Rotarians honored as Champions of Change at White House

Twelve U.S. Rotarians were honored as Champions of Change at the White House 5 April.
Peggy Halderman, a member of the Rotary Club of Golden, Colorado, USA, talks about Golden Backpack, a program she helped launch that provides nourishing food every weekend to more than 520 schoolchildren in Golden community.
A member of the audience checks the Champion of Change website on a smartphone during the event.
The Champions of Change are recognized during the afternoon session in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
RI President Sakuji Tanaka applauds the Champions of Change.
Michael Nazemetz, left, and Champions of Change Ann Lee Hussey and Jeremiah Lowney Jr. applaud near the end of the program.
RI General Secretary John Hewko takes part in a working group session with government officials in the Indian Treaty Room 4 April.

Twelve U.S. Rotarians were honored at the White House on 5 April as Champions of Change for their efforts to improve communities locally and around the world.

As part of the daylong event, more than 160 Rotarians attended a morning round of briefings by government officials on topics including polio eradication, health, violence prevention, and the environment.

"It is a great honor to see these dedicated Rotary members recognized by the U.S. White House as Champions of Change for their work to improve the lives of people around the world," said RI President Sakuji Tanaka.

Tanaka said the honorees exemplify how Rotary brings people together to solve problems that are too large for one person to tackle.

"Alone, we look at the problems of our community and our world and we feel helpless," he said. "But together, we are powerful. And through Rotary, we have the power to change our communities and communities throughout the world -- now and into the future. We have the ability to build the world we dream of: one that is healthier, happier, and with hope for better things to come."

RI General Secretary John Hewko said the 12 Rotarians represent what Rotary is all about: "committed volunteers working together to improve communities not just in the United States but throughout the world."

He said that Rotary is an early and continuing example of organizations that are neither government institutions nor private businesses, that increasingly are joining together to address the world's most pressing problems. He noted how Rotary's partnership with other organizations has nearly eradicated polio worldwide.

"When we defeat polio -- and, yes, we will defeat this disease -- we will prove that there is nothing we cannot accomplish for the good of humanity by working together," he said.

Champion of Change

The 12 Rotarians honored as Champions of Change are: 

  • Tom Barnes, a member of the Rotary Club of Marion-East Cedar Rapids, Iowa -- Barnes leads a project that has provided new shoes to more than 3,500 children from low-income families across the state.
  • Bob Dietrick, a member of the Rotary Club of Franklin At Breakfast, Tennessee -- Dietrick is the driving force behind Operation Starfish, a club project that provides clean water and sanitation to low-income residents in the region who would otherwise have to rely on contaminated shallow wells.
  • John Germ, a member of the Rotary Club of Chattanooga, Tennessee -- Germ is a leader in fund development for Rotary's polio eradication campaign, recently coordinating an effort that raised more than $228 million in response to $355 million in challenge grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He also leads projects to assist mentally and physically challenged children and adults in Tennessee.
  • Peggy Halderman, a member of the Rotary Club of Golden, Colorado -- Halderman five years ago launched Golden Backpack, a program that provides food every weekend to more than 520 underprivileged schoolchildren in the Golden community.
  • Nancy Sanford Hughes, a member of the Rotary Club of Eugene Southtowne, Oregon -- Hughes helped establish Stove Team International, a program that assists local entrepreneurs in creating factories in five Central American countries that make clean, fuel-efficient cookstoves to replace dangerous open cooking fires. The program is now supported by Rotary clubs throughout the United States, Mexico, and Central America.
  • Walter Hughes Jr., a member of the Rotary Club of Rocky Mount, Virginia -- Hughes leads a multinational Rotary partnership that is helping to eradicate guinea worm disease in Ghana and South Sudan through the implementation of clean water projects.
  • Ann Lee Hussey, a member of the Rotary Club of Portland Sunrise, Maine -- Hussey has made her life's work the eradication of polio and the alleviation of suffering of people with polio. A polio survivor herself, she has led numerous Rotary volunteer teams to India, Nigeria, and other countries to immunize children and provide assistance to people disabled by polio.
  • Jeremiah Lowney Jr., a member of the Rotary Club of Norwich, Connecticut -- Lowney led the effort to establish the Haitian Health Foundation, now the primary health care provider in southwestern Haiti, delivering live-saving services to a quarter million people in 104 rural villages.
  • Douglas McNeil, a member of the Rotary Club of Los Gatos Morning, California -- McNeil leads area Rotary members in programs that mentor and inspire young people, such as the Rotary Earth Day Project. He also helped establish Lighting for Literacy, which provides low-cost solar lighting systems for communities without electricity, promoting more at-home reading, a key tool in increasing literacy rates.
  • Herriett Schloer, a member of the Rotary Club of Bend High Desert, Oregon -- Schloer in 1999 enlisted Rotary support to launch the Shots for Tots program, which provides free routine immunizations to any area schoolchildren, insured or not, through age 18. Deschutes County now has one of the highest immunization rates in the state.
  • Bonnie Sirower, a member of the Rotary Club of Paterson, New Jersey -- Sirower organized and coordinated Rotary relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the region in October. As a result, truckloads of critically needed relief supplies were sent from Rotary clubs to communities along the East Coast.
  • Neli Vazquez-Rowland, a member of the Rotary Club of Chicago -- Vazquez-Rowland and her husband in 1994 established Safe Haven, a comprehensive program that helps thousands of people dealing with homelessness, hunger, addiction, chronic unemployment, and other issues.

"The commitment of these individuals to service reflects that of our worldwide membership of 1.2 million men and women, all of whom deserve to share in this recognition," Tanaka said. "Rotary is a way for good people to step forward and work for a better world. And it is a way for all of us, around the world, to transcend race, religion, nation, and politics -- to come together to give help to the people who need it."

Read more about the honorees on the Champions of Change blog. Read blogs from some of the Rotarians on Rotary Voices.

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