Rotary Minute – Rachel Galanter

Rachel Galanter, Executive Director of the Exchange Family Center, spoke on a life changing and crazy decision she and Durham County Department of Social Services made 19 years ago.  She learned things through this experience that research has shown to make a difference in helping families, but the lived experience was a powerful teacher that helps her in the work she does. Here is part of her first hand account:

First is that it isn’t enough to share information—you need to really engage in communication.  I attempted to make sure that my foster daughter would be comfortable in my home by sharing information that I thought was essential for her making a decision.  However, the DSS social worker and I didn’t probe her understanding or evoke from her any response.  She would have said yes to “we’ll be going to live on the moon.”  Her face when she realized that my being Jewish meant I didn’t believe in Jesus showed how all the things I had shared when right over her head that day.

There are things we know are protective factors:  resilience, a network of support, social and emotional competency, and parenting skills.  I saw in our relationship each of those in action.  She had experienced trauma, left school in the 6th grade, traveled on her own to this country, and still reached out to get enrolled in school.

Her ability to regroup and keep trying was part of why she was able to eventually graduate high school, get awarded a Neighborhood Hero scholarship, and be a successful adult.  She would not have been able to achieve all of that without the network of support.  This includes friends and family helping with her when I had surgery, El Centro Hispano’s youth program (which gave her a peer group and her first job), school sports teams that gave her a place to shine, a supportive employer, and so on. 

Ultimately, building up her capacity to solve conflicts and handle her feelings was what helped her to be able to focus more on academics and eventually have a job.  She learned to communicate better—simple things like letting people know when to expect her and if plans changed.  These weren’t skills that she had in her family of origin.  When we went to visit, I learned first-hand that a commitment from her parents to give us a ride home from an event was not intended to be taken as guaranteed.

Finally, my ability to provide developmentally appropriate support—letting her have some autonomy as a teenager, but willing to dive in and be her advocate and tutor and to set limits was important.   To really spend the time and talk about the 8th grade reading test she had to pass to graduate and figure out what is getting in her way.

Because her parents didn’t relinquish legal rights I wasn’t able to formerly adopt Diana, but she and I have claimed each other.  She lives in Durham with her husband and 4 children and I am their Nana.

Exchange Family Center is having a fund raiser on Sunday at Wheels Fun Park on Hoover Road on Sunday April 30. More information about it is on the organization’s website .



Rotary Minute: Steed Rollins 2

Steed used this Rotary minute to outline his family connections to the area…Dad, Mom and inlaws, which go very deep. In 2014 he did another Rotary Minute with more of his own personal history which is here.

My Historical Family Ties to the Region

Rollins Family

  • 1865 Edward Tyler Rollins born. (grandfather)
  • 1894 Rollins founds Durham Herald Co. which is now The Herald-Sun
  • Acquires The Durham Sun during the depression
  • Edward T. Rollins dies 1931
  • 1916 Steed Rollins, Sr. born
  • 1938 he joins Durham Rotary
  • December ’41 he is the first Rotarian to enlist in Army and sent to New Guinea
  • Dad died in 1985
  • Pelham Wilder invited me to join Rotary in 1986

Riggsbee Family

  • Joseph Albert Riggsbee born 1883? Chatham Co.
  • His father, Atlas, was postman between Pittsboro & Chapel Hill
  • Descendants from the McCauley family (Mathew & William) that donated farm land in 1789 in “Newhope Chappel Hill” to establish a home for the University of North Carolina.

Few Family

  • 1763 James Few moves to Orange Co. and purchases land at what is now the end of Cole Mill Rd. and what is now known as Few’s Ford.
  • He was a Regulator and was hanged for refusal to take an oath of Allegiance to the Crown.
  • 1867 his great grandson, William Preston Few, was born in Greer, SC (This Louise’s grandfather) Note that both of us have a grandfather born during the Civil War.
  • 130 years after James Few was hanged, William Preston Few returned to Durham as a professor at Trinity College.
  • William Preston Few became President of Trinity College and persuades James B. Duke to endow the little college and to transform it into a great university.
  • He became the first president of Duke University
  • Dr. Few was an early member of the Durham Rotary Club, possibly as an Honorary Member. He died in 1940.
  • His forth son, Randolph R. Few, was born on Duke’s East Campus in 1920 and was my father-in-law. I recall him vividly remembering walking the woods with his father and Mr. Duke to select the site for the Duke Chapel.
  • Dr. Few died in 1941.

Rotary Minute: Dr. Peter Jacobi

Editor’s note: If Dr. Peter Jacobi is/was as good a doctor as he is a storyteller, this Minute also illustrates how good a Rotarian he will be. In his own words…

I don’t know about you, but aside from March Madness, I have been thinking about spring a lot lately.

Perhaps you remember that delicious feeling during the spring of a school year.

Yes, there were assignments due, but there was something irresistible calling you outside.

As a family physician I should know the difference between hay fever (a condition of the nose) and spring fever (a condition of the soul).

What I am talking about is spring fever.

So, you may wonder where I am going, but I promise you I am coming back to Rotary.

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Rotary Minute – Sharon Hirsch

I’m Sharon Hirsch and I serve as President & CEO of Prevent Child Abuse NC.  I joined the Durham Rotary this fall after years of hearing about the good work being done here by my good friend, Newman Aguiar, and so many of you that I have known in my 22 years of living and working in Durham, especially during my 10 years at Durham County DSS.  As I said when I joined Rotary, I wear my  title as Chief Executive Optimist because I’m optimistic that we can move the needle to create great childhoods across our state.

I joined Rotary because of your strong commitment to this community – and your reputation for getting things done in Durham.   Rotary does groundbreaking work often focused on children and families, which has been my driving passion in my career.

At PCANC we know that prevention solutions are not possible through the work of a single person or agency – it takes a village – different voices, different expertise and different strengths – working together toward the single goal of fostering safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all of our children.  Whether you realize it or not, so much that Rotary does – from volunteering in schools, to food drives and more – helps to prevent abuse and neglect as concrete supports for families.  So, first,  I thank you.

One of my favorite movies is the Wizard of Oz.  Serendipitously, the Emerald City gives us plenty of opportunities to use its lessons.

[Read more…]

Rotary Minute – Harvey Sellner

One of the problems with the Rotary Minute is that sometimes they really don’t do justice to many of our members that have had long and interesting careers and active “retirements.”

Harvey is one of those members so it’s not surprising that this was his third minute. You can use the search capability on the website to see the reports of the other two. In 2015 he shared some of the background of how he and his wife Calla got to Durham and his role in getting Rotary International involved in providing safe water where it is needed in many impoverished areas of the world that has been a focus of Rotary for many years now.

It was a natural jump from that to his current interest in sustainable agriculture which he described in his Minute last year.

This year, he dug a little deeper in to his engineering career in the US Space Program.

For those of you that have many loops around the the sun on this planet like me, you will remember when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik and the determination that caused in this country to catch up and surpass them.  Most of you who weren’t around should catch the movie Hidden Figures which will give you a feel for the urgency that Sputnik inspired, as well as an inspiring story about three women that worked on the space program but will be remembered more for the segregation barriers that they broke.

But even we older folk weren’t aware of some highly-classified spy satellites that Harvey worked on, one of which dropped photographic FILM back into the atmosphere. Some of the youngest of our Rotarians may not even remember that that used to be how all cameras operated. Both Harvey and the movie pointed out is that most of us have more computing power in the phone in our pockets than was available for the first manned missions.

Harvey also worked on the Hubble Space Telescope which launched in 1990 and is still functioning today and is expected to continue sending fantastic digital pictures of space for many years to come.

Rotary Minute – Carolyn Aaronson

Carolyn Aaronson used her Rotary Minute to give a moving account a childhood that was beyond difficult. But the saddest part of the minute for many was her announcement that she had requested a leave of absence. Carolyn shared how she was deeply disturbed by the direction that the country had turned with the recent election and needed time to deal with that.

Since she became a member, Carolyn has been generous with her time, her money and her artistic ability. On this particular Monday, she was selling the beautiful hand-made valentines she creates. They were there for sale the following Monday as well, with all proceeds going to the club.

Carolyn will be missed even by those who didn’t share her political beliefs and more by those, like me, who do, but most of all by those who consider her a friend.

Carolyn, please join us again very soon in support Rotary’s goals of literacy, health, inclusiveness, world peace and friendship.