Rotary Minute: Carolyn Aaronson

CarolynAwebThe general reaction at the table were I was sitting as I took a few notes on Carolyn Aaronson’s Rotary Minute was to wish me good luck on writing it up. The same thing was running through my head until right at the end when Carolyn pulled up a breadbox sized container and opened it to reveal the thousand tiny cranes she had created. The legend goes that whoever creates a thousand origami cranes will have their wish come true, but as Carolyn pointed out, there are no promises about when.

Carolyn pledged that after the meeting she would be at the doorway so everybody could have one of the cranes in the hopes that it would make their wishes come true. This tells us all that we need to know about Carolyn.

First, she creates beautiful things. Besides the cranes she showed us examples of her fabric art and the flower drawings that she is now creating.

Second, she is a warm and generous person. Her contributions of time and money to various rotary projects are well known, the latest being raising a substantial sum for club projects from the sale of valentines that she created.

Third, Carolyn marches to the beat of a drum and bugle corps heavily influenced by reggae, or, said another way, Carolyn is not your typical Rotarian. On the contrary, Carolyn is an example of the type of member that will keep Rotary from being a moribund institution.


I got my crane and my wish is that Carolyn stays an active member of the club at least as long as I’m in it.

Submitted by Jay Zenner

Rotary Youth Exchange – 2013 – 14

RotaryYouthExchangeAfter a very successful year in which the Durham Rotary Club hosted an exchange student from Belgium and sponsored two students who studied abroad, we are now at the point when we are about to receive a new exchange student for 2013 – 14. Our Rotary District 7710 requires that those clubs that send exchange students out, host an exchange student who comes to our district. With that in mind, we are currently seeking host families who will welcome our 2013 student into there homes for a three or four month period beginning in late August of this year.
The student whom we are sending out will be going to study in France next year. Our incoming student is a 17 year old girl from Brazil. A host family is not expected to pay for the incoming student, though there will be some expenses, i.e. meals, vacation with the family, etc. The student will be enrolled in a Durham school and the host family will need to see to the school-related needs of that student while he/she attends school. Our club will provide a monthly allowance for the incoming student that is intended to cover normal expenses such as entertainment, personal needs, etc. The family of the incoming student is responsible for most of the expenses incurred by the student while he/she is in this country plus air fare, insurance, or any Rotary sponsored trips, etc.
This current year three of our club Rotarians have opened their homes to our exchange student: Newman and Ann-Louise Agiuar, Janene and Peter Tompkins, and Aubrey and Scott Howell. We are grateful to them for reaching out and including the exchange student in their family. Two of our host families were themselves exchange students and felt the need to welcome a student into their homes. Anyone of them would be happy to talk to a fellow Rotarian about being a host. One of the things most often heard from a host is how much it meant to have their own children engaged with a student from another culture.
Please consider becoming a host family for our exchange student next year. Contact Dallas Stallings or Vandana Dake if you would like to serve in this position during Rotary year 2013 – 14.
Dallas Stallings, Student Exchange Committee

Program Report: Cree, Innovations in Lighting – Greg Merritt

GregMerrittCreeWebGreg Merritt, Vice-President for Marketing at CREE Industries, a Durham founded and headquartered business gave the club a very “enlightening” presentation on the company’s leading role in innovative lighting solutions for residential, industrial, and public uses.  CREE also manufactures semiconductor components for power and radio frequency products.

 Greg, who studied at the University of Virginia and California-Berkeley, joined CREE in 2006.  He and President Don became acquainted when Don gave Greg a tour of a Durham Habitat house.  Greg was impressed by what he saw, so much so that CREE not only donated recessed LED lighting for that home but, in a display of generous corporate citizenship, provides all recessed lighting for Habitat houses throughout the country.

CREE’s origins go back to the late 1980s when NC State University students founded the company and manufactured its first product, a blue LED.  From its initial five founders and employees the company now has 6,000 employees worldwide in design, development, production and sales.  Anticipating sales of over a billion dollars this year, CREE has rung up an enviable 22% annual growth rate since 2002.  CREE’s products—lighting and power solutions—employ semiconductors made in North Carolina.  In a major role reversal, Asia—China in particular—is CREE’s biggest market.  Growth in Asian economies is outstripping supply of electricity, forcing more energy efficiency.

Greg gave us a number of examples of why the LED revolution is occurring especially in this era of sustainability.  CREE technology could reduce power consumption on the U.S. grid by roughly 10%.  About 22% of electrical output in this country is consumed by lighting.  Because of energy lost in transmission, power plants must produce twice as much electricity as is consumed.   Because of its inefficiency, Edison’s bulb—the incandescent lamp—should be called a “heat bulb’ rather than a light bulb.  Recent innovations have produced LED lights that are about 17 times more efficient than standard incandescent lights and nearly as large a margin (with the added bonus of being silent) compared to fluorescent tubes.  Stores could save 65% on their lighting bills by installing LED lights.  LED street lights consume one-fourth as much electricity as standard bulbs—plus they don’t contain mercury or other undesirable materials.

Los Angeles is engaged in the largest LED project in the world.  When completed, the county will have retrofitted 140,000 street lights producing an annual savings of approximately $10 million in electricity costs.  Several corporations, including Walmart and McDonalds, have introduced LED lighting in some locations.

Although upfront costs of LED lighting are significantly higher than conventional lighting those costs can be recouped in a few short years.  Additionally, the long life of LED bulbs—generally decades—means lower replacement maintenance expenses.  Interestingly, some insurance companies are offering discounts on automobiles with LED brake lights.  LED lights come on immediately, saving one-sixth of a second—roughly a car length in braking time—over conventional brake lights.

In the question and comment period following Greg’s presentation several club members applauded CREE for its commendable record of community service and for providing hundreds of Durham citizens with employment.

  Submitted by Allen Cronenberg

Rotary Minute: Connie Campanaro

photoconniewebConnie Campanaro fulfilled a lifelong dream with a trip to Italy, where she visited her grandmother’s village.

Unfortunately, she showed up on a holiday when virtually nothing was open. Fortunately, one of the restaurants was hosting a Rotary event. Though she spoke no Italian, she was able to convey that she was a Rotarian and was welcomed with open arms. Not only were she and her family fed well, this Italian Rotary Club helped her hunt down her ancestral home. “I realized, in that moment, that this really is a worldwide organization of brothers and sisters,” Connie said Monday.

It’s a positive reminder that, as Connie prepares to leave Durham after 14 years here – she’s headed back to Buffalo, N.Y. to become the executive director of the Western New York Grantmakers Association – she’ll always have a home wherever Rotarians are gathered. Connie values home, as she spent her formative years bouncing between California and upstate New York. She was married at 16, a mother at 17. “I had the stability I so craved,” she says.

But she and her husband split, and Connie had to figure out how to provide for her two children. She became the first person to attend college and then got into the business side of the arts world, making connections with everyone from “the Bolshoi ballet to L.L. Cool J.” In 1999 she came to Durham to run the flailing Carolina Theatre. “I’m a sucker for an impossible challenge,” she said. She helped the theater back on firm financial footing before stepping down a few years ago. She’s remained active in Durham, and was joined here by her mother and daughter. But her mom has passed, and her daughter is living in Dallas.

Now, it’s time for Connie to move on. “It’s hard to say goodbye,” Connie concluded. “But it’s even harder to mean it.”

Submitted by Matt Dees

Program Report: TROSA – Kevin McDonald

phototrosaweb“When the history books are written about Durham, and they’re looking for greatness,” President Stanger said about Monday’s featured guest, “this man will certainly be there.”

Kevin McDonald will certainly leave a legacy of helping thousands of people work their way out of lives wrecked by substance abuse. But he made clear Monday that he’s not anywhere close to being done with that work.

McDonald founded Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers (TROSA) in 1994. Prior to coming to Durham, he had spent time in Los Angeles trying to rehabilitate former gang members. “People thought this was a tough town,” McDonald said. “Hell, they don’t know what tough is.”

McDonald let a moving video do most of his talking, with stories of pain that turned into triumph, as people found new lives via TROSA’s innovative two-year residential program. They get counseling to overcome their addiction as well as job skills supporting the myriad businesses TROSA runs to support itself. (It’s a good bet that many of us have had TROSA help us with a move, or at least bought a Christmas tree from them.) “If you don’t have a work ethic,” McDonald observed in the video, in his trademark tough-love gruff, “you’re going to fall on your butt again.”

One of the TROSA graduates in the video, whose addiction drove her to homelessness, said, “Life can come from underneath a bridge in a box to where I am now.” The video got a standing ovation, as some of our club members still dabbed at tears.

Running short on time, McDonald rattled off a few numbers from last year, illustrating the point that the work is far from over: 400,000 meals served, 5,000 volunteer hours logged, 8,000 Christmas trees sold, 5,000 moves made, two new dorms built with 148 new beds, and 85 people got their GED. The best stat: TROSA just celebrated its 1,200th graduate, yet another life restored.

Submitted by Matt Dees

Singing Valentine Fund Raiser

Valentine Singers WebThe Singing Valentines fund raiser is a joint effort of Durham Rotary and Heart of Carolina Barbershop Chorus. A quartet from Heart of Carolina came to Rotary on Monday to demonstrate what a Singing Valentine is like. A portion of every singing valentine sold goes to Rotary to help with its scholarship programs. These will sell out fast, so please make your reservation soon! If you your sweetheart isn’t around, then why not consider sending a singing valentine to your favorite nonprofit to show your love for their cause?

Order online at or by phone 919-730-3342.

Click this link for more information about the options available. 2013SingingValentinesPoster

Submitted by Shelly Green