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PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE The Rev. Dr. John H. Danner April 9, 2018


The Rev. Dr. John H. Danner

Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club

April 9, 2018


I realize this is not a classification talk.  But the theme for the coming year in Rotary seems custom made for a pastor:  be the inspiration.  I mean offering inspiration, being inspiring, is literally part of my job description.  In fact in a recent survey of the members of my church conducted by the Pastoral Relations Committee one of the questions asked if I preach inspiring sermons!

Personally,  I find some inspiration from time to time in the comic strip drawn by Doug Marlette called Kudzu.  It features the comings and goings of a young man in the south, who frequently turns to his pastor for counsel and advice.

In one strip, they are out for a walk, when the young man turns to the preacher and says, “Bein’ a minister must be really hard, huh, preacher?  I mean, living for others, leading an exemplary life!  That’s a lot of responsibility!  The pressure must be tremendous!  Having to set a good example!  People watching, waiting for one false move, one sign of human fragility they can jump on! . . . I don’t know how you handle it! . . .”  The preacher thinks for a moment, and then says, “I stay home a lot.”

That is most certainly not the case with this club.  This club has discovered over the years that part of our work, part of our mission, if you will allow the term, is found outside the four walls of the Clubhouse at the Dunes.  Certainly, what happens there on Friday mornings is important, and in and of itself often inspiring.  Over breakfast we often share our lives, and offer support to one another in times of difficulty.  Networking connections are made that enhance our ability to serve in our own professions.  We find a few reasons to laugh, ribbing Don Russell about his beloved Buckeyes, listening to one of John Frederick’s stories. Our speakers often challenge us to think in new ways, and to take on new efforts.  But this club has learned that what matters most is not what we do on Friday mornings, but rather, what we do the rest of the week.  For it is when we move out into the wider world, as individuals and in groups, it is then that we can truly be an inspiration.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot these past few weeks–and considering the many ways I have been inspired by the members of this club.

I am inspired by the way there is always somebody willing to step up and take on a task when needed, like Cindy DeCosta, Dorrie Hipschmann and Shirley Jewell did this evening.

I am inspired by the way some of our members, like Chet Sadler, Bill Rahe and John Grey, have devoted so much time and effort and even personal funds to keep us involved in places like Haiti and Guatemala and Trinidad.

I am inspired by the fact that we as a club are helping farmers in Guatemala with microloans that make it possible for them to grow some of the best coffee in the world.

I am inspired by the all hands on deck approach we take to the Arts and Crafts Fair, and the way Scot Congress, Dick Waterhouse, Robert Monk, Rachel Tritaik, the two Rogers (those guys can sell anything!) and so, so, so many others make it possible for us to raise tens of thousands of dollars every year all while providing Sanibel with a top-notch community event attended by thousands.

I am inspired by the fact that this year we are planting a tree for every member of our club –and how we helped fund a Food Forest right next door in Pine Manor in Fort Myers.  A food forest, for crying out loud!  In Fort Myers!

I am inspired by the hundreds and hundreds of wheelchairs we have provided for persons in desperate need, allowing them to literally get up off the ground, sometimes for the very first time in their lives.

I am inspired by how Eldon Bohrofen has worked overtime to bring in new members, and how those new members like Richard Green and John Schwandke have become vital participants in our work.

I am inspired by how Jack Alexander and Joleen Raho got us involved in the rehab work along the Imperial River after Hurricane Irma and how the residents there were keeping the faith.

I am inspired by the way Lee Almas, year after year, after year has organized our efforts to help various community organizations park cars for important fundraisers that benefit the island.

I am inspirited by the young men and women who have received thousands and thousands of dollars in scholarships from our club, and the way Dan Cohn and his committee have kept that project so very well organized.

I am inspired by the fact that such a large percentage of our members serve on various boards and committees across the island, and literally around the world, making a real difference in so many lives.

I am inspired by Holli Martin makes sure every contribution is acknowledged with her weekly shout outs and thank you notes.

I am inspired by the fact that doctors and preachers and lawyers and accountants and teachers and scientists and bankers and others are willing to scour the side of Summerlin Road once a month and pick up all manner of debris to help keep our world a beautiful place.

Yes, friends, even working on road kill can be an inspiration.  But none of it would happen–none of it at all–if we simply stayed home.  If we simply ate eggs and bacon and raised our cholesterol levels and enjoyed ourselves on Friday mornings none of it would happen at all.

But we don’t.  We take seriously the need to put “Service above Self”.  We take seriously the fact that yes, we are women and men who can and do make a difference as individuals, but also that we are able to multiply that impact exponentially when we work together.

And in the year ahead, I will do all in my power to help us continue being the inspiration.  I will be proposing some new efforts as well as supporting our tried and true programs of the past.  I will be encouraging us to explore what it might mean to sponsor an Interact Club at the Sanibel School.  I will be asking us to find creative ways to partner with FISH and other groups at part, RUSH–Rotarians United to Stop Hunger.  I will be urging us to think about our relationship to Shell Point, and to examine the idea of fostering a Satellite Club there.

On a more personal basis, I turn sixty-five this summer.  And so it seems time again to get on my trusty bike, and put in a couple of hundred miles to raise some funds for wheelchairs.  When I turned sixty, we were part of an effort that raised $22,000 to that end.  We placed over two-hundred people in those chairs.  What can we do this time?

I am so honored to serve as your President for the coming year.  Because, my fellow Rotarians, you inspire me.  You inspire me to be a better person.

Back in 2011 the late Art Cramer, a long time Rotarian, asked me over and over again to come with him to a Rotary meeting.  I finally relented.  A year later, Art passed on.  And I had the privilege of officiating at his Memorial Service.  Recently, I looked up my homily from that day.

“Art,” I said, “not only repeated the words of the Four Way test at each and every Rotary Club meeting, he lived by them as well.”

Fellow Rotarians, might that be said of each of us.  As individuals and as a club, might our words and our deeds be the inspiration.

Post Irma Clean Up Effort

We should all be very proud of the amazing efforts by local Rotarians in helping those most affected locally by the devastation wrought by Hurricane Irma.

Here are a few photos of the clean-up crew!

This is better said by two of our fellow club members.  To read a blog from our resident Pastor, John Danner, please click here

In addition, club treasurer Jack Alexander sent out a moving a thought-provoking  email that follows:

Team #makeadifference had 8 people volunteer last Saturday morning (a big hearty thank you to Chet, John D, John/Joleen Raho, Rachel, Don, and Richard G!!). As Holli mentioned, you can read a little about it on John Danner’s blog. Here’s a little extra information for you. There were the 8 of us at the house, plus the team leader Wayne Hemstead (Sandra’s husband). About an hour into our shift another guy joins the team . . Bruce (he’s the one standing behind Don and me in the picture John used). He’s not in Rotary, nor is he affiliated with any charitable organization. He’s a former Navy guy and is currently a realtor in . .GEORGIA!!

After Harvey hit Texas, he hopped in his truck and headed down there to help. He then showed up in Bonita three weeks ago with supplies and worked the weekend. Then last week, his bosses said . . we have more supplies for FL, want to take another trip down there. He said “sure”. He then goes on to say his kids gave him their toys to take to the kids who had lost everything . . totally on their own, with no encouragement from him. And they didn’t give away the toys they no longer use . . Bruce said the kids gave away their favorites!

With evil lurking in various corners of the world, it’s stories like this that give you the feeling that maybe the world isn’t such a bad place after all.

These are all hard working people who found themselves in a world of hurt . . and we were there to help, both financially and with able bodied volunteers. As a club, we can hold our heads high my friends knowing we’ve done a heck of a lot for the good of the cause!

San Cap Rotary in Guatemala

In April four Rotarians (Past Presidents Bill Rahe, John Grey and Chet Sadler along with Assistant Governor Area 4 Clark Rambo) visited Lake Atitlan, Antigua and Huehuetanango in Guatemala meeting with the local project coordinators to see the impact of the projects on the local community and give thanks for all the hard work they have done. $48,000 was given to these projects in the form of grants, fund raising profits, and micro financing loans to support the poor struggling communities.


The visiting Rotarians first stop was along the shores of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala meeting with the Ija’tz Coffee Coop. Their coffee fields, located on the side of a volcano overlooking the lake, have been devastated by the coffee Roya or leaf rust. This fungus causes the leaves to fall off and eventually the plant dies. The $5,000 grant given the coop helped fund tree nurseries growing Roya resistant coffee plants and large scale replanting efforts. Funds also went for heavy duty spray equipment for spraying organic solutions on the infected plants. The coop also received expert training on best practices for growing premium coffee and how to brew and taste for the quality of the beans produced.


Guatemala Rotary VP Meijia explains Roya



The Sanibel Captiva club gave a microfinancing loan the La Suiza coffee coop. These funds were raised by the club selling coop coffee at the A&C Fair and at Baileys. The profits go back to the coop. This year the loan amount was $12,000. This is an agriculture loan given to the coffee farmer based on the amount of coffee he grows. The loan is paid back after the funds are received from selling their coffee in the US premium market. This is the fourth year for this loan project. It has allowed the coffee farmers to sell their coffee at a much higher price and have money to support their family and grow their farms. Due to the long distance to La Suiza (3 day trip) the group could not make the trip to the village. They were given details by the De La Gente. A company that organizes the Coop efforts.


La Suiza village

The small village of La Suiza high in the mountains of Guatemala


The next stop was Huehuetanago Guatemala. The Sanibel Captiva Rotary Club donates to the Huehuetanago Rotary club a container load of 110 wheel chairs. The Huehue Rotary Club are experts in distributing wheel chairs to the needy in the far reaches of this mountainous state. This container load cost $22,000. Thanks to the Wheel Chair Foundation, Sanibel Captiva Rotary received matching funds to help get the total funding. To receive this matching grant the Wheelchair Foundation requires the local Rotary Club meet rigid requirements to assure the wheel chairs meet the need. Some of the requirements include a doctor’s prescription approving the persons need, signed pledge that the user will not sell the wheelchair and notify the Huehue Club if there is a mechanical problem so they can get it fixed. The person has to be measured to get the right size wheelchair and understanding of how the chair will travel to choose the type of wheel for the chair. In the communities where the wheel chairs were distributed by the Huehue and Sanibel Captiva Rotarians the atmosphere was joy and happiness. Marimba band music, local food delight and children dance presentations emphasized the impact these wheelchairs have on the community.


Rotarians with young family


Clark Rambo helps



Clark Rambo helps transfer young boy receiving a wheelchair

Finally, the Rotarians sat down with Michael Ewens from the “Ripple Effect”. This community building organization is operating in the distant mountain Ixil region of Guatemala. This small village was caught up in the civil war between rebels and the Guatemala army. Over 2/3rd if the population lost their lives in the war. The Ripple Effect has received the largest International grant of $16,000 from the Sanibel Captiva Rotary Club. Michael has lived in the community for over 3 years helping the Ixil Indians rebuild their lives with water & sanitation systems and providing fences, seeds and tools to make nutritional organic home gardens Recently they have received solar cells lighting up their homes for the first time. Mr. Ewens hands on effort has helped over 150 families rebuild their lives.

Rotary is an International organization. One of their goals is to help those that are in need locally and internationally