Interact High School Students Make a Difference

The Moorpark High School Interact Club is sponsored by the Rotary Clubs of Moorpark and Moorpark Morning. Local Rotarians mentor and guide the Interactors while offering support with the community projects they develop.

One of the projects of Moorpark Interactors is an Animal Shelter Drive as a way to help support the Shelter Hope Pet Shop, a non-profit volunteer-based pet shop that showcases shelter animals available for in-store adoption.

Joining Habitat for Humanity of Ventura County, Interactors participated in the construction and repair of a home in our community! Habitat’s Goals were to create opportunities for all people to live in decent and durable shelters. This project allowed students to intimately experience directly serving the people in need in the community.

Every year, around Halloween, the Interact members walk around the neighborhoods adjacent to the High School to trick or treat and ask for canned foods to donate to the Moorpark Food Pantry to benefit individuals and families in need in Ventura County.

The Interact Club is a great way for high school students to learn about hands on projects that give back, while learning about Rotary.

Local Rotary Clubs Enhance High School Students’ Experience

YES! (Youth Empowerment Summit), is organized by the three Rotary Clubs in Simi Valley and was created to help empower young people to gain a greater understanding of issues, both personal and school related, through interaction and problem solving with peers and adult leaders. YES! hopes to create life-changers in our youth by developing effective leadership, communication, decision making skills and strong values.

YES! provides an atmosphere where high school students experience learning situations that would aid them in developing sound values and positive decision-making skills. They engage in cooperative activities and navigate group dynamics to develop skills that can be carried back to their individual high schools to enrich their academic, personal, and future professional lives. Dynamic speakers share their stories and touch the hearts of each student in a multitude of ways. Not only are the experiences at YES! enjoyable, they are created to have a profound influence on the participants’ view of themselves and those around them.

Students spend the day in sessions that share ideas, techniques, philosophy and inspirational messages on leadership, ethics, problem solving and conflict management, and the importance of communication and listening – all moving towards the goal of helping to further build self-confidence and self-esteem. Sessions include Diversity Ethics Team Building, BLAST (Building Lifelong Acceptance to Social Tolerance), and leadership activities. During one leadership competition, teams are encouraged to work together to move a 2×4 piece of wood across an imaginary lake. It involves not only leadership by various members but the ability to communicate amongst the team members. Understanding that each person had their own abilities creates a priceless lesson – to be kind with more importance placed on people than on material goals. If leadership is inspiring positive action by one’s own actions, then kindness is an essential aspect of leadership.

It is lessons like these and so many more that the participants learn that day. They arrive early in the morning – strangers mostly – and by the end of the day filled with one-of-a-kind experiences – meet lifelong friends and learn a little more about themselves and their potential to make a difference in their world.

Local Rotarians Support Our Troops Overseas

America Supporting Americans (ASA) is a nonprofit organization designed to form a bond between American citizens and American soldiers abroad. Members of the Westlake Sunrise Rotary send cards, letters and packages to soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as sailors serving on the USS Theodore Roosevelt Aircraft Carrier. The local ASA chapter sent more than 2500 cards and letters and over 500 care packages last year. Our troops really look forward to receiving packages from home. They love knowing that we remember them and appreciate their sacrifice.

This year, the Westlake Sunrise Club will hold the Rotary & ASA Appreciation Month in May. Rotarians regularly bring items to club meetings throughout the year. Saleem Saleem, a local Rotarian and owner of RMS Printing, donates all of the printing needs for this project. ASA holds several packing parties each year to box the items collected. A number of volunteers meet to pack and ready the boxes for shipment. Volunteers from the community are always welcome to participate.

The Chapter also holds card signing parties to write Valentine’s Day and Christmas cards for the troops. Local schools, Scout groups, senior living homes, the Goebel Adult Center, the Brimhall Teen Center and City recreation centers participated in this labor of love. The cities of Agoura Hills, Thousand Oaks and Westlake Village work with ASA in supporting our troops. Drop off locations for donations are at the Recreation Center in Agoura Hills and at the Goebel Adult Center in Thousand Oaks. For more information or to volunteer call Jim Sumner at 805-377-3322.

Making a Difference: The Rotary Rose Parade Float

The 2018 Rotary Rose Parade theme of “Making a Difference” seemed custom made for Rotary and as it turned out the Rotary International Float took top honors. It was recognized with the “Princess Award” for the best float under 35 feet in length. The advantage of having an award winning float is the increased air time and press coverage. This year was also special for this coverage because for the first time in history, the parade theme “Making a Difference” is the same as the current theme for Rotary International.

Each year the Rotary float depicts what we are doing to improve the world, and brings awareness to The Rotary Foundation as the way of achieving this. The float is 100% privately funded, without a cent coming from Rotary International. Via the Rose Parade, Rotary’s message reaches approximately 50 million viewers worldwide! Our district was the largest contributing district for the building of the Rotary float. All of the volunteers that help build the float are Rotarians and their families and friends. This year, Thousand Oaks Rotarians Patricia Jones and Angelique Friend rode on the float and Conejo

Valley Rotaract president Kaitlyn Alderete walked along side.

(Portions of this article were reprinted from January issue of Changing Lives newsletter, produced by Past District Governor Wade Nomura).

The Rotary Foundation receives highest rating from Charity Navigator

For the 10th consecutive year, The Rotary Foundation has received the highest rating — four stars — from Charity Navigator, an independent evaluator of charities in the U.S. In the most recent ratings, the Foundation earned the maximum of 100 points for demonstrating both strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency.

In a letter to the Foundation, Charity Navigator notes that “only 1 percent of the charities we evaluate have received at least 10 consecutive 4-star evaluations, indicating that The Rotary Foundation outperforms other charities in America. This exceptional designation from Charity Navigator sets The Rotary Foundation apart from its peers and demonstrates to the public its trustworthiness.” The rating reflects Charity Navigator’s assessment of how the Foundation uses donations, sustains its programs and services, and practices good governance and openness.

Rotary gives $53.5 million to help eradicate polio

EVANSTON, Ill. (Jan. 25, 2018) — With 22 confirmed cases in 2017 to date, and just one case in 2018, the world is on the brink of eradicating polio, a vaccine-preventable disease that once paralyzed hundreds of thousands of children each year.

Rotary is giving $53.5 million in grants to support immunization and surveillance activities led by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). More than half of the funds will support efforts to end polio in two of the three countries where polio remains endemic:

• Afghanistan: $12.03 million
• Pakistan: $19.31 million

Further funding will support efforts to
keep 10 vulnerable countries polio-free:

• Cameroon: $1.61 million
• Central African Republic: $428,000
• Chad: $2.33 million
• The Democratic Republic of Congo: $6.48 million
• Ethiopia: $1.82 million
• Iraq: $2 million
• Niger: $1.71 million
• Somalia: $3.29 million
• South Sudan: $835,300
• Syria: $428,000

What Can Rotary Do For You?

Consider this your official invitation to Rotary! We have five Rotary clubs here in the Conejo Valley with extraordinary projects and events that impact our community and the world. And each club has different days and meeting times to accommodate your schedule. So, what is Rotary? In a nutshell, we are a group of dedicated men and women making a difference locally, regionally and internationally. We are part of over 33,000 clubs in the world. Here’s an example of the things we do:

• Providers of community, youth, vocational, and international service
• Part of a team who has nearly conquered polio
• Part of the largest all-volunteer service organization in the world
• Fighting disease, saving mothers & children, providing clean water
• Provide support to U.S. veterans, underprivileged families, and the homeless
• Active in feeding the needy and stocking the local food banks
• Bringing Christmas to disadvantaged children and seniors
• Providing Thanksgiving meals to struggling families
• Building playgrounds for special needs children

Rotary provides us with fellowship and lifelong friendships with people who want to make a difference.
We offer ourselves to help you give back in a way that you never thought possible. You’re invited to attend a meeting and be our guest. Learn more at

About Rotary International

Many people have heard of Rotary, but they can’t identify what the largest international service organization in the world is all about. Rotary is an international organization of men and women whose goals are to improve communities around the world by promoting peace, preventing disease, bolstering economic development, and providing clean water and sanitation.

Many are surprised to learn that Rotary International holds one of only two Non-Governmental Agency seats at the United Nations. It is most interesting that Rotary is represented in more countries than there are countries in the United Nations. Rotary may be best known for its work to successfully help eradicate polio throughout the world. There are over 1.2 million Rotarians around the world and the Rotary organization has given away over 3 billion dollars through its Foundation to people, communities and global and local improvement efforts.

The Rotary Foundation (TRF)

The Rotary Foundation has been improving lives since 1917. Learn about our work and be inspired to join us in celebrating our centennial year and meeting humanity’s greatest challenges!

The Rotary Foundation is working to eradicate polio worldwide with the following esteemed list of partners: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and U.S. Centers for Disease Control.


At the end of 2016, the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) recognized The Rotary Foundation as the World’s Outstanding Foundation. The award honors organizations that show philanthropic commitment and leadership through financial support, innovation, encouragement of others, and involvement in public affairs.  Foundation Trustee Chair, Kalyan Banerjee says, “The continued strong support of Rotary members will help us keep our promise of a polio-free world for all children and enable the Foundation to carry out its mission of advancing world understanding, goodwill, and peace.”

Rotary is…

  • A volunteer organization of business and professional leaders united worldwide to provide humanitarian service, and help build goodwill and peace in the world.
  • The world’s largest provider of international scholarships.
  • Over 33,000 Clubs, with over 1,200,000 members, located in over 200 countries.
  • An organization of clubs that meet weekly for fellowship and to discuss community and global topics.

Serving Your Community With No Strings Attached

The Conejo Valley is one of the greatest communities in the nation, and so much of that greatness comes from individuals from various service organizations who just want to give back.  Rotary is the largest service organizations in the world, and most everyone has heard about it.  But many really don’t understand what Rotary does.

In the greater Conejo Valley area, we have five different clubs comprised of hard-working Rotarians who proudly represent the motto “SERVICE ABOVE SELF”.  These five clubs (Conejo Valley, Newbury Park, Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village and Westlake Village Sunrise) range in size from under 30 members to over 130 members.  They are all very diverse in talent and focus in the community.  But each one works hard to raise money and provide hands-on volunteers for charity organizations in the Conejo.  And every dime that is raised – 100% – goes directly to nonprofit and charitable causes!Have you attended the Thousand Oaks Street Fair on Moorpark Road, the Chili Cook-off and Car Show at Conejo Creek Park, or Conejo Valley Days?  How about the California Jazz & Wine Fest or the OakHeart Country Music Festival?  Are you familiar with the Feed the Needy projects around the community or Meals on Wheels?  How about the Westlake Village Street Fair or the Mid-Summer Eve Wine Festival?  Some of these events and projects began over 50 years ago, and some are fairly new, but the Rotarians in all five Conejo Valley Clubs play a significant role in the planning and implementation of all of these.

Rotarians in the Conejo live and work right here in our community, and we are here to serve.  But to continue to do good work and to make a difference, we are always looking to grow our membership.  Among our five clubs, we meet on Tuesdays at 6:30 pm, Wednesdays at noon, Thursdays at 7am and at noon, and Fridays at 7am.  So if you are thinking about joining the greatest and largest organization in the world, come by for a visit.  Learn more about what it takes to serve your community and the world.  You will be welcomed by all!

A Local Rotarian’s Dream-Come-True: The Rotary DreamCatcher Playground

Five years ago, Newbury Park Rotarian Ron Block had a vision to fill a need in our community.  He began meeting with other local Rotarians to share his vision.  He wanted to raise funds to construct a disability-sensitive playground, which would incorporate unique features that cater to the special needs community.  One of his first meetings was with Conejo Recreation & Park District General Manager Jim Friedl, a member of the Rotary Club of Thousand Oaks.

Old Meadows Park in Thousand Oaks included a “SensAbility Playground”, an interactive play area stimulating senses and abilities. With new space due to open up at this park location, the timing was perfect to launch the Rotary DreamCatcher Playground.  Block soon found support from all five of the local Conejo Valley Rotary Clubs and CRPD’s “Play Conejo” Foundation.

Disability affects approximately 12% of the U. S. population. Because parents, siblings, and grandparents are affected too, the number of people impacted by disability is nearly one third of the population.

The presence of disability affects EVERY area of life for these families, including home life, education, employment, relationships, and even recreation and community involvement. Community playgrounds that are welcoming to children with disabilities offer gathering places that everyone can enjoy, allowing youth with disabilities and their family members to play alongside friends and neighbors.

“I find that the mothers and fathers of children affected with special needs to be some of the most dedicated, loving and bravest people I know”, says Block.  “Our community’s acceptance and treatment of folks with developmental disabilities begins with our children and the integration of play among what is called neuro normal kids and those with special needs.  Familiarity not only precludes fear but often brings friendship”.

Each feature of the DreamCatcher playground was selected or designed to communicate welcoming of special populations and an awareness of their journey.  So far, over $545,000 has been raised to open Phase 1 and Phase 2, and the final leg of this project is due for completion in the summer of 2017.  Though the new playground will be specifically tailored for children with special needs, it will be open to everyone and will be conducive to inclusive play.

One set of swings, called a sympathetic swing, is designed to be used by children with and without mobility issues in tandem.  It doesn’t require a third person to push.  The playground has a rubber surface that is softer than typical play spaces and is geared for children with balance or body control issues.  There are nooks and crannies for children to hide and play, helping them to develop spatial awareness.  When children with disabilities are having a bad day and exhibiting self-injurious behavior, the best way to calm them is to take them to a safe place outside to play.

Many playgrounds do not include perimeter fencing, yet boundaries are important with special populations. This playground is fenced and will be a place of increased safety and independence for special needs children, while decreasing the supervision strain on caregivers, allowing them to relax and interact with other parents.  Children with mobility issues enjoy all types of playground experiences and love to play side-by-side with children who do not have mobility issues.

Playgrounds are very stimulating, often over-stimulating if you are a child with sensory processing issues. This playground will include both active and passive play areas allowing children to engage in stimulating activities to their level of comfort, yet also offering areas to which they can retreat while remaining in proximity to parents and other children.

By placing gathering areas in proximity to play areas, children are encouraged to try social behaviors, knowing that they can remove themselves for personal space and calming if necessary. At the same time, parents and caregivers can gather for support and conversation, yet remain in proximity to their children.

The greater Conejo Valley community is filled with projects that often begin with a dream of one local Rotarian, and supported by our five Conejo Rotary clubs.  Like Ron Block, Rotarians just want to give back to make our community stronger.

“A number of things bring a smile to my heart as we near completion of the Rotary DreamCatcher Playground”, says Block.  One that stands out is the thought that thousands of children and their parents and friends will benefit from our efforts for years to come!   Pericles said it best for me, ‘What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others’”.If you would like to donate to the Rotary DreamCatcher Playground, please logon to