Meeting in Review: February 5, 2014
At 12:30, President Shaun called the group to order. Cell phone ringers were turned off. American members pledged allegiance to the flag.
Secretary Tim Hurd introduced the guests of Rotarians:
- Maria Rosario T. Gueco, an IT specialist at Emerald Planet, a guest of Dr. Sam Hancock
- Mark Buscaino, Executive Officer of Casey Trees, guest of Glen O’Gilvie
- Kate Giles, Secretary of the DC Rotaract Club
- Marcus Soriano, Contract Administrator with Booz Allen Hamilton, DC Rotaract Club
- Rachel Dutcher, Director of Development for the Humanities Council of Washington DC, guest of Christine Warnke. Christine wanted us to know that Rachel was honored to be a previous Rotary Student of the Year from Hershey, PA.
- Katherine Bailey, Managing Shareholder, Bailey Law, guest of Kathy Ward.
Sergeant at Arms David Treadwell announced the birthdays for the week:
- Deraux Branch , Feb. 2: Deraux was sponsored by Irene Koerner in 2013. His classification is Banking: Commercial.
- Casey Mauldin, Feb. 2: Sponsored by Abe Helal when he transferred to our club in 2012, Casey's classification is Banking: Innovation Officer.
- Brendan McGinnis, Feb. 2: Brendan was sponsored by Abe Helal when he joined last month. His classification is Consulting: Environmental.
- Wilhelmina Bratton, Feb. 4: Wilhelmina's classification is Forestry. She was sponsored by Dr. Sam Hancock when she joined in 2009.
- Yoshiko Urakawa, Feb. 5: Yoshiko joined our club in 2012. Her classification is International Development: Aid Coordination and she was sponsored by Akiko Murai.
- Ben Fisher, Feb. 6: Past President Ben (1983-84) was sponsored by Benton Tolley when he joined in 1964. His classification is Law: Federal Communications Regulation.
- John “Jack” Arness, Feb. 8: Past President John (1980-81) joined our club in 1967. His classification is Law: Banking and he was sponsored by George Monk.
- Dick Pyle talked about the club’s 5 trips to Jamaica, and how future trips will do work in four areas: support of a school, medical assistance, environmental programs and education. The next scheduled trip is April 13th, before Easter. Don Messer seconded Dick Pyle’s comments, and promised a remarkable experience to everyone who goes on the trip.
- Clara Montanez and her committee continue to work on speakers for club meetings, and are having a potluck working dinner on Monday the 10th. She talked about the need to thoroughly follow through on proposed invitees. She reported that the speech of President Ron Burton to the OAS went very well, as did the Swedish Ambassador’s event.
- President Shaun reminded everyone of Movie Night Feb. 13th, the movie being “Her”, in which Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with his phone answering system.
- President Shaun again urged the membership to register for the District Convention in Baltimore, May 9-11.
Mike Carmichael then came to the podium to give an interesting new member talk, complete with flawlessly displayed Powerpoint slides. Mike modestly said he was from Savannah GA, “the same as Forrest Gump,” but it was clear that he has had a long and productive career in government and with 7 years in the Air National Guard. He told us about his family and other service projects he’s been involved with.
Nancy Riker then introduced our speaker, Dr. Mark Bergel, Founder, A Wider Circle. She described how impressed she was by his commitment to “right our wrongs” and his view of humanity as a family, in which individuals can make a difference.
Dr. Bergel has an informal academic speaking manner that doesn’t quite mask his intensity and dedication to his cause. How did he first learn about the problems that became his mission? In 2001, talking to his class at American University about emotional, physical and social balance, he required them to volunteer. And then, having been asked himself to substitute on an emergency food charity run, he couldn’t very well refuse.
He was appalled by the poverty he saw, and repeats it in detail all these years later. Hopeless people, living in literal darkness, with no food, sleeping on the floor. Pematurely aged parents, hungry children. How can the cycle of poverty be broken?
The organization that he founded, A Wider Circle, works in five ways:
- Furnishing homes; last year they took furniture to 4,250 homes and apartments, collecting good quality items all the way from Baltimore and Frederick to Woodbridge and Annapolis;
- Educating adults for job preparedness, including no-nonsense mock job interviews;
- Helping people who motly live day to day learn about saving and budgeting;
- Teaching about nutrition and how to cope with the relentless stress of poverty;
- Instructing on how to become better parents.
A Wider Circle has a showroom of clothing, where clients can choose the 5 outfits they might need in a week in a dignified setting, with supportive guidance. The emphasis on the basics of life comes from Dr Bergel’s conviction that the cycle of hopelessness can and must be broken for the poorest poor. He says the people he serves are there through an accident of birth, that they lack role models for a pathway out, and that they can cross the bridge to independence with compassionate help.
The organization, named in reference to a quote from Albert Einstein, has only 2% overhead and is
“bureaucracy free.” He says his goal is simply to end poverty – a high bar, but achievable.
In questions and answers, he gave more information about their unique role as a supplier of beds, dressers, chairs and other furniture. Three hundred agencies call them for help in this area. Donations can be dropped off in Silver Spring, or trucks will pick up.
Where do the funds come from? 42% from individuals, 22 from private foundations. There is a big annual fundraiser, and giving through the workplace. Montgomery County provides a large grant. The big need is people, volunteers..
With regard to outcomes, Dr. Bergel acknowledged the difficulty of tracking those they’ve helped. But a large percentage of those whom they have placed in jobs are still there 6 months later. And they tell him they don’t want to lose their good furniture and their new clothes.
The tree certificate was read and presented. Tony Cusak brought forth the green lottery hopper, with an amusing confession that he may have been less than truthful in telling everyone they were going to win, but the results were indeed beneficial to all concerned. Monica Boner held the winning ticket, worth $40, but didn’t find the Ace of Spades – drawing instead the King of Hearts, which she said was appropriate for the occasion.
Abe Helal and Isabelle Ardelean ran the hospitality table. Ted Kim and Howard Davis were greeters.
The meeting was adjourned at 1:30 p.m.