Priya Jhingan
HAPPY NATIONAL SQUIRREL APPRECIATION DAY, fellow Rotarians! Yes, it is indeed today. The 21st of January… National Squirrel Day. For more information, please read on and find Hermann Welm’s multiple reminders from last week’s meeting.
As is customary, an air of levity and confusion preceded the start of the meeting. We learned that Gary Sloan feels like he’s never heard (Top Gun wanted to make sure this was included in the notes), and we also learned to CC Top Gun on all communications that are both important and unimportant. He wants to be copied on the juicy, personal stuff too, it sounds like.
Last week marked our second meeting for 2021! And Kathy Opila was our greeter. Our Rotary theme of the year is, of course, Rotary Opens Opportunities, with the expectation that Rotarians create opportunities that strengthen their leadership, help convert service ideas into action, and
improve the lives of those in need.
Kathy’s thought for the day reminded us to not be worried about our smartphones or TVs spying on us… After the pledge, Kathy shared more about her life and what she’s been up to: quilting, being a hermit, getting to know her fiance really, really, REALLY well (and yes, they are still getting married!). She’s healthy, and fortunate enough to have gone to Hawaii for her birthday and snuck out to Reno for New Year’s Eve. Go, Kathy!
We had one guest: Rob Salas, visiting his in-laws and us from Guam. Thankfully, Chris Gallagher did not scare him away and he stayed with us for the whole meeting.
In sharp contrast to his usual verbose nature, Dr. Bill Harlan gave a pithy update on the dictionary project: “When the 3rd graders come back, we’ll deliver the dictionaries”. The end.
Priya Jhingan (that’s me) was unexpectedly recognized for being on an upcoming Jan 28 panel, “A Night of Networking ft. Rotarians”, hosted by East Bay Community Rotaract (EBCR) and Geek Girl Careers. The event is designed to provide guidance to young professionals and recent graduates on networking and job seeking in the tech world.
Colette Lay and Janette Kennedy (Development Director at Loaves and Fishes) provided an amazing update on our Loaves and Fishes grant fund:
  • They are opening up their Walnut Creek dining room to a wider community for hot and nutritious meals & groceries
  • They’ve had an incredible increase in demand, due to the pandemic. They are serving 1600 meals/day, way beyond the normal demand at this time of year.
  • With help, including from our fund, they are able to meet this increasing need.
  • Part of the grant funds went towards providing bottled water, an instrumental facet of their to-go meals, since they can no longer serve refreshments inside the dining room.
As mentioned before, Hermann Welm reminded us that January 21 is National Squirrel Appreciation Day. He strongly advised all Rotarians to go out, buy a bag of walnuts, and make your local squirrels feel appreciated. Seemingly fed up by 45 seconds of squirrel talk, Chris Gallagher proposed, instead, a National Squirrel Elimination Day and tried to get buy-in from Alan Love, who fortunately did not comply. 
  • Good ol’ Squirrel Man himself, Hermann Welm, was recognized for wearing a vintage Carboload t-shirt. Pithy Dr. Bill made a sideline comment about 2005 being the death of the t-shirt and sweatshirt. Yup, I didn’t understand the comment either.
  • Carolyn Degnan was recognized for her birthday on Nov 23.
  • Kathy Opila was recognized for her birthday, for which we know she snuck over the boundary lines of covid into Maui. She drove the Road to Hana and saw only 7 cars along the way! Her birthday came to a paradise completion with a bowl of noodles and a rainbow.
  • Marv Remmich, whose birthday was on Dec 25, mentioned that Santa (and everybody) comes to his birthday party every year (this year, of course, included).
  • Terry Koehne had a birthday on Dec 26th. In Terry’s wise and weird words, “Marv, then Jesus, then him” in the birthday line. Unlike the rest of us who have been having wild parties left and right, Terry stayed home and did nothing for his birthday. Oh wait, he drank his favorite tequila and spent time in the hot tub. We begged him not to share pictures.
  • And finally, Christopher Gayler was recognized for his wife Natalie’s birthday on January 10. What did they do? You guessed it - absolutely nothing.
Interact Program
On to more normal news (or whatever is currently seen as normal), the brilliant Celeste Paapanen presented the traditional, mid-year update on Interact. Notes included:
  • The Interact club now has 150 members! Wow.
  • Their goals for the year include: 
    • Support local and global causes through volunteering and donations
    • Connect fundraising to their projects 
    • Work with other Interact Clubs
    • Become more connected to Rotary 
    • Spread word about Interact
  • Their district project of the year was working with Amnesty International in order to spread awareness about human rights issues around the country and the world.
  • Transitioning to virtual form was hard:
    • Especially for upperclassmen, the social aspect of being seniors in a virtual world was challenging.
    • To help, they emphasized community building in their events and meetings.
    • They held a lot of virtual events to test and figure out what members wanted to see. They found social breakout rooms in Zoom calls to be valuable.
  • A few of their many projects included:
    • Making dog toys over Zoom out of t-shirts!
    • Cards for troops
  • Key initiatives this year focused on issues that Interactors are passionate about:
    • Hunger and homelessness
    • Environment and education
  • Drives included:
    • Homelessness
    • Clothing
  • Fundraising events (restaurant) included:
    • Teaspoon
    • Fresh Millions
    • Dos Coyotes
  • District events:
    • Leadership conference
    • District council kick-off
  • They also began connecting and working with other clubs, including a virtual visit with an Interact club in Brazil!
  • Upcoming events include:
    • Another rocks for positivity project
    • Thank you letters for teachers at Cal High
  • How to stay involved with this amazing Interact Club:
    • Support their fundraisers and attend their service events
    • Come to Wednesday weekly meetings. You can email for the Zoom link!
Wow!! What remarkable efforts and results from Cal High Interact! As Colette Lay mentioned, things could have easily gone by the wayside, with everything that’s going on in the world, and the Interactors managing high school on top of it. Yet, they have come out on top, thrived, and accomplished SO much. Thank you, Gary Sloan, for tirelessly supporting and encouraging our great group of Interactors!
Raffle and Ending Announcements
Gary Sloan won the raffle! A blue marble was selected in his name. (Sorry, Mr. Sloan)
Our next greeter is the lovely Vera Packard. 
And of course, Herm concluded the meeting with a reminder: Don’t forget Squirrel Appreciation Day 2021! Don’t worry, Herm, I’ll likely remember Squirrel Appreciation Day for the rest of my life.