Tag Archives: Westport Sunrise Rotary

Rotary Clubs: What They Do, And How They Do It

Yesterday’s “06880” highlighted the role that Westport’s Rotary clubs play, helping bring democratic values to Ukraine.

The Westport Rotary and Sunrise Rotary are 2 of the more than 35,000 Rotaries worldwide. The couple of hundred members are part of a global organization of 1.6 million. Their projects are international — like Ukraine — but much of their work takes place right here at home.

Westport Rotary was founded 100 years ago, in 1919. Its Sunrise sister is newer — it’s just 31 years old. Sunrise accommodates people who want to give back, but prefer breakfast meetings to midday.

Meetings include sharing of good news, guest speakers, and project plans. Recently, a member mentioned a wheelchair-bound World War II veteran whose home and yard needed major work. A dozen Rotarians spent 2 Saturdays getting it done. Their breaks were enriched by amazing stories of his D-Day landing at Normandy.

Many meetings include presentations by executives of non-profits. They share their organizations’ missions, accomplishments and needs. Club members are often inspired to help.

For example, Homes with Hope — which provides services and housing options to families and individuals seeking their way out of homelessness — is the recipient of monthly meal servings by Sunrise Rotary members. They also sponsor a July 4th barbecue, and food drive the day before the Super Bowl.

Rotary speakers have included the executive director of the Syria Fund, which provides education and assistance to refugees; the CEO of Norwalk’s Carver Foundation, who talked about the “opportunity gap” in education, and the headmaster of the Southport School, which educates students with dyslexia, and tied together the twin issues of incarceration and undiagnosed learning disabilities.

Of course, all of the Rotary Clubs’ charitable efforts cost money. Westporters are familiar with fundraisers like the Great Duck Race and LobsterFest.

Up next: Sunrise Rotary’s Uncorked Wine Tasting Gala.

Good times at last year’s Uncorked wine tasting, at the Inn at Longshore.

The event — set for this Friday (November 22, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., the Inn at Longshore) features 100 wines, craft beers and non-alcoholic drinks, all curated by Cory D’Addario of The Wine Company Westport (the new name for the old Liquor Locker). A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, she is an expert at the synergy between wine and food.

On tap too: excellent hors d’oeuvres, authentic French breads, desserts and amazing chocolates. Full case beverages can be purchased for discounts.

Westport’s Rotary Clubs often operate under the radar. On Friday, you can get a great “taste” of their wonderful work.

(For tickets to the Uncorked Wine Tasting Gala, click here.)

Fairfield’s Isabelle et Vincent will provide authentic French baked goods.

Rotary Clubs Reach Out To Ukraine

For months, Americans have been flooded with news about Ukraine.

For most of us, it’s a foreign country. We can’t quite figure out its politics, its place in the world, or all the political and business figures with similar-sounding names who seem to be doing nefarious things.

Ken Bernhard is not confused.

Ken Bernhard

The longtime Westporter — an attorney who spent 8 years representing Westport in the General Assembly, rising to assistant minority leader; served as 3rd selectman from 1987-89; was on the Zoning Board of Appeals; has been on boards from the Library and Chamber of Commerce to Earthplace, Levitt Pavilion and Aspetuck Land Trust; helped found the Syria Fund for refugee aid, is involved with an orphanage in Haiti, collects shoes for thousands of children worldwide and raises guide dogs — has a connection to that Crimean nation too.

Three years ago, he taught law in the port city of Berdyansk. With that nation in the news now, he wanted to see what his Westport Sunrise Rotary Club — and its sister organization, the Westport Rotary — could do to foster the rule of law and due process.

“We wanted to give evidence that we support democratic values,” he explains.

Through a professor friend in Berdyansk, he found that the law university hoped to construct a moot courtroom where students could learn courtroom skills.

Both clubs quickly agreed to finance construction.

Nothing is easy there. But as soon as banking requirements are fulfilled, and the necessary documents are translated and executed, the project can begin.

There’s a lot we don’t know about Ukraine. But this is one unimpeachable fact: Halfway around the world, Westport is helping democracy thrive.

Ken Bernhard (left) with students in Berdyansk, Ukraine. They hold a Connecticut state flag.

Unsung Heroes #122

John Geroski is a proud World War II veteran, and longtime Westporter.

He’s now 96 years old, wheelchair bound and with vision problems. He lives near from downtown.

When Joe Watson — Westport Sunrise Rotary Hands-on Committee member — heard that John’s house needed work, the group swung into action.

Robert Hauck — Hands-on co-chair — contacted Bio Clean. Tom Homola said his company would do mold remediation — normally up to $10,000 — pro bono.

Up this weekend: yard clean-up. That will be handled by Sunrise Rotary, Gorham Avenue neighbors, and Kristen Alvanson of Habitat for Humanity.

John’s family — who do not live nearby — are grateful and appreciative for the good will and great work shown by neighbors and strangers.

“It means everything to my father to be able to live out his days at home, rather than in a nursing home,” his son Mark Gasiorowski says. “He certainly deserves it, after all he has been through.”

All who made this possible are this week’s Unsung Heroes.

And — for his service to our country, and all he’s done since then — John Geroski is our Unsung Hero too.

Well, It Sure Didn’t Take Long For The Duck To Face Plant Itself This Year

“Sunny” — the enormous yellow duck that serves as great PR for the Sunrise Rotary Club’s annual Great Duck Race — was inflated yesterday on Jesup Green.

Usually it takes a few days — after it’s been moved to the Saugatuck River — for it to topple over.

This year: less than 24 hours.

(Photo/Richard Hyman)

(Photo/Aya Camp)

If you’re wondering: This year’s race is Saturday, June 1 (11 a.m., Parker Harding Plaza). Click here for tickets, and more information.

Sunrise Rotary Member Spurs International Peace Effort

Dennis Wong is a longtime Westport Sunrise Rotary Club member.

From the Great Duck Race to the Uncorked Wine Tasting, he’s there — with 2 helping hands, and a broad smile.

But Dennis’ real passion is peace. Six years ago he co-founded the Rotarian Action Group for Peace. The network empowers and supports Rotary clubs and individuals, offering structure, guidance and resource to further peace efforts around the globe.

He’s not in it for glory — just harmony. Yet this month The Rotarian — the organization’s official magazine, with a circulation of over 500,000 — profiled Dennis and co-founder Al Jubitz.

The Rotarian magazine’s photo of Dennis Wong was taken at the UN. (Photo courtesy of The Rotarian)

In the story, Dennis describes his vision of “conflict transformation.” It focuses on “understanding and ameliorating the underlying causes that spark conflict.” That’ s different than the traditional “conflict resolution,” which simply aims to end disputes.

It’s also something that aligns well with Rotary’s principles, Dennis says. He believes that his group has made Rotarians around the world more aware of — and ready to work for — peace, as a definable goal.

The group’s board members come from the Bangladesh, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Pakistan, the US and Wales.

They work on issues ranging from gender equality and human trafficking to the Middle East and the elimination of nuclear weapons.

To read the entire interview, click here.

Unsung Heroes #66

Hundreds of Westporters enjoyed lobsters (and more) at last weekend’s annual Lobsterfest.

Hundreds more pack downtown every June for the Great Duck Race.

A few take advantage of a specialized wheelchair, to enjoy the sand and shore at Compo Beach.

All are events sponsored — and projects supported — by Westport’s 2 Rotary clubs.

One meets Tuesdays at noon, at Christ & Holy Trinity Church’s Branson Hall.

The Sunrise Rotary meets Fridays at 7:30 a.m., at the Westport Inn.

Both clubs are filled with busy Westporters, who nonetheless give astonishing amounts of time and energy to raise tons of money. Then they give it all away, to help people in town, across Connecticut, elsewhere in the US and around the world.

I am a huge fan of both the Sunrise and noontime Rotary Clubs. But I admit: I have a hard time keeping them apart.

No matter. Rotarians in both groups put aside their friendly (I think) rivalry, to support each other’s good works — and Rotary International in general.

You may have no idea that so much good comes out of so much hard work, by so many neighbors.

That’s why Westport’s 2 Rotary Clubs are this week’s Unsung Heroes.

(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

Pic Of The Day #418

Crowds line Parker Harding Plaza for the start of today’s Great Duck Race. Nearly 3,000 plastic yellow ducks are corraled at the north end of the Saugatuck River. The event is a major fundraiser for Westport’s Sunrise Rotary Club. (Drone photo/Ryan Felner)

Pics Of The Day #409

A bird’s-eye view of the Great Duck Race duck …

… and a wider-angle duck (Drone photos/Ben Berkley)

State Of The Town

Presidents make State of the Union speeches. Governors have their own (weirdly named) State of the States.

Now Westport introduces the State of the Town.

Unlike the other events, this one is a public forum. Questions are welcome from normal (as in, you and I) citizens.

It’s set for Sunday, January 28 (4 p.m., Town Hall). First Selectman Jim Marpe and Board of Education chair Michael Gordon will discuss town and school issues. Both are in charge of big budgets — and both wield important influence on what this town is, and where it’s going.

The State of the Town is a joint project of Westport Sunrise Rotary and the Westport Rotary Club. Incoming presidents Eileen Flug and Jeff Wieser joined current presidents Ron Holtz and Susie Basler to make the event a reality.

The State of the Town is a great way to learn what’s going on — and give feedback.

And enjoy fine refreshments, courtesy of Panera Bread.

Unsung Hero #17

If you’ve been in Westport for any length of time, you’ve probably heard — and met — Jo Fuchs Luscombe.

She’s been involved in every aspect of life here — politics, education, community service. If it needs doing, Jo has done it.

But how many people know her back story?

A Dallas native, she was just a year old when her father — an oilman — moved the family to Venezuela. Jo grew up speaking Spanish — and gaining an important, real-world view of life.

She went to boarding school and college in Texas, headed to Katherine Gibbs secretarial school, got married at 19 and had a child at 20.

Jo Fuchs Luscombe

Her husband was in oil too, so they headed to Libya. Jo learned Italian there, and was once more immersed in a very different culture.

In 1969, the family moved back to the US. Her boys were 13 and 10.

In her mid-30s, Jo and her husband divorced. Encouraged by Rev. Dana Forrest Kennedy, she threw herself into every aspect Christ & Holy Trinity Church. She became president of the Women’s Guild, served on the vestry, and ran fundraisers.

She got interested too in the Westport Historical Society. Jo was a driving force behind the acquisition and restoration of Wheeler House — owned at the time by her church — as the organization’s headquarters.

In 1980, Jo was asked to fill out an unexpired term on the Zoning Board of Appeals. Public speaking did not come easily. But — as with everything else in her life — she worked to master it.

She won a full term on her own, then was appointed to the vacant post of 3rd selectman.

In 1986, Jo headed up her friend and fellow Westporter Julie Belaga’s campaign for governor.

Jo’s next step was the state House of Representatives. She served 5 terms — from 1987 to ’97 — and rose to Republican minority whip.

Retirement from state politics did not slow her down. As a member of Westport’s School Building Committee, she helped oversee 5 major construction and renovation projects (including the new Staples High School).

Jo Fuchs Luscombe (Photo courtesy of Westport Woman’s Club)

Remarriage did not slow her down either. Jo has been president of the Westport Woman’s Club (where she helped run major events like the art show), and is active in Westport Rotary, Greens Farms Garden club, and countless others.

As a longtime Westport Family YMCA board member, she helped shepherd the new building on its long, torturous journey from downtown to Mahackeno.

Her husband John says there is one reason she accomplishes so much: “She doesn’t sleep.”

There’s one more thing: Jo Fuchs Luscombe is one of the nicest, most always-smiling people you’ll ever meet.

Congratulations, Jo. And thanks from all of us, for all you’ve done in so many ways.

(Hat tip: Bobbie Herman)