News & Notices

News from the club and its members and notices.

Rotary Minute – Vandana Dake

Since we’ve started doing Rotary Minutes almost every week I’ve had to stop trying to do a write-up of the Minutes, because it is time consuming and, frankly, my hearing has deteriorated to the point that I don’t trust myself to be accurate.  That’s why I will ask for the electronic version of the presentation from anyone who has not done the “Minute” extemporaneously.

What I will do sometimes for someone who has been in the club for a long time, is provide a link to an earlier Rotary Minute that has more details about the presenter than I can recall.

This was what I tried to do with Past President Vandana Dake when I was preparing this post.  I know she had done one earlier, but I couldn’t find it among the almost 800 posts that have appeared on the website since it was re-built a few years ago. What I did find was post after post with a mention of Vandana but, as impressive as that is, I know it is only a rough and understated measure of what Vandana has meant to this Club and Rotary.

Vandana prefaced her minute with an invocation. She asked us close our eyes and fold our hands and follow her lead in a prayer/chant.  I’m sure most of us had no idea what we were saying, but it felt right.

If any of the newer members of the Club where thinking after it that “this has got to be an interesting woman,” you would get no disagreement for those who have gotten to know her over the years.

Many of us have met the parents she mentioned who live in Vandana’s native India, but are frequent visitors and attend our meetings. She mentioned her education and her path to America and the architectural firm she runs with her husband John in Downtown Durham.  We also are aware of her deep commitment to Rotary and Rotary’s peace mission and her devotion to the Peace Fellows program, the International Committee and the Rotary Foundation.

Folks who have known her for a long time may have also noticed that recently she has let her hair grow out and that she has a leaner look.  She explained that she was preparing for an adventure/pilgrimage to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to recover from profound disappointment, shared by many, to the results of the November elections.

I’m sure all her friends in Rotary hope that she achieves the summit, but even more, pray she returns to Durham and Rotary safely.

At the end of Vandana’s minute she was presented by President BC and Foundation Chair Andy Esser with an award given to all Rotarians that host Peace Scholars. It read:

The Award is an expression of grateful acknowledgement by the Rotary Foundation and states as follows:

The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International


                 Vandana Dake

                       of Alliance Architecture

          For Continuing GENEROSITY to the Rotary Foundation

         For COMMITMENT that strengthens This Foundation

                     For Dedication to our international humanitarian and educational mission

                                                                                   By Bart Cleary 4/1/17

                                                                                    Host Area Coordinator

Books on Break – 2017

Books on Break 2017: 3 days, 435 Students, and 4,350 Books

Thank you to the many volunteers, partners, and Book Harvest for making our 4th year of Books on Break a huge success!

From May 8-10, the entire student body at YE Smith Elementary School—435 students—each selected 10 books at no cost, to keep and enjoy.  The Rotary Club of Durham, partnering with Book Harvest, set up a pop-up bookstore in the media center and assisted students in selecting their books.  Books on Break seeks to develop students’ love of reading and to stave off summer reading loss.  Book Harvest provides the books and Rotary provides the personal shoppers to help the select meaningful and appropriate books for their reading level.  This year 56 people volunteered to assist in this annual event, contributing 149 hours! Rotary was assisted by other groups: the Nasher Museum of Art, Duke Corporate Education, and the Durham County Library sent volunteers to help with the 3-day event.

“Reading put the world in MY hands” was this year’s theme.  One student was keenly interested in putting other worlds in his hands as well, because he greatly desired a book on space.  His desire became a mission for several volunteers, who scoured through books to help him find something.  Lo and behold, the student was presented a book entitled “Space” and he was thrilled.  It was a highlight for the volunteers as well. See is picture in the slides below and some of the other happy shoppers.

This project is an offshoot of our Reading Ranger program, where Rotary manages volunteers for the school year who come and read with struggling students.  The Ranger relationship, the close work with the school administration and staff, the Rotary leadership and volunteers, and Book Harvest all combine to make this ongoing project smooth and successful.  One volunteer, whose grandchild has been at YE Smith for the last 3 years, told volunteers that her granddaughter is proud of her growing library.  She now has 30 books in her personal library, a testament of the impact the program has on these students.

Submitted by Mimi O’Brien with an assist from Todd Taylor


“Service Above Self” – Volunteer Recognition

On June 5, we recognize these members for Projects in March – May
Student Video Conference to India                Tom Bagby,  Michael Tharp
Books on Break                                            Michael Tharp,  Jenny Levine
RYLA                                                              Chris Hyland                               

Previous Recognitions, 2016 – 2017:
Projects in July — Aug
Fill That Bus                                     Michelle Young, Marge Nordstrom
EDCI Summer Camps                    David Durack,  Harvey Sellner,  Ellen Cassill
Projects in Sept — Nov
Centerfest                                          Lisa Miles
End Alzheimer’s Walk                    Doug Koenig
CART Challenge Days                     Marie Baker
End Polio Walk                                  Geraud Staton
Salvation Army Bell Ringing          Mal White, John Cross, Patrice Nelson
Projects in Dec – Feb
MLK Meal Packing                           Carver Weaver
Alzheimer’s Caregivers Lunch        Nancy Gordon, Emily Page, Nancy Marks
MLK Meal Packing                            Carver Weaver
Salvation Army Bell Ringing           Peter Jacobi

Program Report: Ellen Andrews – Church World Services Refugee Program

Durham native Ellen Andrews is the Director of Church World Service’s (CWS) Immigration and Refugee Program, one of two organizations of its kind in Durham. During the past eight years, she and her colleagues have assisted over 2,500 individuals from more than 20 countries to resettle into new homes, new jobs, and new lifestyles in the Triangle area. Club President B.C. Dash commended Ellen on her work in the community, noting that many Rotarians’ lives have been touched as we welcome these newcomers to our country, allowing them to reclaim their dignity and build new lives marked by hope and opportunity.

CWS-Durham ( opened its doors in 2009, and works to welcome refugees and immigrants from around the world. As a faith-based global humanitarian organization, CWS is also known for managing CROP fundraising walks. Staff and volunteers base their resettlement work on an empowerment-focused declining model of support designed to enable new arrivals to embark on a path toward self-sufficiency, and ultimately, become completely in control of the direction of their new lives. CWS staff ensure refugees immediate access to food, shelter, and medical care, in addition to providing legal counseling, employment services, and links to community partnerships.

Ellen outlined the thought process that refugees go through before deciding to abandon their home country. “Most of them want, and plan, to return home someday, but unfortunately that is often not the case,” she explained. “While some families, usually those with greater financial resources, have time to plan their escape, many are forced to make a very emotional decision in a short window of time.” Families must decide what, and whom, to take: will elderly family members or small children slow them down? Will travelling be dangerous? How long will the journey take? Do we have financial resources? If so, how long will they last, and how will we access them?

[Read more…]

Rotary Foundation – Paul Harris Fellows – May 15, 2017

Foundation Chair Andy Esser made to significant Paul Harris Fellowship awards. Immediately below Andy is pictured with Club Treasurer, Susan Miller being awarded here PHF +4 and Emilee  Collins her PHF +2. Please congratulate these two great Rotarians.

EDCI Summer STEAM Camp, June 19 – Aug 4

Classroom Volunteers for EDCI STEAM Camp — Mornings, 9:15 – 11:15!
We have another opportunity, as we did last summer, to work with classroom teachers in the EDCI STEAM Summer Camp. This is a free day camp for rising 3rd – 5th grade students in East Durham.   Classroom volunteers assist students in a variety of hands-on STEAM activities led by a professional/educator. during the 9:15 – 11:15 morning sessions. You can play a vital role in encouraging and inspiring the students!  Sign Up Genius Link here and Web Page: