News & Notices

News from the club and its members and notices.

Program Report: Habitat for Humanity: Home is Where the Heart Is.

From the show of hands at the Monday, March 27 meeting, Habitat for Humanity is an organization that is well-known and supported by Rotarians in our club. Speaker Randy Lanou, co-founder of BuildSense, elicited chuckles from the attendees when he commented, “Well, I can see that promoting Habitat to the Rotary Club is like going hunting at the zoo.”

Many of the hands came down, however, when Lanou asked who knew Habitat’s vision statement. Efficiently and eloquently stated, it consists of just nine words: “A world where everyone has a decent place to live.”

Contrary to the perception of many, Habitat doesn’t give houses away. Potential homeowners have to qualify and demonstrate their commitment to maintain a mortgage on the home, participate in financial training, and contribute hundreds of hours in sweat equity assisting in construction of the house. Since 1985, Durham Habitat has helped over 600 families with housing upfits or new construction. Habitat’s administrative costs are commendably low, with 91 percent of all dollars donated “hitting the ground,” so to speak.

BuildSense, a top-rated full service architecture and construction firm, is one of five local builders partnering with Durham Habitat on this year’s 2017 Builder’s Blitz. Other companies, many of whom had representatives at the meeting, include B. Wallace Design and Construction, Garman Homes, Durham Building Company, and Thayer Homes. This year’s goal is to build five homes in just seven days.

The blitz will begin Friday, June 2, with the dedication of the homes set for Friday, June 9. Durham Habitat is seeking donations to help support the blitz, largely with what Lanou terms “hospitality needs.” Contributions can be a small as $60 – $75 per day (coffee or snacks for the workers) to $500 – $1,000 (lunch for one day or bottled Powerade/Gatorade), and up to $20,000 for the major underwriting sponsorship. Those interested can contact Development Officer Jennifer McFarland at

The one-week build schedule is “mildly accelerated,” Lanou says with a wry smile, holding up a spreadsheet to demonstrate the complexity of the ambitious project. “We are very fortunate that these builders contribute their time and labor unselfishly, and subcontractors donate or discount materials whenever possible, from the time the first shovel goes in the dirt through the completion of construction.”

And then there are those enthusiastic Rotarians, who contribute time, money, manpower, womanpower, and kidpower year-round to Habitat builds. Don Stanger, a downtown Rotarian who, along with his wife Bettina, have supported Habitat for years, including major sponsorship of the last Habitat home that the club sponsored.

Lanou showed a time-lapse video from blitzes in 2014 and 2016, when two houses were built on lots in East Central Durham. The sites for this year’s build are close by each other on Angier Avenue and Bingham Street. Habitat keeps a “land bank” of potential building lots, and they choose the sites according to need and suitability of the project.

And while the blitz doesn’t formally begin for another two months, the builders are engaged in intense planning and preparation with their employees and partners, developing an elaborate system of checks and balances in the event of a rare unexpected occurrence – a delivery doesn’t arrive on time, or the product specifications were incorrect, for example. “We are working with subcontractors who we use regularly, and we know we can depend on them,” Lanou explained. “We have committed to working with them on other jobs throughout the year, so we feel very confident about these partnerships.”

He also gave a shout-out to Durham City for their flexibility in building inspections and issuing certificates of occupancy in a timely manner, particularly given the time sensitivity of the building period. The City also makes land donations and helps homeowners secure mortgages at a reasonable rate.

If you’ve never worked a Habitat build before, don’t worry – every work day starts with a safety orientation, and they’ll supply you with plans, tools, and training every step of the way. You can volunteer to help serve meals to the volunteer workers, or make a tax-deductible donation. Whatever way you choose, you’ll be helping eliminate substandard housing and help foster thriving communities in Durham.

Submitted by: Carver C. Weaver

Nana’s Wine Dinner 2017

All 39 guests had a fabulous time Thursday night at our Rotary Nana’s Foundation Fundraiser Wine Dinner. First and foremost, the food and wine were superb as was the fellowship.

During the event, Chef and Nana’s owner Scott Howell was awarded a Paul Harris Fellow for his contribution to Rotary’s Foundation Fundraising efforts, sponsored by his wife and Rotarian Aubrey Z-Howell. As Dallas has tried to present this award for the past three years, both he and new Foundation Chair Andy Esser were thrilled to make this Rotary honor a reality this evening.

Eating our way through risotto, salad, appetizers, salmon, short-ribs, chicken, collards, roasted vegetables, mashed potatoes, butternut squash and copious amounts of wine, beer and ‘bubbly’, followed by delectable desserts left all attendees happy to have supported a great cause by eating a superb meal.

And of course, we would be remiss if we did not thank Dallas Stallings for his tireless efforts heading up our Club’s Foundation work for many years. He passes the torch to Andy Esser but not surprisingly he will continue his Foundation work across our Rotary Area, impacting even more people and projects.

Thanks go to all Rotarians who attended or sponsored attendees due to their exemplary service to the goals of Rotary and the Foundation. What a great way to raise funds to support the Foundation and all the great work it enables us to do both locally and internationally.

Submitted by Meg Solera

Books on Break – Sign-up

Books on Break 2017 – Volunteer Request


WHEN:  May 5 and May 8-10

SIGN UP: 2017 Rotary Books on Break Program

NEED:            ~60 volunteers to set up the pop-up bookstore; assist kids in selecting books; and clean up and transport the remaining books. Set up is Friday, May 5.

HOW:             Seeking volunteers to sign up for ~2-hour shifts.  Your friends, family, and colleagues are welcome!

WHERE:         Y. E. Smith Media Center (2410 E. Main St. Durham, NC 27703)

                            Recommend Parking on the street by the ball field past the school.

THEME:         Reading Puts the World in MY Hands

Details:          Below

CONTACT:    Mimi O’Brien


Shifts are 2 or 2.5 hours, from 10:15-12:15 and 12:20-3:00. Set-up and clean-up are 2-3 hours. If you can’t do the full shift, please note in the comment section when you will be there.

During early May, the Durham Rotary Club, YE Smith Elementary, and Book Harvest are again teaming up to run BOOKS ON BREAK (BoB) at YE Smith, in which all students will choose 10 free books each to take home and keep. Having books at home can combat summer learning loss and help students arrive back at school in the fall ready to learn. Books on Break has become a perfect extension of the Reading Ranger program. The YE Smith leadership is excited and grateful, and Book Harvest is delighted to have us as a partner.

The Ask: We need about 60 volunteers to set up the pop-up bookstore in the media center, assist kids in choosing their books, and clean up and transport remaining books back to the Book Harvest warehouse. Your friends, family, and colleagues are more than welcome as volunteers. This is a great way to introduce non Rangers, and non-Rotarians to some of the work we do. Maybe they will become interested in joining the Ranger effort or becoming a Rotarian!

We are using SignUp Genius to register volunteers. It’s an easy-to-use site. SignUp Genius will send you a reminder email a couple of days in advance.

About SignUp Genius: you do not have to create an account to sign up as a volunteer. If you do create an account, SignUp Genius says, “we NEVER sell or pass on your profile information. Plus we make sure that your email is NEVER publicly displayed on the internet where someone unauthorized could grab it.”

If you have questions, please contact Mimi O’Brien ( Thanks for considering this!



New Member Orientation – March 13, 2017

If most of the people in this picture look only vaguely familiar it is because they are recently or soon to be inducted new members who attended a short orientation meeting preceding the regular Monday meeting. The orientation was organized by Membership Committee Chair Marge Nordstrom and committee member Meg Solera. Famously photo-shy Marge is just outside the left of the frame holding everybody’s attention. Meg, who is not shy in any way, is pictured describing the two teams each of the inductees will become part of for the next six months to further integrate them into the club. The new members will be wearing the red ribbons on their badges for the next six months and we encourage everyone to introduce yourself and welcome them to the club. 

Paul Harris Fellows – March 13, 2017

My apologies for one of the worst Paul Harris Fellow photos ever taken. The small version shown here would look very blurry in a larger format and everyone is so spread out except for Marge who is trying to hide. I am especially unhappy about this since these were pretty significant awards. New member Lee Barnes became a Paul Harris Fellow upon joining the club, which is very unusual. Dr. Larry Crane on the left became a PHF Plus 2, while Marge Nordstrom and Reggie Hodges became PHF Plus 1. Andy Esser, Foundation Chairman standing on the right, presented the awards. 

I feel even worse about the picture taken of Past District Governor Newman Aguiar presenting a special recognition to past Chair of the Foundation Committee Ken Lundstrom for his continuing support of the Polio Plus campaign. So this photo is from a few years ago when he was presenting an award.


Program Report – Flying Tigers


It’s a mark of our club’s diversity that at least a few members were alive when the Flying Tigers served first notice from the United States to Imperial Japan that freedom claws back.

Most club members were not yet born as the Second World War swept up Asia, and a small band of volunteer aviators from America helped the Chinese air force slow the advance of Japanese invaders while the free world organized.

But more than a few members, including this week’s correspondent, are old enough to remember building plastic model aircraft of the single-engine, P-40 fighter aircraft that the legendary volunteer force utilized with such elan. Distinctive painted shark faces snarled from the noses of each fighter aircraft.

History came back to life at Monday lunch as Billy McDonald recalled the valor and exploits of the Flying Tigers. McDonald, author of a book that chronicles his late father’s key role as a Flying Tiger organizer and aviator, told Rotarians that tigers played a crucial role in supporting China and keeping Japanese military resources tied down.

“It was a very nice contribution he made to the war,” McDonald said of his heroic father Bill with understatement as he recollected his later father’s longtime friendship and working partnership with the legendary Claire Lee Chennault. Chennault organized and led the Flying Tigers. Chenault once wrote a newspaper op-ed praising the elder McDonald’s skill and bravery and worked closely with McDonald’s father to build the group.

Technically and legally, the aviators were the 1st American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Air Force in 1941 and 1942. Pilots recruited under presidential authority to be commanded by Chennault came from the United States Army Air Corps, Navy and Marine Corps. They trained in Burma.

McDonald spent much of the presentation describing his father’s early years working with Chenault in aviation, initially in aerial acrobatics. McDonald said that he found his father’s papers, some 30,000 documents brought back from China, badly deteriorated from moisture decades later. The papers included many letters describing the aviation squad’s exploits. He put it into book form with the help of editor Barbara Evenson. The book, “The Shadow Tiger,” is on sale here on

McDonald described how he Flying Tigers demonstrated needed tactical victories against the advancing Japanese invaders when news from Asia was discouraging. Reports of their daring are credited with building national morale during the lowest period of the war for both the U.S. and Allied forces. The Tigers instilled hope. In addition to combat value, they added value in the PR wars.

The Flying Tigers were in action in Asia just days after the attack at Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and continued the fight into 1942 before being replaced by the U.S. Air Force under the command of General Chennault.

McDonald shared the good recent news that both the book and his heroic father’s paper’s have been requested for posterity by the Smithsonian Institution. He said the Chinese ambassador to Washington created the flying unit’s memorable name.

The club thanks McDonald for recalling the bravery of young American aviators including his father who hit back hard and served first notice to the Axis power in Asia that the fight for freedom would ultimately be joined by the U.S. with ferocious will and fortitude.

Submitted by Mark Lazenby

Editor’s note:  Mr. McDonald was introduced by Brady Surles and Scott Long, a member of the Zhuzhou City Committee of Sister Cities of Durham and pictured on the right above with Mark Goodwillie, Co-Chair of the Zhuzhou City Committee on the left flanking Billy McDonald and is wife Nancy McDonald. Here is Brady’s explanation of the connection:

This may sound complicated , but the Flying Tigers story is what started the process of Durham people becoming interested in having a Sister City in China, so I will have to give you some details about the background.

Durham established a Sister City partnership with Zhuzhou City, Hunan Province, China in 2012. This came about because several people in Durham and the Triangle had ties with the history of the American flyers called the Flying Tigers, including making a documentary film in partnership with a Chinese film company.

This connection started with a NC Senator from Moore County who initiated the reciprocal visits in 2006 between Hunan Province and NC to better understand how the Chinese had built ties with Americans , based on their maintaining the burial site of an American Flying Tiger pilot from Moore County who was shot down in Hunan Province.

The Durham film makers visited Hunan Province for their research for their film, in cooperation with the Carolina China Council which is based at NC St University.  This included the Flying Tigers Museum which is in Hunan Province.

This also led them to get to know some Chinese Americans who were from Hunan Province who were interested in having Durham become a Sister City with a city in Hunan Province.

The Carolina China Council assisted us in finding a city in Hunan province which was interested in being a Sister City.

That partnership with Zhuzhou has now included two school visits from China to work with four different schools in Durham,  students and teachers from the School for Creative Studies visiting Zhuzhou, and plans for additional school exchanges.