Winter Greetings 2024

Greetings Alaska Rotarians!

It has been an amazing experience visiting our District Rotary Clubs this year. So far, Peggy and I have completed 31 of the 36 club visits and several Rotary Foundation (TRF) events that involved multiple clubs. One of the highlights is learning about the projects that the clubs are doing in their communities and in many cases, elsewhere in Alaska or internationally. I am particularly pleased that the Excess Reserves funds we used to supplement the District Grants have helped many clubs leverage their projects, greatly increasing the impact, public visibility, and fun! Altogether, the District Finance Committee added $30,000 last year, $40,000 this year, and has a proposal to add $20,000 next year to make a total of $100,000 per year available for District Grants. This backfilled a gap created by a drop in TRF Annual Fund donations during COVID. Rotary returns half of the Annual Fund donations to the districts three years later. The good news is TRF donations have returned in force.

Some of what is driving that are regional Foundation events. In August, the four Juneau Rotary Clubs did their amazing helicopter rubber duckie drop, an event that was witnessed by dozens of Rotarians who had just arrived on a cruise ship on the way to the Life on Land event in Anchorage at the end of August and early September. Rotary International Treasurer and Director Drew Kessler’s wife Vicky and two of their sons were featured in the Juneau newspaper helping to paddle the canoe and retrieve ducks from the containment boom during that event. In a testament to the skill of the helicopter pilot, all but a few dozen of the 5,000 rubber duckies dropped from several hundred feet above the lake and landed inside the containment boom.

The Life on Land event was a great success with Rotary International President Gordon McInally from Scotland attending. This was the first visit to D5010 by an RI President in their year of service. In addition to Director Drew Kessler, RI Director-Elect Chris Etienne also attended along with about 140 other Rotarians from across Canada, the NE and NW US, and D5010. Planting a pollinator garden (I know, I get the joke) at the Eagle River Nature Conservancy was a highlight of the event. A tip of the hat to Life on Land event chair Diane Fejes and all the D5010 Rotarians who made it so successful.

In early November, the five Rotary Clubs in the MatSu area hosted a regional Foundation event that featured both silent and outcry auctions. DGN Marty Metiva was the host auctioneer and did an amazing job that evening as $54,000 was raised in that single event. Many of the 125 attendees were local business owners donating services and other items to the auction. The event proved to be so spectacular that five non-Rotarians who attended decided they wanted to become part of the action and are joining area clubs. As I like to say, “Rotary, we are People of Action!”

The planning committee for our upcoming District Assembly and Conference in Fairbanks at the Westmark Hotel May 16-19, 2024, is making good progress at its monthly meetings. We have a variety of exciting events planned, including an opening event at the world-famous Antique Auto Museum, tours of the UAF Geophysical Institute and Museum, and a ribbon cutting for one of the largest Rotary Club projects in D5010. DGE Brenda Shelden will lead the District Assembly meeting on May 16, providing an opportunity for the PEs and other FY25 club officers to assemble one final time before their year begins on July 1. We have invited several keynote speakers who will be presenting on Youth programs and new Rotary Club Models. Registrations are already approaching 200 for this event. If you want to attend and stay at the Westmark, you should book your room right away as they are going fast. I invite you to join your fellow Rotarians in Fairbanks in May and “Spring into Action!”


DG Mike Pollen