Program Report: The Helius Foundation – Geraud Staton

President Todd Taylor celebrated “Jewish Awareness Day”, as a tribute to Rotary’s ecumenicism, and Vince Simonetti’s as the best (and possibly only) tuba museum in the world. (Peter Morcombe won the raffle, the fourth time in two years. Investigations are continuing…)

Geraud Staton, President of the HELIUS Foundation, with his wife as a guest, was introduced to a full Rotary house by Julie Wells.

HELIUS was founded in 2015 as a new way to help poor black entrepreneurs in Durham.  Durham has a history of black affluence. At the beginning of the 20th century, the city had the highest number of black millionaires per capita in the country. But now 22% of African Americans in Durham live below the poverty line. (Not that these two numbers are incompatible, as the current debate on income inequality shows.) 

HELIUS aims to help poor people who are already engaged in some entrepreneurial activity to expand and consolidate it.  The aim is to encourage social mobility in a region where it is low.  There are many reasons that Durham lags. Redlining and intentional racism are two. But perhaps more important is the effect of repeated setbacks. Geraud told the story of psychologist Martin Seligman and his poor dogs, severely shocked into “learned helplessness” — not that we need suffering canines to know that repeated failure can deter.

HELIUS is successfully countering these bad effects.  They begin with a ten-week program for all, followed by individualized help. HELIUS has a 91% success rate; 64% end the program earning a fair living wage. HELIUS has worked with small enterprises like the teashop Jeddah’s Tea to improve business practice and reduce debt.

In answer to questions, Geraud responded:

Q: What do you think about reparations because of the wealth difference between whites and blacks A: It could work if done properly. Q: How do you choose clients? Poor people, already engaged in “potentially legal” business of some sort. Q: Where does capital from. A: Do not borrow if possible. better to start small. “Kiva Trustee” gives small loans $2-19K. Q: How do you get clients? Almost always by referral. HELIUS is funded by donations: foundations; most now are from corporations – who hire many of our clients. Q: Do you have a list of good ideas? Yes! Q: What is your oldest business? A: 7-year-old company, floundering at first, now OK. Our participants range in age from 14-71 (the latter an artist).

Submitted by JS

Christmas 2019 Musical Program


Rotarians and Guests at Monday’s Holiday Celebration were treated to a very special presentation by students and staff from R.N Harris Integrated Arts/Core Knowledge Magnet School. Introduced by Rotarian Steed Rollins, Jeremy Tucker, new Director of Arts Programs for Durham Public Schools, spoke of the school’s focus on “integrating all subjects with music, dance, drama, visual and literary arts to engage every student in memorable learning.” The program, which Tucker referred to as the A+ program, “essentially ‘levels the playing field’ for all students that attend RN Harris.”

5th grade violin students performing with their teacher Ann Bauer opened the performances. They began with simple exercises between themselves and the teacher and gradually moved to more complex melodies and rhythms. This use of “Suzuki Method” techniques allows students with varying training to experience success in playing from the very beginning.

Student singers and dancers presented music and dance selections from Frozen, which Tucker explained was based on Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen” and the ballet “The Nutcracker.” The program closed with a demonstration of the Samba dance rooted in the Brazilian Culture and the Mamba which is based in the Cuban culture. Dance Teacher, Toya Chinfloo and Music Teacher, Elizabeth Vick, directed the music and dance selections.

The enthusiasm, joy and focus of these young people under the direction of their teachers was thrilling and heart warming. As a former Music Teacher, who taught this level in public schools for a short time before moving on to another career, I know how difficult it can be to achieve the level of accomplishment we saw today. I’m also aware, as an amateur musician, how much it means to experience the success that these young people have achieved. It showed on their faces!

Tucker emphasized that “the integrated arts approach is an interdisciplinary collaboration that realizes that all children are artists and that art can be used to strengthen all learning as well as provide social and emotional support for all students that attend RN Harris.” Tucker thanked the Teachers and Principals of RN Harris as well as Deputy Superintendent of Academic Services, Dr. Nakia Hardy and Assistant Superintendent of Specialized Services, Dr. Deborah Pitman who also attended. He closed by quoting an RN Harris student who said, “The arts allow me to express myself in ways that otherwise would not be possible. I am allowed to do it freely.”

Submitted by Doug Butler

MLK Day of Service Meal Packing January 20th

Join us on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, January 20, 2020.  Over 300 volunteers will work together to package 130,000+ meals to be distributed in Durham, Orange, Wake, and Johnston Counties through the Interfaith Food Shuttle. This project is a collaboration between 15 District 7710 Rotary Clubs, Duke University, Interfaith Food Shuttle, and Duke School.

***Children – families are welcome!  If your child is under 7 years of age do not include them in your volunteer total as they will work with an adult on the same job. Children over 7 years of age can work independently with adult supervision. Indicate the ages of the children in your sign up.

We will also be collecting non-perishable items to stock the pantries at Durham Tech and NC Central University.  Most needed items are canned beans, peanut butter, breakfast items, canned fruit in 100% fruit juice or water, personal hygiene items, and healthy snacks.

Click here to sign up.

Contact Joyce McKinney with any questions, (919)308-2176.

Date: 01/20/2020 (Mon.)Location: Duke School

3716 Erwin Rd, Durham, NC 27705


Wrap-up from the Durham 150 Celebration from Discover Durham

Welcome to the Supporters of Durham 150 newsletter, designed to keep those interested in Durham’s sesquicentennial updated on all the planning activities surrounding the yearlong commemoration.

“I Choose Durham” Performance Video

Those of you who attended the Durham 150 Closing Ceremony on November 2 got to experience the first-ever performance of a new Durham anthem, titled “I Choose Durham.” It was an incredible final moment of the program, with the crowd standing, clapping and singing right along with the performers on stage.

For those of you who were unable to make it to DPAC for the Closing Ceremony, and for anyone who would like to relive the moment all over again, we produced a video from the live footage captured by UNC-TV and livestreamed by ABC11. The video description includes a long list of those who deserve credit for their work in bringing this project to fruition. A special thank you goes to our anthem supporter, The William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, for making our vision for the anthem come to life.

Part of the vision of the anthem is for it to be a tribute to Durham, a song that we hear playing and everyone singing for years to come. If you would like permission to use the anthem as part of your own performance or event, contact us at We would love to find as many opportunities for it to play as possible.

Durham 150 Merch Makes for Great Gifts!

If you and your loved ones haven’t already purchased any Durham 150 gear, we have t-shirts, hats, magnets, and stickers available at The items make for great holiday gifts! Get yours before the store closes in the coming months!

150 Events and Counting

Y’all did it! Last month, we reached our goal of featuring 150+ community-led sesquicentennial-related events this calendar year. We’ve been blown away by the creativity, diversity, and meaningfulness of so many of the projects and events. Many thanks for bringing our vision to life, including the grant sponsors who made it happen: The A.J Fletcher Foundation, The Rotary Clubs of Durham, and Wexford Science + Technology and Ventas.

Follow along our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) as we close out the year by posting photos from some of the events that took place.

Historical Note

Did you know Durham has more state historic sites than any other county in North Carolina? What’s more, all three of the sites host annual holiday events that are not to be missed this time of year.

Here are more details pulled from the Duke Homestead website:

This year, for the City’s 150th anniversary, the sites invite you to join their Christmas programs, “Spirit, Sacrifice, and Celebration.” See how the lives of past Durhamites transformed dramatically in the decade leading up to Durham’s founding. Visitors can learn about the culture of enslaved people at Christmas at Historic Stagville in 1860, acquire information about the compromises local families made in the midst of the American Civil War in 1864, and discover post-war celebration and growth at the start of Durham’s famed industrial founding at Duke Homestead in 1870. At Bennett Place, visitors can witness how Christmas was celebrated in the Piedmont Carolinas during the American Civil War or take a special guided tour by candlelight around the farm.

In addition to the Duke Homestead website, you can also find more information on the Historic Stagville website and the Bennett Place website.

Do you have a friend, family member or colleague who would be interested in receiving these Durham 150 newsletters? Let them know they can subscribe to updates on Durham 150 here.

Shelly Green & Patrick Mucklow
Co-Chairs, Durham 150

2019 Community Service Award – Wense Grabarek

For many years our Club has made a Paul Harris Fellowship award to a citizen of Durham for contributions to the life and culture of the community.  For as long as I can remember the selection has been guided by Rotarian Dieter Mauch. The only hard and fast rule of the selection process is that it can’t be another Rotarian. The other members of the selection committee are President Todd Taylor, past President Brady Surles and Judge Craig Brown.

This year’s honoree is former mayor Wense Grabarek. Mr. Grabarek was nominated formally by Club members David Ross and Wade Gresham and received endorsements from Tom Bonfield, Robb Cadwallader and Jim Brame. Dieter noted that this was the first year that he could recall where we have received multiple nominations as well as multiple emails and phone calls in support of one candidate.

Mr. Grabarek was elected mayor in 1963 and served until 1971. When Dave Ross, who introduced the former mayor, shared that piece of information, I could hear the mental calculators at the adjoining tables trying to figure out how long that was before they were born.

Dave also mentioned, in jest…we think… that in his professional role as an accountant, he kept former Duke basketball coach and Rotarian Bucky Waters, out of jail.

This period in the 60’s was one of the most turbulent times in the civil rights movement. In fact, mass demonstrations were taking place right after his election. The new mayor stepped right in and promised to be everyone’s mayor and spoke at an integration rally at St Joseph’s AME Church.

There is a great write-up of those first days on a subdomain of the County website called And Justice For All that has in its Galleries a portrait of the mayor and several paragraphs about the events around his accomplishments.

One of them mentioned was the creation of the Durham Interim Committee that eased the community into the peaceful integration of restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, etc. In his talk to the Cub, the mayor mentioned two names of prominent segregationists that were eventually won over. One was C. P. Ellis, who was a Klan leader who became the subject along with Ann Atwater of the recent movie The Best of Enemies about the court ordered desegregation of Durham schools, which happened after Mayor Grabarek’s terms. The other was Harvey Rape, the owner of a popular restaurant on East Main Street. There are several pictures of the restaurant on the Open Durham website and a couple of paragraphs that describe how Rape “prayed on it” and his tearful call to Mayor Grabarek where he finally agreed to serve both blacks and whites… as long as they didn’t sit together in Harveys. Rape also served on the Interim Committee.

In a poignant moment, Mr. Grabarek noted that when he married is wife Marion, a Durham native, he knew that he would forever be in debt to the city. Marion Norris Grabarek passed away peacefully in their home in January of last year after 73 years of marriage.

Commenting on his role in the civil rights movement he said that “God gave us a plan and a conscience to meet the challenge.” He also mentioned the guidance provided by Matthew 7:12 “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

In case you’re wondering, Mr. Grabaret recently celebrated his 100th birthday. His recollections of those difficult days in our history when desegregation began in earnest, seems like ancient history but many in the club lived through it and many, like the mayor, where not just observers.  We’ve made progress, of course, but the recent revival of un-embarrassed white supremacy in our country tells us that we have a long way to go before everyone adopts that Golden Rule…and the Four Way Test…with no exceptions.

Concluding, Mr. Gabarek noted that in Durham “our diverse togetherness gave life to our soul.”


Submitted by Jay Zenner

No Bull 150 Update – Todd Taylor


The final months of the year are often a time that most of us reflect on the accomplishments of the year that has passed and plan for the year ahead.

Keeping with tradition, and after his usual introductory joke (this one about Hawaiian onions and accordions), President Todd Taylor used Monday’s gathering to catch Rotarians up on club deeds this past year.

Since November is Rotary Foundation month, it was a good chance to get caught up on club giving including outcomes for the No Bull 150 efforts which downtown Rotarians have supported wholeheartedly and without “nudging.”

The club’s No Bull funding initiatives for the year include:

  • The Second Century
  • Scholarships
  • The Foundation
  • Polio

Considering additional funding sources such as the Triangle Community Fund, family endowments and fundraisers, the Rotary Club raised more than $96,000 for the initiatives listed above.

See the slides below.


Todd’s presentation also included projects that have been accomplished including being a part of 44,000 eye surgeries in India in conjunction with Rotary International, shipping a large amount of medical supplies to parts of Africa very much in need of it as well as tallying a total of 708 hours and 350 total volunteer efforts.

Other projects supported include Take-a-Kid to the Ballpark, Reading Rangers, Backpack Buddies and more.

Club initiatives planned for early 2020 include MLK meal packing in January, the Alzheimer’s Caregiver’s Lunch in February, providing books for Books on Break and adding a roof to a Habitat for Humanity home.

Todd said the goal of 2019 has been a vision of how to be a more “viable and sustainable” Rotary club and that the goal is to continue moving forward next year. Onward and upward, Rotarians.

Submitted by Carlton Koonce