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According to folklore, a ‘Swan song ‘is a phrase used to describe someone who is leaving in style and our 2021-22 president, Elsabé Falkson did just that.
 
 
Not only did she leave in style, but her entire year was a big success.  She was organized, had a vision, and spent innumerable hours researching, working, and planning. She also knows how to have fun while serving others. Elsabé was an inspiration to us all.
 

The Swan

 
Elsabé compared our club to a boat she once chartered. The make of the boat was a Swan. It was a well-balanced boat. Once you set your sails, standing at the helm, she says, was pure joy as the boat basically sailed herself.
 
Just like her Swan, this club in its 101st year, basically sailed itself. She went on to thank Past presidents, chairs of committees, best practices, and our members. She, however, forgot to thank herself, because without her steady hand on the tiller all our activities would not have been possible.
 
Membership has continued to grow. When we started this Rotary year on 1 July 2021, we were in the grip of COVID-19. We saw the economic fallout effects of the pandemic as well as humanitarian crises, food insecurity and mental health concerns, a war in Ukraine, environmental disasters and poverty everywhere.
 
She quoted Brent Gleeson, the author of TakingPoint Leadership,
 
“Most organizations that continue to succeed and innovate have a culture poised for positive change and taking a risk. They don’t wait for the ship to spring a leak. They proactively and constantly set aggressive goals. They sometimes even intentionally develop a sense of urgency.”
 
This too was evident in Elsabe’s leadership!
 

Innovation and Flexibility

 
Innovation & Flexibility imply change, which we also did this year due to her effective leadership. The Board identified key Strategic issues and our club has come a long way in implementing these necessary changes. Club Runner has been implemented and our learning curve is on the upturn of the “hockey stick effect”.
 
In Feb 2019 John Hewko RI General Secretary said:
 
“Imagine for a moment what Rotary clubs could look like in the future.  Clubs that could change their meeting schedule and format, can relax attendance requirements, and offer multiple membership types”
We are progressing positively in this direction and are now an “imagined” club; a leader in the district and the zone.
 
We encourage participation where and when our members can and those who have participated in and reported on 50 or more meetings or activities this Rotary Year are now recognized as having perfect attendance.
 
We adapted and moved to Kingsbridge where we now have the use of a beautiful quiet space and an auditorium to optimize our Hybrid meetings.
 
Our club also adapted to the creation of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion awareness & action. We must go the extra mile to be more inclusive and learn and acknowledge the history of indigenous peoples.
 
A 101-year-old club naturally will have a large and growing cohort of elderly Honorary members, and widows.  Thanks to the member care team, who initiated a new program of checking regularly on these folks
 
We can also, all celebrate the work our international committee in which it has been engaged.
 

International Services Committee (ISC)

 
The International committee has done more than ever this year. Recently they were involved in a Beekeeping project in Dominica. Soon they will tell us about their recent travels to Africa, the projects there and their fellowship connections. 
 
Through their leadership, our club qualified for an International Grant for the Vandavasi Girls washroom project in India.  This achieved one of the strategic goals identified by our board in 2021 and brought our international participation to a whole new level.  These new initiatives were exciting for members and an interesting draw for potential new members.
 

Fundraising

 
Due to Covid, our fundraising was very innovative with such activities as online auctions, a Comedy night, volunteering to be marshals for a fishing derby, Cat Fore Kids golf tournament, a maple syrup collection activity (one of Elsabé’s favourites), and a maple syrup pancake breakfast.
 
Elsabé’s vision was to create an additional income stream where we would get regular money with less burden on a few individuals. To that end we started the online 50/50 or Catch the Ace raffle and enrolled in the environmentally friendly TruEarth program.
 
One of the most remarkable fundraising innovations this year was “Behind the Mask”, a book about success stories during the pandemic. With this book, about $ 28 000 was raised for our club.
 

Awards

Elsabé gave out two well deserved awards.
 
  1. Outstanding Achievement by a new Rotarian was given to Marci McMullen for all her work on Behind the Mask and the auction.
 
  1. Rotarian of the Year was given to Bernie Robinson (nicknamed – WHAT DO YOU NEED?) for all the ways that he quietly enables us to do the amazing things Rotarians do and to enjoy fellowship at the Sugar Shack, and for serving the community through Robinson Garden.  
Elsabé had some fun with board member aliases or nicknames. She thanked them by saying that they and all our members were a “clockwork crew”. As a result, our club will be receiving the RI presidential citation for setting and achieving our goals in RI Goal central.

Elsabé’s favourite topic OUR ENVIRONMENT.

She is pleased that our club has received the Bronze Award as an Environmental Club.
 
She made a special appeal to us to individually to reduce our use of single-use plastic. In her comments she said:
“Plastic Free July is a global social movement that helps people be part of the solution to the problem of plastic. 2022 is a critical year to turn the tide on plastic pollution.It remains a global problem, affecting communities around the world. Despite our careful sorting, collection and recycling efforts, plastic is everywhere – from the deepest oceans to the summit of Mt Everest. It is not only littering the planet, but now littering our bodies, even found in the placentas of unborn babies.
 
Last week the government of Canada announced it will ban some single-use plastic items in an effort to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030, but sadly only a limited number of products fall under the ban and some of the prohibitions don't kick in until 2025.
 
The six categories of single-use plastics being banned make up about three per cent of the plastic waste generated annually in Canada. The list is short but it’s a start.”
 
Elsabé’s SWAN SONG to us is not to wait for the UN or our government to make a move. "Please undertake to do your bit, and stop buying water in plastic bottles" she said and "Refuse plastic cutlery at takeout’s. Recycle and reuse, but above all reduce what you use.”
 
 

Elsabé’s 9 Personal Highlights

“There were moments in this year that I will always cherish:
  • Most recently watching the Pathways Graduation,
  • The arrival of a monarch butterfly at Rotary Park,
  • Planting those 21 trees in the rain with so many volunteers,
  • Learning how to tap maple trees,
  • Fellowship at the sugar shack,
  • Listening to Rotarians like Marilyn Firtzgerald and Al Jubitz,
  • Inducting our new members and
  • Finding Grace and Andrew at RKY.”                         
Returning to her metaphor of The Swan Elsabé said, “We tend to idolize and remember the best parts in the past. Thinking hard about it not everything was plain sailing. But we adapted and made changes and delivered the boat back to its owner in better shape than when they received it.”
 
She wished she could have done more, She wished, she could have inspired this club to become a peace club and she hoped this was something Alicia can lead us towards.
 
Elsabe concluded by thanking everyone for participating today and throughout the year and for their support and encouragement, fellowship and friendship and for allowing her to be the custodian of this iconic club this past year.   She said she is “Confident that we will embrace the opportunities ahead of us through innovation, flexibility and thoughtful change and with Alicia at the helm, it is going to be a lot of fun doing so.”
 

Exchange of Pins

The pin exchange between Elsabé and Alicia was teary eyed with big hugs.
 
Congratulations Elsabé on a stellar year of leadership!! You sailed on some choppy waters, but with you at the helm, you successfully led us to safe harbour with style and pizazz. Thank you.
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