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.