Thank You for a STELLAR year, and I’m super excited for what’s coming next! 
Thank You for a STELLAR year, and I’m super excited for what’s coming next! 
(Disclaimer: This is a bit of a read – you may need a large cup of your favourite beverage)
Together we made it happen.  Be it a Rotarian of The Rotary Club of Toronto, or the District, a Rotaractor, a community partner or a speaker, you all individually did your part to make a monumental impact in the lives of others.  For that, I Thank You deeply!  To all our award recipients, Rotary Warriors, Club Builder Award recipients (Anny-Sandra and John Joseph), 5 Sapphire Paul Harris and William Peace Award recipient (Lori Brazier) and the Distinguished Service Award recipient (Susan Howson) – A big Congratulations!  Well deserved!
I’m so proud of what we accomplished and I’m sure you are too.  Just look at these 3 key results:
  1. Our Vision 2023 is Be the organization of choice to fulfill one’s philanthropic and fellowship goals by achieving, along with our partners, a community impact of at least $2 million.  This year by the end of June 2022, we have had over $4.4 million in community impact!  This includes monies from our Club and Foundation in philanthropic impact locally and globally, what we directly leveraged, and legacy giving that we helped put to great use.  Thank You Everyone!
  2. We embraced DEI as one of our Core Values.  And we delivered!  Our Club has never been more diverse than now.  Our active members now range from 96 years young to 26 years old.  We represent various cultures and the Pride community.  We issued Club Statements on Black History Month, Holocaust Remembrance Day, renewed our Indigenous Rotarian Pledge, celebrated members in International Women’s Day, marched in St. Patrick’s Day Parade, marched proud in Pride, conducted a multi-faith tree of remembrance ceremony, and created a calendar of key cross cultural days to celebrate across our social media.  Thank You Diversity Equity Inclusion (DEI) and Indigenous Partnership Working Groups, Marketing & Communications (MarCom), Member Engagement Committee (MEC) and Events.
  3. Our net new members is higher than it has been in decades.  We started with 154 members and are at 171 members today, taking us back 7 years to summer of 2015.  We inducted 24 new members this year, with 100% of them engaged in one way or another.  Thank You New Members – Class of 2022 for making us the organization of choice – we value your trust, and Thank You MarCom and MEC, you have raised the bar for us.
What excites me even more is that we are just getting started.  Imagine, the future is ours!
Not only did you achieve these amazing results, you helped in so many philanthropic journeys.  Take mine for instance - this is difficult.  A few years ago, my Dad who led a life of service via diplomacy, military and intelligence, was assassinated after he had setup vocational schools for indigenous women and children.   My Brother who was known to help and empower people, had succumbed to Leukaemia at Princess Margaret at a young age of 26.  And my Mom an English teacher and a school principal had a heart attack.  Rotary came into my life when I was broken, and helped heal me.  Rotary gave me purpose and helped me setup 3 philanthropic journeys in honour of my Dad, Mom and Brother – Quest for Peace, Ever Learning – Ever Growing, and Enable and Empower to Achieve.  When I look at the 80, yes 80! projects and/or organizations we partnered with this year, I see the reflections of these philanthropic journeys.  Thank You!  Each one of us is on our own journey, and I hope Rotary has been able to fulfil some philanthropic and fellowship components of your journeys as well.
So you ask, how we achieved all this.  Well we started early and not just this year, after delivering upon 8 streams of grouped initiatives in our Strategic Roadmap in previous years, this year we implemented a transformational structure, perhaps one of its kind in our Club’s 110 year history.  Thank You Transition Team!  We moved from 33 committees to 15, and for our Club and Foundation, it boiled down to 3 simple ways of getting engaged:
  1. Bring an idea to a proposal stageThanks to our individual Rotarians, Advisors, Working Groups (DEI, Seniors, Indigenous Partnership, Mental Health, Environment, and Remembrance Tree), and our Past President’s Council we were able to bring so many ideas to the forefront.  Thank You!  Did you know, you can proudly say, our Club helped curb the spread of COVID in downtown Toronto, thanks to the n95 masks initiative led by the Past President’s Council, and supported by the Charitable Asks Committee and Matching Grants Team.  We are looking to have 8 to 10 active Working Groups (informal in nature) in a given year, what philanthropic cause or journey do you want our Club to consider in the upcoming year?
  2. Conduct due-diligence:  Thanks to International Service, Charitable Asks, Community Outreach, Events, Program, Research and Appeals, Matching Grants, Club Board, Foundation Board and the Joint Authority of the Club & Foundation Presidents, we were able to deliberate on proposals for funding, sweat equity, events, matching funds, and our Friday speakers. 
After the due-diligence, 80 philanthropic requests were approved and made a direct community impact.Thank You!Each one of these projects takes time and effort, some even months or years.Your efforts were recognized by District 7070’s Norm Simpson Award for International Service, and the Gold Hero Award from ShelterBox (we supported in Ukraine, Philippines and Haiti) including an invite to an intimate reception for those in service of Canada hosted by Her Excellency the Right Honourable Mary Simon, Governor General of Canada to meet Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall at Rideau Hall.
But don’t take my word for it, watch the messages from some of our community partners here.Thank You!
Events also kept us engaged on a weekly basis with fellowship and fundraising initiatives.  In fact they raised enough funds that brought them closer to their goal of being a self-sustaining committee financially in another year.  Be it the Wine Club, Rum Tasting, Catch the Ace, Axe Throwing, Pub Night, Tree of Remembrance, ROM Tour, Lawyers’ Show, Holiday Hamper Parties, Kids Against Hunger, interclub events with San Antonio, Clothing drives, St Patrick’s Day Parade and after party, Pride Parade, Magician Show, Rebeccah Love film screening, Queen’s Jubilee Celebration, Camp Scugog, Don’t Mess with The Don, Seniors Summer Social, and even our upcoming RI President Jennifer Jones Tour, we had some great fellowship while raising funds for the important work we do.  Thank You!
Prior to the start of the year, I spoke with Program Committee to see perhaps we can have 4 high profile speakers for the year, and did they ever over deliver.Each one of the speakers attracted people from different walks of life, they imparted knowledge and helped create awareness for our Club.Program is a key component of how potential members get interested in serving with Rotary.We had icons like Peter Mansbridge, I wondered what I would ask someone who has done 20,000 + interviews, and Peter was impressed by our Club and how we conducted our meeting.More journalist icons like Hilary Brown and Andrew Phillips with now his annual and popular ‘This Year in Politics’ talk.Govt. representatives like Mayor John Tory, Deputy Mayor Ana Bailao, Fire Chief Matt Pegg, Deputy Federal Minister Rob Wright, and Dianne Saxe from the Green Party.Corporate gurus like Kathleen McLaughlin, CEO of Walmart Foundation or Carol Radford Grant from TTC.Highlighting indigenous talks with Chief Ted Williams and Maurice Switzer.RI Past President John Germ and Polio Plus showcase.Program even had a ton of fun with Carnival Celebrations, Science of Chocolate, our virtual Club Holiday party, and an attempt to claw off my head with the perfect and magnificent falconry on display.There were so many more interesting topics, too many to name here, each and every week they engaged us and kept us coming for more.Thank You!
  1. Run the engine:  And then there are committees that ensure we keep everything moving.  Thanks to Member Engagement including their Tech Team, MarCom, Program (Logistics), Governance, Audit, Investment, Club Executive, Club Board and the Foundation Board.  It is with a lot of careful planning of these committees and Rotarians that we are able to run an almost $24 million Club and Foundation.  Thank You!
Coming in and out of Covid lockdowns was not easy.Both MEC and our Board Directors made several check-in calls to our entire membership.Thank You!MarCom steamed ahead with new frontiers of awareness, our first ever Instagram channel that grew by leaps and bounds, the Rotary Minute Videos, and strategic targeted posts using our branding materials to drive the attention on the Join Us button.We had 98 people submit their interest using the Join Us button!Incredible!We did 138 beautifully designed posts on Instagram alone, not including stories and posts on other social media channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Our digital Voice newsletters, including special issues like this one, kept us informed week after week of all the wonderful initiatives Rotarians had undertaken.Your efforts were recognized by the RI District 7070’s External Public Relations Award.Thank You MarCom!
The Tech Team, a subset of MEC, was a godsend.Every week without fail, running our hybrid or virtual meetings involved creating slides, videos, setup on site, setup of the meeting, multiple laptops and cameras, adapting as we learnt how to conduct flawless hybrid meetings.These were full on production events and typically involved 5 to 6 Rotarians every single meeting to set them up.The Tech Team did not stop there, they helped Rotarians on a one-on-one basis, even sometimes going above and beyond to their home to setup their Rotary systems, and continued to develop tools that made our Club’s processes more efficient and effective.Thank You! And MEC went even beyond, connecting personally with over 100 potential members from this year and the year before and hosting our now so ever popular Ask Me Anything / President’s Cocktails events, a big draw for both new and potential members.
Our Program also transformed this year with How We Hobby segments where we got to know so many interesting hobbies – thank you for sharing!We got permissions from 6 different organizations to play their beautiful renditions of O Canada that we can use in our various meetings tailoring them to the subject matter.We had Impact Reporting segments, where every week an organization we supported shared with us the impact of the project, and talks with Executives, Chairs and Champions of each of our Committees and Working Groups as guests in the Office of the President segment, where you kept us informed of the workings of the Club and the Foundation.Thank You!
To the Executives, Club Board and the Foundation Board, I have never seen a more dedicated and supportive group of leaders that are so committed to ensure our Club doesn’t just survive, but thrives for decades to come and we continue to make a lasting impact in the communities we serve.We had our share of tough decisions this year, and I’m so proud that after some great deliberations, we collectively forged ahead always keeping the 4 Way Test of Rotary in mind.Thank You!
Thanks to the District Leadership, Cluster Clubs, and various Club Presidents, we were able to collaborate better and I’ve heard from so many at the District that the engagement of our Club and the District has been growing stronger.  Together we can achieve so much more.
The National Club has been an absolute gem.  They went above and beyond as we learnt to go hybrid.  It involved much more in setup and their team delivered.  We could not possibly do what we do today for our Friday meetings without The National Club.  Their staff’s personal touch and care to ensure every little thing goes smoothly is much appreciated.  On June 24 at our celebratory lunch, a visiting Rotarian mentioned they hadn’t actually had a meal that mouth-watering in years!  And I can attest to it, this happens every time we are at The National.  During special events like the President’s Roast, Farewell, CCC, Ask Me Anything and many more, they even went beyond with personal touches on gourmet cuisine, décor, exquisite service and setup.  Thank You!
We are lucky to have full-time staff and would not be able to do half the things we do today, without their perseverance and help.  And we went through some major changes in the Office.  Belli Belliappa always smiling and thoughtful of Rotary retired as our accountant earlier in the year, and we welcomed Essam as our new accountant.  After 92 years, we moved offices and what a monumental task of packing, purging and moving that was.  To everyone who helped Thank You!  Carol, as the Executive Director of our Club, you are a wealth of information and have been a huge support throughout the last 3 years leading up to the Presidency.  I cannot Thank You enough!  To the President’s Council, you along with many Past Presidents were a great sounding board.  Thank You!
This year in the spirit of collaboration we added the Foundation President to the President’s Council dinners, and what a great benefit that was.  Our Foundation and Club are stronger in collaboration.  Thank You!
People have asked me what’s next, and I’m energized and excited more than ever for our club.  Congratulations President Jayson, we are all rooting for you!  Our leadership in the coming years with Jayson, Anny-Sandra and Binoy will take us to newer heights.  I have had the honour to work with each one of them and I can tell you, you are in for a treat!    This is the right time to be part of Rotary, our Club is ready, are you?
With Gratitude,
(President, The Rotary Club of Toronto, July 1 2021 to June 30 2022)
2022-2023: Lead – Four Way Test Challenge (get ready to dance it off!)
-     Immediate Past President (Oh I look forward to the dinners and discussions with the President’s Council)
-     Chair, Strategic Action, District 7070 (the strategy is ready to be rolled out one action at a time)