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Rotary embraces DEI in line with core values

Along with its core values of fellowship, integrity, service and leadership, Rotary believes that exemplifying and embracing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) should be a part of everything we do.  District 7620 in 2021 launched a DEI Committee to see that local clubs are welcome places for all to grow in service.

12381617286?profile=RESIZE_400xKashonna Marrow, our present Columbia-Patuxent Rotary president, has been chair of the district panel and says it’s important that we’re clear about what DEI is and what we can do as a club, and as individuals collectively, to make sure it’s happening and is intentional.  Even though it's been politicized, Kashonna said DEI isn't a political issue. “It’s been under attack in our businesses, and in our world, because it has been misunderstood and, unfortunately, misinterpreted,” she explained.12381617084?profile=RESIZE_584x

While people may think DEI is primarily about race, Kashonna said it’s based on consideration for your neighbor, especially for those neighbors who don't look like you, don't have the same experiences or the same background that you have.  Basically, what we're saying is, don't just treat people how you want to be treated, but treat them how they want to be treated as well,” she said.

There’s a descriptive “wheel of bias” showing in color 16 different bias factors we deal with daily. Kashonna said “if you say you don't have a bias, well, you're lying to yourself, because we all have them …(like) appearance, how someone looks. We call that a beauty bias. You determine that because some people are beautiful, they must be good. What DEI does is say - hey, I understand that I have this bias, and I’m willing to do what’s needed to make sure that I address it and begin to disrupt it.”

For Rotary, Kashonna said examining systems and processes to ask what could be done to make  clubs more diverse, equitable and inclusive offers an opportunity to make DEI an intentional choice. Issues might include things such as dues. If we’re going to invite someone to join, they may not have the financial advantage that some of us have. How can we begin to make it equitable?   If prospective members visit but don’t return, maybe we should reach out to see if they felt welcomed or excluded when they came, or to ask if there's anything we can do for them now?

“There are different things that we all can do to be intentional about our (DEI) engagement,” Kashonna said. She recommends that Rotary clubs form their own DEI committees and ask for volunteers “who want to talk about this further, begin to just see what we need to do, and who can bring it to the club as a whole, and begin to operate in that vein.”



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Interact Introduces Youth to Rotary 

12358204683?profile=RESIZE_400xInteract is one of Rotary’s key youth development programs – helping to bring young people ages 12-18 together to learn leadership skills while discovering the power of Service Above Self.   Rotary District 7620 has 35 active Interact Clubs in Washington, DC and Central Maryland, five that are community-based and 30 based in high schools. 

Columbia-Patuxent Rotary is proud to sponsor Hammond High School’s Interact Club under the direction of advisor/Rotary Liaison Kellie Lego, who guides the students in projects and activities that make a difference in their school and community.  The group began with an introductory meeting in October to talk about leadership camp training, Rotary’s Four-Way Test of the things we think, say or do (used by Rotarians worldwide as a moral code for personal and business relationships), and community service projects for the school year.  They also enjoyed an exercise where they wrote letters to “their future selves” that will be opened in May of 2024.

The club’s Annual Canned Food Drive took place in November.  Interact members placed collection boxes in the rooms of 65 first period teachers.  Hammond students could bring non-perishable food items to their first period class from Nov. 1-17.  The top three classes donating the most won a Chick Fil A breakfast sponsored by the Rotary Club of Columbia-Patuxent.  Interact and National Honor Society students delivered 645 pounds of food to Howard County’s Food Bank the week before Thanksgiving. 

Also in November, Interact president Eliza and club community service coordinator Jason attended District 7620’s Environmental Summit in Frederick, MD, along with Kellie Lego.  Topics included: 

  • Organizing community tree plantings 
  • Reducing plastic film pollution 
  • Safely recycling lithium batteries 
  • How to decontaminate recycling 
  • Starting a compost program 
  • Recovering uneaten food and feeding the hungry 
  • Helping your school become a certified green school 
  • Where to find funding for green projects 
  • Learn about net zero buildings (that produce enough renewable energy to meet their own annual energy consumption) 12358204900?profile=RESIZE_400x
  • Help reverse climate change 

The Hammond Interact students are hopeful they’ll be able to organize community tree plantings and work to reduce plastic film pollution.  At their December meeting, students made snowflakes for children in emergency care at the Children’s Hospital in Washington, D.C.  Once these children were strong enough to go home, they could take their beautifully-crafted snowflake home with them.








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Why does a person become a Rotarian?

The reasons why people join their local Rotary club can be many, but historically some of the key interests of prospective members include:

their interest in personal growth and development;
their desire to become better and more active community citizens;
their willingness to collective help others;
and their desire to practice social and people skills.
Basically, and above all, Rotarians are nice people – some of the nicest people on the face of the earth.

Take for example, one of the more recent members to join Columbia-Patuxent Rotary’s ranks – Michael Werling – following experience in the Rockville and Bethesda clubs.  He was born in Spain but relocated to the US with his parents in 1998. His father was a Penn State grad, a second-generation Eagle Scout, a Peace Corps volunteer and a University of Maryland professor. His mother grew up in Santa Barbara, CA, also was a Peace Corps volunteer and worked in school food service.

As a high schooler in Virginia, Michael was active in an environmental science program that fueled his interest in the outdoors.  “As I was graduating high school, I had the opportunity to do missionary work in the Dominican Republic and Haiti,” Michael said. “I was there for three or four weeks, and that was probably the first time I was really able to truly see the world - to see that we're all in this together - and that we need to help everyone regardless of where they're at in life or where they're at in this world.”

Following graduation from the University of Virginia, Michael joined the nonprofit world and was offered an opportunity to handle Boy Scout operations in the U.S. Virgin Islands. But he methis future wife - Cindy - in the meantime. She had also lived in Virginia and had attended the same elementary school as Michael - with the same teacher - but a year apart.  Cindy has been a dedicated educator for 10 years and is a talented, artistic crafter.

Today Michael serves as Community Outreach Specialist for the Community Action Council of Howard County.  He describes his CAC work this way: “We have many needs in our community and the Community Action Council is an incredible way for families who are in need to get resources. A lot of our programs are funded by grants, but unfortunately there’s still a huge gap.

“We rely on private contributions and private volunteers from across this county for help. Somebody needs to facilitate that help. It’s my responsibility – and a very humbling opportunity – that I have every single day. It’s something that I don't take for granted.”  

Michael also does not take his Rotary club responsibilities for granted.  He’s known for his willingness to lend a helping hand whatever the occasion, and to pitch-in when the need arises, often without being asked.  Like we said, Rotarians are some of nicest – and most helpful – people you’ll ever meet.      


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Rotary Fellowship on the High Seas

12288096469?profile=RESIZE_400xRotarians are sociable people, but not all of their fellowship takes place at club meetings, parties or special events.  Much of it happens in Rotary Fellowships – groups made up of club members and others who share a common interest in recreational activities, hobbies, professions or cultural identity.

These groups help expand skills, foster vocational development and enhance the Rotary experience by exploring interests while having fun.  More than 70 Fellowships are now officially registered with Rotary International.  One closest to home is the Rotary Yacht Squadron of Chesapeake Bay, part of the International Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians begun in 1947 and now counting some 3,700 members across 44 countries throughout the world.

Columbia-Patuxent Rotary member Charlie McCabe is Commodore of the Chesapeake Squadron, while past commodore John May is Fleet Captain.  The squadron was founded in Annapolis in 1954 and has about 30 active members, with about half that number of boats. Its members hail from home ports all over Chesapeake Bay and represent Rotary clubs in Maryland, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia.


John said Chesapeake members “have fellowship, we talk about the service projects that our own home club is involved in. We offer not only advice but ideas among the members about how they can go back to their home clubs and conduct fundraising, source projects and the like.”  The Fellowship operates much like a Rotary club.  

“Our officers are called the Commodore, the Vice Commodore, the Rear Commodore and the Fleet Captain, John explained.  “We also have directors. We have the same Rotary traditions and ceremonies that clubs do. We have Paul Harris presentations and guest speakers at our events.” Fellowship activities include a seasonal kickoff dinner in May, followed by a three-day weekend cruise (or rendezvous) in June, July, August and September, and ending in a change of watch formal dinner and ceremony in October.

Any Rotarian with an active interest in boating or just being on and protecting the earth’s waters can be a member,” Charlie said.  “Ownership of a boat is not required.”  He added: “The International Yachting Fellowship is the oldest and largest of all Rotary Fellowships.  Whatever you're interested in, there's probably a Rotary Fellowship for it. I would recommend you look into it if you have a particular interest.”

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Acting with integrity and high ethical standards in their personal and professional lives is a commitment that Rotarians the world over take to heart.  It is part of their responsibility to deal fairly with others and to treat all occupations – especially their own – with due respect.  Unfortunately, today’s world sometimes seems replete with scammers who are determined to violate any kind of trust in worthy business practices.

12254279498?profile=RESIZE_400x The result is a number of lawless schemes to separate honest people from their hard-earned money.  Angie Barnett, president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Greater Maryland, recently warned Columbia-Patuxent Rotary members about these most recent scams:

 1. Investment and cryptocurrency promise of high financial rewards for little risk.

2. Fake employment offers of high-wage jobs with few required skills.

3. Emergency situations where a friend or family member is supposedly in dire straits and pleads for money.

4. Home improvement offers from a “contractor” going door to door for work at a low price or with a short timeframe.
5. Student loan debt relief offers claiming you are eligible for “student loan consolidation,” “payment reduction program,” or a similar service.
6. Tech support with calls to “fix” a computer bug you haven't noticed, or a pop-up screen warning to dial a number for help.
7. Romance scams where someone you haven’t met in person wants to connect you on social media, be friends and share personal information.


Angie said there are RED FLAGS that warn about possible business fraud, including:

● If you’re feeling pressured to act quickly, it might be a scam.

● If an offer seems too good to be true, it might be a scam.

● If somebody reaches out claiming to be an authority figure, do your research and make

sure they’re legitimate. It might be a scam.

● If they insist you pay a certain way, usually in gift cards, money orders or digital

payments that can’t be traced or refunded.

● If they tell you NOT to talk to other people who could help you determine the situation

is a scam. The scammer may even keep you on the phone until you follow through on

their request.


To all of this good advice, we would add one more safe practice.  Keep an eye out for business and professional people who know and live by Rotary’s Four Way Test of tried-and-true ethical behavior.    

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12233625878?profile=RESIZE_400xAlthough Rotary is not usually thought of as a disaster relief organization, Rotarians do their part to help victims of flood, fire, earthquake, drought, hurricanes, tornadoes and other calamities that occur locally, nationally and internationally.  

Columbia-Patuxent members, plus those in Howard County’s other clubs and in Rotary District 7620, give assistance not only directly to the needy but also through contributions to Disaster Aid USA, a 501(c)(3) non-profit raising emergency funds.  Our club made these recent donationsin conjunction with this partnership:

$2,600 for disaster relief to the Hawaiian island of Maui, where the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century burnt the entire town of historic Lahaina to the ground, displacing thousands and killing more than 1,100.  Disaster Aid USA is working in several different phases of recovery including meals, clean water solutions, debris cleanup and the long-term rebuilding process.
$9,700 for disaster relief in Florida, where Hurricane Ian (September 2022) and Hurricane Idalia (August 2023) brought massive rainfall, damaging winds and catastrophic storm surges.  Our donation helped purchase supplies, materials, miscellaneous goods and items needed as the rebuilding process continues for survivors.  Disaster Aid USA sent three teams to Florida to assess and start cleanup operations in seven cities or communitiesfollowing Idalia’s rampage.

Additionally, in 2022 Columbia-Patuxent gave nearly $6,200 for Ukraine’s relief following the Russian invasion.  Disaster Relief USA and District 7620’s focus was aid for refugees and persons or families displaced by war.  Rotarians also identified high priority medical needs and were instrumental in getting and shipping $50,000 worth of emergency first aid kits and custom medical combat backpacks.

Our club contributed more than $13,000 in 2021 for a “breath of life” initiative that bought and shipped oxygen generators to India in response to the COVID pandemic.  The generators made medical grade oxygen from ambient air and met critical needs in a country then experiencing 400,000 new cases daily.  Our partner in this project was Disaster Aid International, another Rotary-sponsored organization that provides relief in emergencies.

Currently, Rotarians all over the world are lending helping hands – and giving much-needed funds – for Morrocco, where the strongest earthquake in a century killed thousands and destroyed many cities and villages – and to Libya, where heavy rainfall and severe floods have killed even more thousands and resulted in large-scale destruction affecting affects transportation and the food-supply chain.

Again, while Rotary’s chief aim is not disaster relief, it’s clear that Rotarians – members of one of the largest service organizations in the world – believe that meeting humanitarian needs for people in distress serves goodwill, peace, appreciation and understanding for all.


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Our Signature Environmental Project.

Columbia-Patuxent Rotary’s Signature Environmental Project

12227243067?profile=RESIZE_584xIn June of 2020 Rotary International’s Board of Directors unanimously approved adding a new area of focus – supporting the environment – to give a new dimension to its traditional aims of improving lives and creating a better world.

In response, the Rotary Club of Columbia-Patuxent adopted its own signature environmental undertaking – a stream monitoring project aimed at improving small waterways in Howard County.  Our club is collaborating with other local partners to address water quality as we (1)support ongoing monitoring with equipment and volunteer; (2) provide education and training opportunities; (3) support youth participation in these efforts; and (4) promote thought-to-action using citizen science to inform action.

Our project involves two types of monitoring – biological and chemical. “Biological monitoring is counting and identification of specific benthic macroinvertebrates (aquatic animals without backbones) found in a water sample,” according to Paul Goldenberg, Environmental Committee chairman.  “What’s good about macros is that they give you a reading on the health of that stream over time. Chemical monitoring finds out what mineral and organic substances are affecting water quality.”


In conjunction with Patapsco Heritage Greenway and the Izaak Walton League, three clubmembers trained as stream monitors for ongoing Rotarian volunteer support of water sampling. We’re also partnering with the Howard County Conservancy, which issued its first Watershed Report Card in 2014 and established a Youth Climate Institute in 2020 for high school environmental science, biology and earth science teachers and students. One of our club’s most recent grants will support the Institute’s expansion into additional county high schools.

The Community Ecology Institute is interested in stream monitoring at a new site, which we believe offers the chance for more participation by multiple high school environmental clubs and Youth Climate Institute chapters, as well as Interact clubs.

“Climate is a huge issue for teenagers, as it should be,” Paul said. “This generation that doesn’t see the world as being a great place is willing to deal with the issue.”  We also envision enlisting Scouts and other community groups to identify monitoring sites and take on stream restoration efforts. The idea is not just doing cleanup, Paul said, “it’s really about learning stuff, doing somereal hands-on science and coming up with projects that have an impact on our environment.”



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Community Service – A Hallmark of Rotary 

12211888670?profile=RESIZE_400xEvery community has its own strengths and needs, offering Rotarians an opportunity for service projects that have positive, lasting benefit for all concerned.  This ideal of “community service” is one of Rotary’s basic tenets, giving members pride in ownership as they work together or in partnership with others who have a stake in the outcome. 

Columbia-Patuxent Rotary’s community service includes club members investing their time, talent, physical labor and/or financial support for a wide range of local people, places and things working to do good.  Here are just a few examples:

  • To address food insecurity – we volunteer at the Food Bank, pack lunches for Grassroots and help stock shelves at Howard Community College’s food pantry.
  • To support students – we collect/distribute backpacks and schools supplies for Just Living Advocacy, take part in Rotary Reader programs and give dictionaries to elementary school classes.
  • For the environment – we help monitor water quality in local streams, supported an elementary school’s pollinator garden, improved the grounds/facilities at Howard County Conservancy, Freetown Farm, Robinson Nature Center, Little Portion Farm and Heritage Housing.
  • For personal needs – we support Respite Retreats for cancer patients/caregivers, pack motel boxes and move-in kits for Grassroots, pack home care kits for Homewood Center student/families, speak to Humanim students, support Sleep in Heavenly Peace beds for children, support college/vocational interviews for high school students, maintenance at Therapeutic Recreational Riding Center and help Rebuilding Together home renovations for seniors.
  • For other nonprofits – help at the Community Action Council’s summer enrichment end-of-year picnic, at the Heritage Housing picnic and welcome Honor Flight veterans at BWI airport. 

12211889081?profile=RESIZE_400xFor the 2023-2024 Rotary year, our club has been successful in applying for two District 7620 grants for community service projects – one to bring potable water for Freetown Farm and to expand the farm’s irrigation system – and the other to sponsor Hills to Climb, an at-risk students summer camp that teaches leadership, problem-solving, creativity and accountability skills.   

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12187430089?profile=RESIZE_180x180Today we learned about the Rotary CART program — Coins for Alzheimer’s Research Trust — where club members can donate their change each week, helping fund efforts to cure or prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Today's guests were Meegen White, program manager, and Gabi Shifflett, development manager, for the Greater Maryland Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Formed in 1980, the association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's care, support and research. They said the disease is both a financial expense on the community (high cost of care) and an emotional expense because it consumes families and partners who have to deal with it 24 hours a day every day.

New county data on Alzheimer’s shows that Baltimore City tied for first with Miami/Dade County, Florida and the Bronx, New York, for having the highest prevalence of disease in individuals over 65 - about 16.6% of them with Alzheimer's or another dementia. Also, Prince George's County and Baltimore County were high in the top 10. Those combined factors give Maryland the unfortunate distinction of being the state with the highest estimated prevalence of Alzheimer's disease.


“That’s not something to celebrate for sure, but something to motivate us to work harder in the public health sphere to figure out why and what we can do about it,” Megeen said. “How can we move forward with research and increase the public's awareness, decrease stigma and see what we can do about prevention?”

Alzehimer’s research allows scientists to not only focus on things that we know about the disease and attack from that angle, but also to look at all aspects such as access to good quality medical care, access to nutritional food, access to an environment that's not filled with pollution, not only genetics and family history. “Here in Maryland, we have 11 active studies being funded by the association at a number of sites,” Megeen said. “As of 2025, each county’s agency on aging will have a dementia care navigation program that will be funded by the state. The idea is that families who have a connection to the disease can receive resources, support, education, etc. A lot of the counties are partnering with the association to make that happen.”

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We believe that exemplifying and embracing diversity,  equity, and inclusion (DEI) should be a part of everything we do at Rotary.   

12125580271?profile=RESIZE_400xTo ensure we live up to that ideal, the Board of Directors and our DEI Taskforce acted to strengthen the DEI statement originally adopted in 2019.  The result is in a new commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion:

At Rotary, we understand that cultivating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture is essential to realizing our vision of a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change. 

We value diversity and celebrate the contributions of people of all backgrounds, across age, ethnicity, race, color, disability, learning style, religion, faith, socioeconomic status, culture, marital status, languages spoken, sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity as well as differences in ideas, thoughts, values, and beliefs. 

Recognizing that individuals from certain groups have historically experienced barriers to membership, participation, and leadership, we commit to advancing equity in all aspects of Rotary, including in our community partnerships, so that each person has the necessary access to resources, opportunities, networks, and support to thrive. 

We believe that all people hold visible and invisible qualities that inherently make them unique, and we strive to create an inclusive culture where each person knows they are valued and belong.12125580465?profile=RESIZE_400x

In line with our value of integrity, we are committed to being honest and transparent about where we are in our DEI journey as an organization, and to continuing to learn and do better.




source Rotary International

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Rotary unites people from all continents and cultures who take action to deliver real, long-term solutions to our world’s most persistent issues.

While our 46,000 clubs all share a commitment to community service, the experience, focus and dynamics of each club is unique. Becoming a Rotary member connects you with a diverse group of professionals who share your drive to give back.


Causes: Solving real problems takes real commitment and vision. Each year, Rotary members invest hundreds of millions of dollars and countless volunteer hours in sustainable, community-based solutions to promote health, peace, and prosperity in communities across the globe. Rotary combines global reach, local resources, and highly skilled volunteers with a funding structure that distributes US$200 million annually to provide clean water and sanitation, support education, prevent and treat disease, save mothers and children, grow local economies, promote peace, and protect the environment.

For more than 30 years, Rotary has been the driving force in the effort to end polio worldwide. Alongside our partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, we have achieved a 99.9 percent reduction in polio cases, with six cases of wild polio reported in 2021 compared with 350,000 a year in the late 1980s. Our members have contributed more than $2.6 billion and countless volunteer hours to protect more than 3 billion children in 122 countries from this paralyzing disease. Today, just two countries continue to report cases of wild poliovirus, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

History: For 118 years, Rotary members have been addressing challenges around the world. It started with the vision of one man — Paul Harris. The Chicago (United States) attorney formed the Rotary Club of Chicago on Feb. 23, 1905, so professionals with diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas, form meaningful, lifelong friendships, and give back to their communities. Rotary’s name came from the group’s early practice ofrotating meetings among the offices of its members.

For more information, visit

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Rotary Peace Fellowships impact thousands



via Alejandra Rueda

By Alejandra Rueda, 2008-10 Rotary Peace Fellow, University of Berkeley

When I became a Rotary Peace Fellow in 2008, the presidential theme was Make Dreams Real. My dream was to support the Colombian countryside by improving the quality of life of farmers and, in turn, to achieve a more responsible use of nature and the ecosystem services it provides. I also wanted to help resolve the social conflict that Colombia has experienced. Or at the very least, to contribute to the development of projects that would spur economic and social recovery in areas that sorely needed it.

I was already envisioning a new professional focus in my life, through my pursuit of a master’s degree in Energy and Resources from the University of California, Berkeley. But coupled with the Peace and Conflict Resolution program, I was touched by a totally exciting new topic: sustainability. I knew that sustainable practices would be needed across the globe. As a peace fellow, I learned valuable tools to have an impact and make a difference in diverse communities.

During the last decade, I have been able to interact with hundreds, if not thousands, of farmers in Latin America. Nearly 4,500 farmers have been impacted by the programs that we, at NES Naturaleza, have developed. The Rotary Peace Fellowship started a chain of positive impacts. A chain of light which we have been able to continue and bring to the farmers.

Rural people have gained access to knowledge and been trained in sustainable practices in very remote areas of Latin America. Some of them have already been certified in existing sustainable standards. Unmistakably, without the Rotary Peace Centers program, this would not have been possible.

The knowledge I gained, I was able to spread to thousands of people. Farmers who in turn conveyed it to their relatives. Entire families were impacted. Thanks to Rotary and my experience through the peace fellows program, many of these farmers are now entrepreneurs. Those who did not know very well their markets or their potential, now have a completely different vision, not only of their farm as a business, but also of the surrounding natural ecosystems that complement them.

Nevertheless, there is still work to do.

This year’s presidential theme, Imagine Rotary, returns us to a spirit of dreaming and doing. We are being invited to act for a better and more sustainable world where the pillars of sustainability become the philosophy that drives each one of us.

Our planet can no longer wait. We have seen it, we have heard it, and we have lived it. We know the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. But in our daily lives, we have not yet appropriated them. It would be great to go back to basics. By knowing the definitions of social, environmental, and economic responsibility, we will clearly understand what they entail.

Imagine Rotary is imagining our world because Rotary is in every corner of our planet. Rotary embodies thousands of people always committed to giving something more. Thousands of people who, through Rotary Foundation programs like the Rotary Peace Fellowship, have positively impacted the lives of thousands of others. It is this chain of positive impacts that shines brightly every time someone in the community dreams and acts and connects to someone else.

For this and much more, I thank you Rotary.

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Geoff Carton Honored as Rotarian of the Year

Community Service chair Geoff Carton has been honored as 2021-2022 Rotarian of the Year by the Rotary Club of Columbia-Patuxent.  He was presented a plaque for “outstanding dedication and service” by immediate past president Jim Ehle at the club’s annual dinner.

10828198695?profile=RESIZE_400xCarton is a Maryland native who joined Rotary in January of 2018 and resides in Clarksville.  He graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a BS degree in resource development. 

As Community Service chair, Carton arranges various hands-on projects and volunteer opportunities that support Rotary’s historical emphasis on improving the lives of local citizens.  Under his leadership, Columbia-Patuxent members in the past two-and-half years have given more than 4,400 hours of volunteer service. 

The economic worth of a volunteer’s time is $29.95 an hour, according to the University of Maryland’s Do Good Institute and Independent Sector, a national coalition of nonprofits, foundations and corporate giving programs.

Columbia-Patuxent Rotary’s volunteering has benefited local charities and non-profits including the Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center, Respite Retreats, Freetown Farm, Just Living Advocacy, the Dictionary Project, Little Portion Farm, Robinson Nature Center, Howard County Food Bank, Howard Community College Food Bank, Humanim, Howard County Conservancy, Heritage Housing Partnership and Rebuilding Together Howard County, among others.

Carton also helps steer the club’s annual Grants Day program that awards funds for civic and non-profit organizations and projects.  For 2021-2022, these merit-based grants totaled more than $40,000 and went to 21 local recipients.

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10513267273?profile=RESIZE_584xThe Columbia-Patuxent Rotary Club and several of its members earned notable recognition at the recent District 7620 Annual Conference in early May. The club received a Gold Presidential Citation Award, a Gold Public Image/Public Relations Award, a Silver Enviro Club Award and a Bronze Award for Membership Development.10513268264?profile=RESIZE_180x180

Awards go to clubs that have outstanding performance throughout the year, based on points earned in meeting District and Rotary International goals and annual themes. There are three levels of achievement: bronze: (60 points), silver (75 points) and gold (85 points). Since Enviro Club awards are only in their second year, a silver citation is the highest given for 2022.  Columbia-Patuxent Rotary was one of 19 clubs to meet this standard.10513269454?profile=RESIZE_180x180

Four club members were named Outstanding Rotarians for 2021-2022 at the conference. They are Geoff Carton – Chair of Community Service; Jim Ehle – Club President; Kashonna Holland – Club Vice President; and Ken Solow – a past district governor who also serves as Book Club chair. Club past president and longtime member Charlie McCabe was recognized as a member of the Hospitality Suite Planning Committee for this year’s district conference.

10513271458?profile=RESIZE_400xHammond High School student Karina Ward was recognized as a semifinalist in the district’s Four-Way Speech Contest. She was sponsored by Columbia-Patuxent Rotary and is a member of the school’s Interact Club, a service organization for young leaders ages 12-18. The speech contest is a chance for students to address a topic of their interest while applying Rotary’s values of truth, fairness, goodwill and benefit to all concerned.

Rotary District 7620 includes more than 60 clubs and over 2,100 members in the central Maryland and Washington, DC area.  











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The Rotary Club of Columbia-Patuxent has donated $6,170 for disaster aid to Ukraine.  The money came from individual club members and from a two-night “eat-in” fundraiser at The Periodic Table restaurant, which gave 10 per cent of proceeds toward the cause.

10216970499?profile=RESIZE_400xThe donation was made through Disaster Aid USA, a Rotary partner organization working with Disaster Aid Europe to answer the call for Ukraine relief.  Rotary clubs in the U.S. and around the world are responding to needs for water, food, medicine, shelter and clothing.  

The United Nations says Russia’s war on Ukraine has forced more than three million people to flee the country in search of safety.  Additionally, nearly two million Ukrainians have been internally displaced, making it the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

“Our club is proud to be part of the one of the world’s largest humanitarian organizations,Columbia-Patuxent Rotary president Jim Ehle said.  “World peace and service to others are key to the mission of Rotarians here and everywhere.”  

The disaster relief contribution is the second recent instance of Columbia-Patuxent Rotary’s support for refugees.  In late February, several club members volunteered at Howard County Food Bank to pack bags of groceries going to Afghan families resettling in Maryland.


Since the fall of Kabul to the Taliban and the American military evacuation from Afghanistan, about 1,700 refugees from that nation have arrived in communities across Maryland.  They’ve been moving into Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Frederick County and Howard County, according to the national Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.      



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Rocket Pitch Winners share their unique ideas

Twelve Howard Community College entrepreneurial program students pitched their innovative business ideas to a panel of business professionals at the 2021 Entrepreneurial Celebration held online Dec. 8.  In this event, each student had five minutes to explain his or her project.  Judging is based details including content, idea, marketing, feasibility, financial model and delivery.  

The top two scorers win the Rotary Rocket Pitch Prize sponsored by Columbia-Patuxent Rotary.  This year’s $1,800 first-place winner is Seth Greenberg’s “Track Them Down” infestation app/website.  The $700 second-place winner is David Longard’s “ZaLa” web browser.


“Track Them Down” is focused on rats, which Seth called the most infamous, dangerous, destructive and infectious of pests.  He said infestations are treated like a private issue, but the rat population can spread from house to house long before exterminators arrive.  Warning neighbors as soon as possible is key.  Informing the database about a discovered infestation means one person can help thousands of others to be on the lookout for rodent trouble.  

“This is saving a neighborhood’s quality of living, not just protecting a specific house,” Seth said.  “This is not just one person's problem.  This is a public issue because we're all affected by pests.”  There are 125 million homes in the U.S., but a rat database would be helpful not only to homeowners, but also to farmers, construction workers, office building tenants, restaurants and all property owners.  “You can download the app, or you can access the website and find out where rats have been spotted,” Seth explained.  “All it takes is a little bit of knowhow and a little bit of a commitment for us to actually be in connection with each other.”

“Track Them Down” is a company about advertising and awareness.  Seth estimated the cost of making the app and website is $10,000 to $20,000, with maintenance of these two platforms running at $600 per month.  Rates for companies to advertise on the website and app would be 1% of a dollar per view.  Using the town of Frederick as an example, he said that if half of adults there were monthly app/web users, a single advertiser would pay $280 a month to be able to sell their products under a banner or picture that's part of the general website. 

David Longard’s ZaLa web browser promises to give its users privacy, unlike the major browsers such as Google, Yahoo and Bing.  “They track everything including personal information purchase history, website behavior, and even where you are,” David said.  “These browsers track all this information to create a profile of you to sell to companies to create ads.”  

ZaLa won't engage in that practice because its market is “those who truly value internet privacy, who feel exploited and disturbed by the invasive nature of major internet browsers, and who are fearful of their personal information getting into the wrong hands” David explained.  ZaLa is subscription-based so it’s not dependent on ads, and thus not dependent on tracking/sharing user information.  

“Currently, it's estimated that there are roughly 313 million Internet browser users in the world,” David said.  “Although omnipresent competitors like Google and Safari dominate the market share, the demand for privacy is here from users tired of being tracked and scared of their data being collected.  We obviously don't think we're going to dominate the market, but we will be aiming for a small group of loyal users to compete with the behemoths like Google.”

David estimates start-up costs of $100 million, based on $70 million to develop a prototype, $5-$7 million for a 50-person development team, $3 million for 24/7 support for users, and $20 million for advertising and overall refining.  ZaLa’s income strategy gives customers two options, a $19.99 monthly subscription or a $200 flat annual subscription.  “Even if we only get 1% of the overall 313 million internet users to use ZaLa all in one month, we will make $60 million in revenue, and that’s just the beginning” David said.  “This unique business model offers true privacy that no other browser can.  Remember, at ZaLa your privacy is our promise.”

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Dr. Mohammed Shafeeq Ahmed, CEO and president of Howard County General Hospital, discussed the COVID pandemic, healthcare hiring, vaccines and expanding local medical services as guest speaker at the Rotary Club of Columbia-Patuxent’s Oct. 8 breakfast meeting. 

Dr. Ahmed was appointed to his leadership post by Johns Hopkins Medicine in June of this year. He had been serving as interim president since November of 2020.  Prior to that, he was vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer.  Previously he served in healthcare leadership at hospitals within the BayState Health System in Massachusetts.


A gynecologist-obstetrician by training, he was in the Navy Medical Corps as an attending physician with the rank of Lieutenant Commander.  Dr. Ahmed grew up in the US Virgin Islands for a good portion of his childhood, but also lived here and saw Columbia as an incredibly progressive, important and really wonderful place.  He was eager to come back to work and live here. He and his family reside in Clarksville.

Dr. Ahmed said the world changed in 2020 because of COVID.  The challenge for everyone, hospitals included, was how to respond and manage that, especially not knowing how the pandemic was going to turn out.  Doctors and staff members worked to care for patients and to keep themselves safe. By and large they were successful, but extra stress and burnout has taken its toll.  The hospital here - like others nationally - is struggling to find healthcare employees that would love taking care of people and taking care of their community.

In addition to staffing, the big issues now include getting people vaccinated, getting booster shots out, and getting through this COVID wave and the next one.  Maryland and Howard County have been doing very well with vaccinations, keeping our disease rate down.  Now, the hospital has to care for other patients returning for other treatments, posing time and management issues.  Fortunately, Howard County General is able to handle that safely, but “just not necessarily as fast as we'd like to be,” according to Dr. Ahmed.

Dr. Ahmed said the hospital “thinks ahead” in five-year increments focusing on “where we need to be and where we've been.”  The commitment remains for high-quality care and high-quality outcomes. There are opportunities to improve operational efficiency.  Expanding clinical services to have more Johns Hopkins specialists here in Columbia “is a great opportunity to continue to make sure that you can get that top notch care right here,” he said.  “I'm looking at a number of specialties and working with folks to get those things going.”

In response to questions from club members, Dr. Ahmed touched on these other topics:

NURSING SHORTAGE - In addition to staff burnout, the growing travel nurse industry has impacted hospitals adversely. Better pay, bonuses and improved working conditions are part of the answer, along with fewer barriers for persons wanting to enter the nursing profession.

VACCINE SAFETY - The hospital has a vaccine mandate for its employees because patients need to feel the facility is safe and that they have a very low COVID risk when coming in for treatment.

PANDEMIC BECOMING ENDEMIC - Are there going to be regular requirements for COVID vaccines on an annual basis like the flu? And will they be combined or multiple shots? It’s anyone’s guess right now, Dr. Ahmed said, but the likelihood is this could turn into a flu shot type thing, where every year there may be different strains, and we prepare for different strains and get an update.

MORE PROGRAMS TO DEVELOP HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS - In general we need more schools and programs, but shortages in the number of professionals also is affected by where practitioners are. Some are becoming boutique practices that limit access. The real question is: do we have enough of the right type of doctors practicing in the right places?

“Here in Columbia, you have no shortage of physicians,” Dr. Ahmed said. “If you go out to rural areas, that's where you have a real shortage. I worry about smaller hospitals and rural places where you don't necessarily have access to care.”

DRUG PRICES NEGOTIATION - Yes, from a supply chain perspective, as a whole health system, we negotiate with the insurance companies and the drug companies, plus we have some special drug pricing programs.

TELEMEDICINE - Is being used more in practices, less in hospitals. Medicine has been fairly antiquated as an industry, in terms of how we adopt technology and how we move to the next step. But, definitely, it's the way of the future and a total game changer.

RANSOMWARE - Hospitals are constantly on the defensive and try to stay prepared, but this is a consistent threat. If you have to shut your IT system down for a few days, it's devastating. This issue is less about the loss of life due to ransomware - that’s not common - but more about the massive inconvenience to all our patients.

SUPPORT AND ASSISTANCE FROM ORGANIZATIONS - Help the community remember that the hospital, as a nonprofit, needs local support for its fundraising, to understand the why, and understand what we're doing, and why it's so important. In terms of volunteering, ever since COVID struck our volunteers have been put on pause until we feel things are safe. But there are always volunteer opportunities, just on hold at the moment.

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The Rotary Club of Columbia-Patuxent named the Rotarian of the Year at its annual meeting in July and recognized two other longtime members for accomplishment.  Rotarian of the Year honors went to Laurie Reuben, while Cliff Feldwick received a Service Above Self Award and Dushyant Patel (with spouse Palli), a Legacy Award. Presentations were made by RCCP 2020-21 president Walt Mazzell.  

9313559479?profile=RESIZE_400xReuben, Club Service chair since 2015, joined Rotary in February 2010 and is a past club secretary and president. She’s also served on the Community Service Committee, Public Relations Committee, chaired the Service Above Self Award task force, and has been working with the Programs Committee to help automate the finding and booking of guest speakers for RCCP’s weekly meetings.

Mazzell said Reuben is “probably the most organized person I have met, who has an uncanny ability to ‘read a room’, is always smiling, eager to pitch in … we have spoken after meetings, during meetings, texting, e-mailing back and forth, (she) has been a sounding board for me all year.” 

Reuben called her award a surprise but said “being recognized for doing what you love makes the honor even more special.”   

I love my Rotary friends, those I’ve met in the club and those who’ve come into my world through my Rotary connections,” she continued. “I know that Rotary will always be an important part of my life.” 

Mazzell said that Feldwick’s Service Above Self Award recognizes his record as “a standout Rotarian for many years and a standout member for many volunteer activities over the years.” 9313560093?profile=RESIZE_400x

“Most recently, Cliff has been our Program Chair for about five years,” Mazzell added. “This is a crucial role in our club, keeping the weekly speaker series on track.” 

Patel is a founding Columbia-Patuxent Rotary member and was one of five who contributed seed money for the club’s charitable endowment which now totals nearly a quarter-of-a-million dollars, Mazzell noted. Patel also is a Major Donor and Paul Harris Society contributor to Rotary International.  

9313560696?profile=RESIZE_400x"Dushyant is very active, attends meetings, participates in our hand-on projects,” Mazzell said. “He is a model Rotarian, who has really dedicated his adult life to Rotary.  His contributions throughout the years are more than I can count.”  

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Sixteen Howard County community organizations received program and project grant awards from the Rotary Club of Columbia-Patuxent (RCCP) at a breakfast meeting June 18. The awards, supported by fund-raising activities throughout the year, are part of Rotary’s focus on community service and commitment to giving back.


President Walter Mazzella (far right in group photo with recipients) said Grants Day is considered the highlight of the Rotary year by many club members. Grants for 2020-2021 went to: 

 Howard County Conservancy

  • The Howard County Conservancy promotes environmental education, preservation and stewardship. The RCCP grant supports nature preschool scholarship opportunities  

Community Ecology Institute 

  • The Community Ecology Institute cultivates connections between ecosystem health and human health. The RCCOP grant supports a community ecology center.

James’ Place

  • James’ Place educates, inspires and encourages hope for those experiencing addiction. The RCCP grant will support scholarships for recovery. 

Zaching Against Cancer  

  • Zaching Against Cancer aids patients, caregivers, family members and others affected by the disease. The RCCP grant supports Zack Packs filled with toiletries, snacks and creature comforts for medically fragile children. 

Gilchrist Hospice  

  • Gilchrist Hospice is a leader in serious illness and end-of-life care. The RCCP grant is going for a blanket warming machine for Gilchrist’s inpatient unit. 

Rebuilding Together

  • Rebuilding Together Howard County provides free home repairs to low-income families. The RCCP grant helps meet even greater needs in today’s difficult economic climate.

Howard County General Hospital  

  • Howard County General Hospital offers a full range of hospital and wellness services with more than 1,000 affiliated doctors in nearly 100 clinical specialties. The RCCP grant is earmarked for new units in the hospital’s campus construction project


Respite Retreats  

  • Respite Retreats programs give periods of rest or relief for cancer patients, their caregivers and family members. The RCCP grant will help refuel the body, mind and spirits of those affected by cancer. 

Maryland State Dental Association Charitable Foundation  

  • The Maryland State Dental Association Foundation works to provides free dental services to people who do not have regular access to dental health care. The RCCP grant supports mobile dental clinics throughout the state. 

Grassroots Crisis Intervention  

  • Grassroots offers 24/7 intervention/counseling services for anyone experiencing a personal, behavioral health, housing or situational crisis. The RCCP grant is supporting shelter programs. 

Neighbor Ride  

  • Neighbor Ride improves health and quality of life for Howard County's seniors via affordable, passenger-focused and volunteer-based transportation. The RCCP grant is adding staff hours to expand services. 

Living In Recovery  

  • Living in Recovery helps individuals reclaim their lives and break the cycle of “addiction-rehab-relapse”. The RCCP grant contributes toward sober housing free of alcohol and drugs, with peer support and a climate of personal accountability. 

Howard County Autism Society  

  • The Howard County Autism Society seeks to improve the quality of life for people on the autism spectrum, their families and their communities. The RCCP grant supports the Patuxent Commons Housing Initiative, a mixed income inter-generational project to be located in Columbia’s Hickory Ridge Village. 

Oakland Mills High School PTSA  

  • Oakland Mills’ PTA advocates for students and their families so that every child’s potential for success can become a reality. The RCCP award contributes to scholarships for senior students and grants for teachers. 

Howard Community College

  • The college offers two-year degree and certificate programs preparing students for the workforce and built around careers that are in demand. The RCCP grant goes for entrepreneurial program scholarships plus a faculty speaker series open to local citizens. 

Community Action Council of Howard County  

  • The Community Action Council is the county’s designated antipoverty organization, active in early childhood education and assistance for food, housing, energy and weatherization. This was the RCCP’s “Darrell Nevin Memorial Award,” honoring a deceased longtime Rotarian who was a strong supporter of the Community Action Council and other Howard County non-profits.  

A club committee considers applications for RCCP grants based on merit. Applications must be sponsored by a club member in good standing. 

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