to – District’s existence. However, without people stepping up to take on these roles, and without District in some form or other, then we would lose the valuable resources that clubs can tap into.

You probably all know by now that we had an amazing virtual conference, well-attended (thank you to those of you who supported it and spent a day in front of the computer!) and, I’m pleased to say, under budget, yet free to all. There is no doubt that virtual meetings will continue to play a part in the ordinary business of clubs going forward as we strive to make efficiencies, reduce costs and improve our carbon footprint. A special thanks to my club, Taunton Vale, and my stalwart and dedicated conference committee, without whom it would not have taken place, as has been the case with many Districts this year. And let’s not forget that the poor souls on my committee ended up organising TWO conferences! Our original face-to-face event which had to be cancelled, then taking on the challenge of the first virtual conference. I lost count of how many committee meetings we had to have in the end because of our ‘double act’. Though I believe our chairman kept count. Don’t forget to read the article about our conference on the Rotary website and remember that on the conference website, https://district1200.com which remains in situ as a legacy product, there are downloadable resources for you to use in your meetings.

This year we have also created a Membership Task Force, and under the Chairmanship of incoming DG Michael, strengthened our Public Image Team in order to support club efforts to grow Rotary. On that subject, following the introduction of the Global Hub, we have started the creation of a Passport Club. I believe that Passport Clubs are without doubt part of the way forward for Rotary. They are certainly not created as a threat to ‘traditional’ Rotary – rather, they create another conduit by which interested parties can be a Rotarian, but deciding how and when they want to carry out Rotary activities. And in taking this route, new Rotarians will learn about the work which already goes on in the district and be a resource to support existing clubs in projects, if they wish. Well done, Penny Underwood, for driving this forward, and with the help of White Knight Marketing and my wife Julie, all are busily engaged in its structure and the website creation. Watch this space! 

Another innovation of which I am proud is the inter District (3 and 4 District) district meetings which took place this year – long may they continue.

‘Young People are the Future’

On youth, I am pleased to report success in the Young Musician in the Regional (South and South West) Final of RYM. Ellen Steward and Amelie Lloyd (both from Taunton Club) were first and second respectively in the vocalist class, whilst Daisy Hickson (clarinet) of Minehead was third in the instrumental class, so three of the four D1200 candidates were placed and did us proud. Sadly, the National Final has been cancelled this year so that’s the end of the 2021 competition. This must be a disappointment to the participants, but they should all feel proud of their regional achievements, and I firmly believe that this is a key part of Rotary’s role – to encourage young people in projects or contests which acknowledge and develop their skills and confidence. 

‘A Question of Honour’

By the way, I was honoured by my own club last night with a Paul Harris Fellowship – what a way to end a very memorable Rotary year.

 ‘What a wonderful world’ 

I wish my successor Michael (who I am sure will be a wonderful DG), and all of you, all the best for the forthcoming year, and I thank you for your support. So many of you stepped up to the plate when, for example, we made a call-out for help with the virtual conference on the day. It was wonderful to see volunteers from a wide range of clubs offer their time and skills in a situation new to most of us. Again, that epitomises the friendship and willingness of many Rotarians to be involved in so many different ways. 

‘Be my Wife’

Lastly, a very special thanks to my wife Julie, who as a former GSE student has known Rotary longer than I have, whom I met because of Rotary, and who has been a tremendous support in my Rotary journey and especially this last year and in planning and delivering the conference. And, though it’s probably not the done thing for a DG to say, would have made a better DG in my view! 

Best wishes

Rory O’Donnell

PS – those who watched the conference will know that we used songs to introduce the speakers. Michael, for example, just had to have a famous Abba song attributed to him! So, in order to end a different year for a DG in a different way, I’ve used song titles as sub-headings for my final blog. I wonder how many of you spotted that? Or how many of you know the performers?! (Another example of how our virtual world and search engines can come into play!)

Answers: Frank Sinatra; Bee Gees; Engelbert Humperdinck; The Good Ones; Sarah Brightman; David Bowie

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