New Member: Brian Alvo

Brian Alvo is the Founder of NextGen Center. The concept of service is the cornerstone of Brian’s career path. That service began as a civilian analyst with The United States Marine Corps — and then as Executive Director of a nonprofit educational foundation in Nicaragua. With an MBA from Duke University, Brian has over 10 years of diverse professional experience spanning multiple industries. As a Director of Corporate Development at LabCorp, Brian led strategic teams to realign and grow divisional business into national programs. He was also the VicePresident of Business Development and Strategic Accounts at one of the fastest growing technology companies in Durham – where he helped grow the company from 14 to 50+ team members in less than 2 years’ time. Brian is sponsored by Elisabeth Wiener. Welcome, Brian!

Paul Harris Fellows: Peter Jacobi and Katina Rogers

L to R: Dr. Peter Jacobi, Katina Rogers, Anna Jones, Kay Gresham


Dr. Peter Jacobi practiced family medicine in Durham for decades before recently retiring. He joined Rotary in 2017. One more great thing that Andy Barada did for our Club was to bring Peter to us. When Peter was inducted, he said one of the things he likes – REALLY LIKES – about Rotary is that we are an organization that wears our patriotism and tolerance on our sleeve. He believes the Rotary Foundation teaches us that anyone can be a philanthropist. He appreciates that the Foundation affords us the opportunity to combine and multiply our resources then bring those combined resources back to our local community.

Katina Rogers joined our Club not quite a year ago. However, she attended her FIRST Rotary meeting at the age of 14 with her Fatherand helped translate for him as he received an honor from a Rotary Club in Omaha. Katina now has a home renovation companyand also a handcrafted purse and accessory line in Durham. She has been very active with our Club this year. It’s always exciting to award our new members, as is the case with Katina.

Program Report: The Helius Foundation – Geraud Staton

President Todd Taylor celebrated “Jewish Awareness Day”, as a tribute to Rotary’s ecumenicism, and Vince Simonetti’s as the best (and possibly only) tuba museum in the world. (Peter Morcombe won the raffle, the fourth time in two years. Investigations are continuing…)

Geraud Staton, President of the HELIUS Foundation, with his wife as a guest, was introduced to a full Rotary house by Julie Wells.

HELIUS was founded in 2015 as a new way to help poor black entrepreneurs in Durham.  Durham has a history of black affluence. At the beginning of the 20th century, the city had the highest number of black millionaires per capita in the country. But now 22% of African Americans in Durham live below the poverty line. (Not that these two numbers are incompatible, as the current debate on income inequality shows.) 

HELIUS aims to help poor people who are already engaged in some entrepreneurial activity to expand and consolidate it.  The aim is to encourage social mobility in a region where it is low.  There are many reasons that Durham lags. Redlining and intentional racism are two. But perhaps more important is the effect of repeated setbacks. Geraud told the story of psychologist Martin Seligman and his poor dogs, severely shocked into “learned helplessness” — not that we need suffering canines to know that repeated failure can deter.

HELIUS is successfully countering these bad effects.  They begin with a ten-week program for all, followed by individualized help. HELIUS has a 91% success rate; 64% end the program earning a fair living wage. HELIUS has worked with small enterprises like the teashop Jeddah’s Tea to improve business practice and reduce debt.

In answer to questions, Geraud responded:

Q: What do you think about reparations because of the wealth difference between whites and blacks A: It could work if done properly. Q: How do you choose clients? Poor people, already engaged in “potentially legal” business of some sort. Q: Where does capital from. A: Do not borrow if possible. better to start small. “Kiva Trustee” gives small loans $2-19K. Q: How do you get clients? Almost always by referral. HELIUS is funded by donations: foundations; most now are from corporations – who hire many of our clients. Q: Do you have a list of good ideas? Yes! Q: What is your oldest business? A: 7-year-old company, floundering at first, now OK. Our participants range in age from 14-71 (the latter an artist).

Submitted by JS

Christmas 2019 Musical Program


Rotarians and Guests at Monday’s Holiday Celebration were treated to a very special presentation by students and staff from R.N Harris Integrated Arts/Core Knowledge Magnet School. Introduced by Rotarian Steed Rollins, Jeremy Tucker, new Director of Arts Programs for Durham Public Schools, spoke of the school’s focus on “integrating all subjects with music, dance, drama, visual and literary arts to engage every student in memorable learning.” The program, which Tucker referred to as the A+ program, “essentially ‘levels the playing field’ for all students that attend RN Harris.”

5th grade violin students performing with their teacher Ann Bauer opened the performances. They began with simple exercises between themselves and the teacher and gradually moved to more complex melodies and rhythms. This use of “Suzuki Method” techniques allows students with varying training to experience success in playing from the very beginning.

Student singers and dancers presented music and dance selections from Frozen, which Tucker explained was based on Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen” and the ballet “The Nutcracker.” The program closed with a demonstration of the Samba dance rooted in the Brazilian Culture and the Mamba which is based in the Cuban culture. Dance Teacher, Toya Chinfloo and Music Teacher, Elizabeth Vick, directed the music and dance selections.

The enthusiasm, joy and focus of these young people under the direction of their teachers was thrilling and heart warming. As a former Music Teacher, who taught this level in public schools for a short time before moving on to another career, I know how difficult it can be to achieve the level of accomplishment we saw today. I’m also aware, as an amateur musician, how much it means to experience the success that these young people have achieved. It showed on their faces!

Tucker emphasized that “the integrated arts approach is an interdisciplinary collaboration that realizes that all children are artists and that art can be used to strengthen all learning as well as provide social and emotional support for all students that attend RN Harris.” Tucker thanked the Teachers and Principals of RN Harris as well as Deputy Superintendent of Academic Services, Dr. Nakia Hardy and Assistant Superintendent of Specialized Services, Dr. Deborah Pitman who also attended. He closed by quoting an RN Harris student who said, “The arts allow me to express myself in ways that otherwise would not be possible. I am allowed to do it freely.”

Submitted by Doug Butler

Presentation: Medicare and Medications – What’s new and why you should care

When I took my seat at Monday’s meeting, I chided Jay Zenner because I hadn’t received his usual reminder that it was my turn to write up the program for the bulletin. He replied, “Well, we only have one more meeting after this, and it’s the holiday music program, so I thought you would figure it out.” As our speaker began to wrap up her presentation and I was scribbling frantically in my notebook, trying to make sense of the convoluted scenario she was explaining, Guy Solie leaned over my shoulder and said, “I can’t wait to see how you write this up. This topic is incredibly complex!” To which I responded, “Yep, I probably should have gone with the holiday music write-up.” 

My usual practice is to email a draft of my article to the speaker for editing prior to submitting it for publication – thank goodness. My journalistic skills are insufficient to even scratch the surface of the topics that were covered, but I can assure readers of one thing: Senior PharmAssist is an incredibly valuable resource in our community and provides services that need to be scaled to serve all Americans, because negotiating our current system of Medicare and Medicaid  is amazingly complicated and are only getting more so.   [Read more…]

MLK Day of Service Meal Packing January 20th

Join us on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, January 20, 2020.  Over 300 volunteers will work together to package 130,000+ meals to be distributed in Durham, Orange, Wake, and Johnston Counties through the Interfaith Food Shuttle. This project is a collaboration between 15 District 7710 Rotary Clubs, Duke University, Interfaith Food Shuttle, and Duke School.

***Children – families are welcome!  If your child is under 7 years of age do not include them in your volunteer total as they will work with an adult on the same job. Children over 7 years of age can work independently with adult supervision. Indicate the ages of the children in your sign up.

We will also be collecting non-perishable items to stock the pantries at Durham Tech and NC Central University.  Most needed items are canned beans, peanut butter, breakfast items, canned fruit in 100% fruit juice or water, personal hygiene items, and healthy snacks.

Click here to sign up.

Contact Joyce McKinney with any questions, (919)308-2176.

Date: 01/20/2020 (Mon.)Location: Duke School

3716 Erwin Rd, Durham, NC 27705