Richmond Rotary’s impact felt throughout community

The garden at Nevin Avenue and First Street in Richmond has a tragic past that gave way to a promising and inspiring future.
(All photos by David A. Brown) Ialoday Kinny (in red) is an experienced community garden coordinator who has been integral in the success of the Richmond Rotary Peace Garden at First Street and Nevin Avenue.

Hard-working folks in Richmond Rotary t-shirts are often seen volunteering on various improvement projects throughout the community, but the impact of Rotarians cannot be fully appreciated without observing the group’s spreadsheet of accomplishments in fiscal year 2015.

We caught up with Rotarian and local attorney David A. Brown, who shared a long list of his local group’s recent successes in supporting local youth programs, public safety, art and residents in need. Read on for a more detailed list of these contributions.

The Richmond Rotary is the local chapter of a worldwide service organization and attracts business and community leaders and top professionals. Their purpose: To pool the resources and skills of Rotarians with the ultimate goal of helping people and spreading peace and goodwill.

Members tend to be successful and active in the community. Richmond Mayor Tom Butt is among them.

“We want movers and shakers,” Brown said.

Clubs operate independently, but a Rotarian is welcomed at Rotary clubs worldwide.

“I can go to a Rotary meeting and I will be welcomed with open arms,” Brown said.

Rotarians are “people who have a similar set of values,” Brown added.

“It’s just really nice to know that there are people all over the world that have a similar view of obligation to the community,” Brown said. “It’s very much a fellowship and it feels very warm and welcoming when you go to a foreign club or have visitors come.”

There are about 1.2 million Rotarians at more than 32,000 clubs in 200-plus countries and geographical areas, according to the international website. The Richmond Rotary website can be accessed here. Richmond Rotary members are either residents of the area or conduct business here. They volunteer themselves, their time, hold fundraisers and often pull out their own wallets to make contributions. All this to support local and international programs that help people.

Here are some of Richmond Rotary Club’s contributions for FY2015:

Project Cure ($2000) went to the Richmond Rotary’s vibrant Interact Club at Salesian High, which challenges students who are at the top of their class to raise money for whatever service program they have identified. The students raised $1,000 and Richmond Rotary Club matched that amount to make $2,000.

Berkeley/Mexican School Project ($1,000): Berkeley Rotary spearheaded a 3-year-long international project to rehab a school in Mexico. The project was just completed in February, with Rotarians heading down there last year and also two years ago to help with rehabbing the school, installing plumbing, painting and building an outhouse.

Empower Women in the Congo ($1,000): This is a literacy program and the Richmond Rotary’s contribution purchased a Vespa so the literacy program coordinator can travel to various villages in order to work with women.

I-House Students Day in Richmond ($805), Annually, the program takes international students housed at UC Berkeley, many of whom are studying engineering, on a tour of industrial Richmond, including the Chevron Refinery.

Bikes for Kids: ($5,000) Every year in recent years, Richmond Rotary  has donated to the Annual Richmond/El Cerrito Fire & Police Holiday Toy Program, which last year served 1,200 Contra Costa families. The Rotary club donated $5,000 and $7,000 was raised from the community for the annual event at EM Downer Family YMCA. (pictured below)

Cops and Robbers: (2,500) This contribution went to a controversial play dealing with gritty themes of life on the streets of Oakland and Richmond, with the goal of personalizing the effects of violence, prison and the lifestyle in general. “We decided that it was disruptive enough that maybe it would have some positive effect,” Brown said.

Early Childhood Mental Health Program ($1,500): The program supporting abused, neglected youth aims to change the world one child at a time. Website here.

GRIP: ($500) The Greater Richmond Interfaith Program, a collaboration of religious leaders formed in 1966, introduced a number of important programs and services serving community needs.

NIAD Center ($500): The famous Richmond-based art center provides a space for artists with disabilities to practice and grow and have their art exposed worldwide.

Richmond Police Activities League: ($500) RPAL provides activities to get youth off of the streets and into positive, progressive environments, including athletics.

Richmond Steelers ($1,000): This football program, which recently joined the Snoop Youth Football League — run by legendary rapper Snoop Dogg — stresses teamwork and healthy habits to young people. (pictured below)

steelers.9-29Richmond Trees ($2,500): The community group has been planting a ton more trees in Richmond neighborhoods in order to improve the environment and aesthetics. It has received both monetary and physical assistance from Rotarians, who helped plant trees.

RotoCare Richmond Clinic ($1,000): We recently reported that nine Rotary Clubs and individual donors pitched in to provide new medical exam rooms for RotoCare’s Richmond clinic serving uninsured patients. The Richmond clinic just moved into the Family Justice Center at 256 24th St.

Teen Moms: ($1,318.22): Since the mid-1990s, Richmond Rotary has assembled goodie bags of useful items to give to teenage mothers at Richmond High and Kennedy High. They might include boxes of diapers, lotion, and for the last several years some generous folks have made quilts to add to the packages.

YES Nature to Neighborhoods: ($1,000): The proven program brings West County youth and families to summer camps throughout Northern California.

E M Downer Family YMCA ($2,500): What does this YMCA not do for youth and families?

Read-Aloud Volunteer Program ($891.87), a literacy program in West County.

Escape Club (1,000): Operating out of DeJean Middle School, kids who have never been to Yosemite, the Marin Headlands, or other outdoor areas head on one-day trips and also an overnight each year, usually in Yosemite.

Kennedy-King Scholarship ($8,000 per student): A college scholarship for minority or underrepresented students.

Peres Elementary School Classroom Sponsorships ($3,000): Every year for two decades, the Rotary president heads to Peres Elementary to hand out $100 checks to every teacher in order to recognize them for spending their own time and money on their students. Brown says his favorite part of this program: “We get cards and letters back from the teachers and the classroom…it’s worth every penny.” (pictured below)

Dental Clinic ($500): Free clinics serving students at Peres and Coronado.

Scholarships ($3,000): A college scholarship fund that varies in amount year to year but is fueled by a $25,000 donation that’s being allocated at $2,500 per year.

Top photo by David A. Brown shows Ialoday Kinny (in red), who operates the Richmond Rotary Peace Garden at First Street and Nevin Avenue. Other photos either courtesy of Richmond Rotary Facebook page or the Richmond Standard.