Below is a letter from Mary Carey, a founder of BootstrapsPAC who was a guest of the club for Dr. Ferabee’s presentation outlining Durham Public Schools’ partnership with Durham Rotary to make a big dent in the literacy achievement problem in the school system. In an informal meeting after the meeting, there was some concern about our ability to scale up the program and make more than a small dent.  If a few of us catch a little bit Mary’s passion that shouldn’t be a problem.  But see for yourself.

Program Report – Blake Strayhorn and Habitat of Durham

Ah, the sweet smell of fresh cut lumber and the music of spinning saws and rhythmic hammers under a crisp blue sky.  Another Habitat House is coming.

Don Stanger, who is not only our club President but also the Board Chair of Habitat for Humanity of Durham, introduced Blake Strayhorn, the new President/Executive Director of Habitat to update us and announce that the Rotary Board had approved the  sponsorship of another Habitat home here in Durham. Blake is also one of the newer members of Rotary.

Since 1985 Habitat of Durham has built 280 homes under their model of providing affordable housing for worthy potential homeowners. This year it expects to complete 16 homes and there are currently 25 applicants on the waiting list for participation in the program.

As both a real estate agent and participant in the last two Rotary “builds” I’m amazed at the quality of the homes. They are kept affordable through sponsorships like ours, sweat equity from the purchasers, 0% financing and energy efficiency.  Typical payments are a little over $500 per month from owners with typical incomes of between $20,000 and $25,000.  Habitat not only builds homes but does renovations and fix-ups with the same purposes in mind.

Blake shared with us a video (see it at that was introduced at their annual Foundation Breakfast in May that does a great job of showing the motivations of donors and volunteers and what Habitat means beyond building houses. It also perfectly illustrates the “Pay it Forward” theme that Habitat adopted for this year as the home owners featured talked tearfully about the gratitude they felt for the help they were getting and their commitment to reach out an help others.

The video and Blake’s excellent presentation provide a tantalizing taste of the benefits of Habitat but I don’t think you can experience the real substance of Habitat without actually showing up in your grungies for one of the construction days.  On my first time on the job my initial impression was actually kind of negative. Anyone who has ever used a framing nailer attached to an air compressor…or even seen one used…knows immediately that this is not the most efficient way to build a house. In fact, it can be a amusing watching a little 98 lb lady with a three dollar hammer tap-tap-tapping a 16 penny nail into a wall plate.

But you soon understand that efficiency isn’t what it’s all about. The number of houses is just the most visible metric of the program and the easiest to quantify. Much more important is what the houses mean to the owners and the community.  Most Rotarians are at least middle class earners and their choice of a home has more to do with preferences in style or neighborhood than anything else. For most of the Habitat clients it’s much more basic than that…it’s safe shelter that they can’t be forced to leave if they meet their obligations. And with a 2% foreclosure rate it’s clear that most do. The fact that the homes are nice is just gravy.

Habitat investments in neighborhoods are often the spark that encourages further development. Again that’s easy to see. What’s less visible is neighbor helping neighbor and the mutual concern for each other that develops and not just among neighbors on the block but in the neighborhood of man.

It’s also good for Rotary. I’ve been a member of this club for many years but if I had to point to a moment when I really became a Rotarian, it was during that first day or so swinging a cheap hammer with my fellow club members. There may have been a wide, wide range of construction skills but there was plenty of big, big hearts.

Rotary Minutes – Brantley DeLoatch

President Don announced that in preparation for our the big celebration of our Centennial right around the corner that he had scanned two previous histories of our club, one that spanned the timeframe 1915 to 1955 and the other from 1955 to 1990 and had them posted on our website.  When introducing Brantley DeLoatch (Brant) for his Rotarian minutes, President Don noted that Brantley was mentioned in both of those books. In fact, Brantley joined Rotary in January of 1946, the same year I was going vertical and taking my first baby steps.

Brantley got a whoop from Anna Jones when he mentioned his origins inNorthamptonCountywhere she was also born and raised. Like most men of the Greatest Generation Brant’s career was interrupted by World War II. I’ve known Brant for a while but one thing I learned is that he got his navy training at Notre Dame. Brant spent a fair amount of his time at the podium sharing his war time experience including a chance reunion on a golf cart in Pinehurst with a Marine who was rescued from the South Pacific when Brant navigated the battleship he was assigned to on a mission into those treacherous waters.

Many of us here in the high tech Research Triangle Area might be forgiven if we don’t fully appreciate the importance of agriculture to the economy of this state. It’s massive and Central Carolina Farmers Exchange was the hugely successful Durham farm co-op that Brantley managed until its merger with Raleigh based FCX in 1980. His influence in the agribusiness community propelled him to positions of influence in a number of organizations including his alma mater NC State. I first met him when he served on the board of Central Carolina Bank. He also served on the boards of Duke Hospital, Durham Regional, the RDU Airport Commission, the Chamber of Commerce and the Durham County Commission.

Brant and his wife Geri have 5 children and a bunch of grandchildren. If you ever get a chance to ring the Salvation Army bell with Brant, don’t pass it up. It will be one of the nicest hours of the Christmas season for you and he might tell you how he tracks down wood to heat his home in the winter. Seriously.

Program Report: Durham Literacy Center – Reginald Hodges

A few years ago club member Gaston Warner, who was with the Duke Divinity School but about to leave to join Zoe Ministries, gave us a presentation about that organization’s mission to empower orphans in  Africa. In parts of Africa where disease, war, famine and other causes left children to fend for themselves, Zoe goes into communities where these children are already living and brings them together in supportive groups to feed and protect themselves from violence and exploitation.

One of the questions that Gaston got from the audience was whether there was anything like this going on in the US. Without hesitating a second Gaston exclaimed, “Of course! That’s what gangs are all about.” I remember this vividly because I think I was one of many in the audience stunned by this response. My naïve conception of gangs was that they were minor-league crime syndicates formed to wreak havoc on the community and each other. [Read more…]

Bulletin and Upcoming events – June 25


Click here for the pdf version of the June 25 Durham Rotary Bulletin


Click on this June 25 Calendar Item for a description of the program to be delivered by Bob Ingram, former GSK co-chair and all around Durham citizen.


During the program on June 25 we will induct our annual Community Service Award winner into the Paul Harris Society.


Click on this June 25th Calendar Item and come enjoy an evening on The Eleanor Roof to celebrate the passing of the gavel to a new Club President.

Website Changes

We have made a couple of changes to the Durham Rotary Club website and next week we will register all our Club members as “subscribers” to the site.  To activate the subscription an email will be sent to the email address we have for you asking you to confirm that you want to subscribe.  Click the indicated link in the email and you will get a weekly update on club activities that are posted on the site.  We now have an ad hoc communications committee working on a number of improvements to both internal and external communications. Two of the members of that group, Deirdre Haj and Jeff Nelson are professional movie/video makers but they are in no way responsible for the poor production quality of this video explaining the changes.  It’s down and dirty but I believe illustrates the changes. Questions, suggestions and complaints can be forwarded to me at