2017-18 in Review
 
2017-18 was a challenging year for the Sebastopol Rotary Club.  In October, 2017, wildfires devastated much of the county.  Although West County was spared direct damage, the disaster placed greater demands on the social service and education agencies the club supports and on the fundraisers who give the money that keeps the club's activities running.
 
But the club persevered.  We are proud of what we've done this past year, both directly and with our partners.  We raised and donated almost $250,000 to local groups.  On top of that, we devoted thousands of hours of volunteer time to help community projects and to tutor and mentor students in West County schools.
 
2017-18 Club President Jack Blasco said, "I am especially proud of the club and our fellow residents in West County.  In a year where natural disaster devastated so much of the county and strained charitable giving to the limit, we were able to raise enough to continue - and even expand - our key programs. But we did more than give.  We put ourselves to work.  Our volunteers were at the Redwood Empire Food Bank, they were at the YWCA, at the Laguna Environmental Center, and at the schools.  All of our efforts really met the Rotary's goal of 'Service above Self,' and I'm honored to have had the opportunity to see it all happen on my watch."
 
As Blasco noted, one major expansion of club activities in 2017-18 was the number of volunteer projects staffed with club members.  They partnered with other Rotary clubs on repair and maintenance projects at the Laguna Environmental Center.  They performed similar tasks at the YWCA in Santa Rosa.  And they joined hands with others on renovation projects at the Sebastopol Senior Center and at Cloverleaf Ranch, which suffered extensive fire damage and where the club sends underprivileged kids every year to Cool Kids Camp.  And club members helped build out the Peace Garden at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts.
 
On top of these projects, club members spent hundreds of volunteer hours in the schools and in youth projects.  The club sponsored Interact clubs at four west county schools.  The clubs teach students about citizenship and community responsibility, and the students made real contributions to others.  For example, Interact at Brook Haven Middle School raised $2500 for fire victims and $3200 for other local charities and Rotary’s international programs for polio eradication and keeping girls in school.  
 
Club members also worked with 50 students at Parkside and Brook Haven schools as part of the Learn with Me program, which tutors students in reading and math.   And members Greg Jacobs and Rick Wilson oversaw the 34thyear of the “Learn to Swim” program at Sebastopol’s Ives Pool.  This year 410 second graders from all the Sebastopol schools became some of the 10,000 plus kids who’ve learned water safety from the club-sponsored program.
 
The club also supported community organizations and teachers.  It gave over $45,000 to support over two dozen community organizations, including the Bodega Volunteer Fire Department, the Ceres food project in Sebastopol, and the West Sonoma County Consortium, which provides instruction for special education students.  It also gave over $23,000 in small grants of up to $500 to teachers from west county schools so that they could undertake projects to improve their students learning, but which could not be funded out of school monies.
 
On top of this work, the club has always supported excellence in education.  As it has done for many years, through its affiliated Sebastopol Rotary Education Foundation, it has honored three teachers from west county schools who have distinguished themselves by their commitment to their students and to learning.  The club has also honored six west county students who have overcome adverse circumstances to achieve real success in high school, two who have excelled in career and technical education, and six who have demonstrated great skill in public speaking.  The club’s efforts have gone beyond the high school level as well; it expanded its program to provide scholarships to west county students who are attending Santa Rosa Junior College.  This year the $4000 scholarships went to four students rather than three, as has been the case in the past.
 
In looking back at all the year’s work, President Blasco commented: “I am constantly amazed at how much good our members do every year.  We literally touch hundreds of peoples’ lives.  It is such a ‘win-win’ because we all get to feel good by doing good.”