The Rotary Peace Builder Award

Susan Marie Smith was a Simi Valley resident who was a devoted wife and mother of two, who worked for the Simi Valley Unified School district for 16 years at five of the local schools. She loved life, had a passion for students, and touched the entire community with her warmth and nurturing personality before she became the unfortunate victim during the Las Vegas shooting in 2017.

In memory of Susan Marie Smith, the Susan Marie Smith Peace Builder Award recognizes local youth in the Simi Valley Unified School District for outstanding commitment to social change.  Created by the Rotary Club of Simi Sunrise, this award seeks to change the focus away from violence and inspire students to speak out for peace and to work to end the hatred, ignorance, injustice, violence, and intolerance, by honoring courageous role models and leaders within the Simi Valley Unified School District.

This year, the award went to Simi Valley High School senior Ashlie Glantz.  After a brush with suicide a few years ago, Ashlie decided she wanted to help other teens going through dark periods. So during suicide-prevention month in September, she set up a table at lunchtime to hand out suicide prevention information and yellow awareness ribbons.  Ashlie created suicide-awareness videos for her school and spearheaded an anti-bullying drive.

She’s also worked at a local animal rescue charity, and she’s attained the rank of sergeant in the Explorer program at the Camarillo Police Department. She plans on pursuing a law-enforcement career after graduating from high school.

In Rotary Year 2015-16, District 5240 made a commitment to become a Peacebuilder District, and also made a commitment to wage peace wherever possible – in our local communities and in communities around the world. A Peacebuilder Club uses peace education and peace principles to guide the club’s service and development projects.

Ojai and Westlake Sunrise Rotary Clubs’ Grants Save Lives in Niger

Nomads move around a lot. The camel was always the best means of transportation in their desert land –then for the “wealthy,” the Toyota Land Cruiser took its place. For average nomads a 4WD Toyota is way beyond their means, but a motorcycle costs about the same as a camel, and moves a lot faster. Of course, the down sides are the motorcycle doesn’t eat pasture, which is free, and doesn’t give milk to feed the family. The main problem is that wear and tear in the rugged terrain requires constant maintenance, a skill no nomad had developed.

Recognizing this need, the Nomad Foundation asked Rotary to help fund a motorcycle repair program at the Nomad Foundation Tamesna Center for Nomadic Life in October, 2018. In response, the Rotary Clubs of Ojai and Westlake Village Sunrise partnered on a successful $6,450 District Grant. 

The training was initially planned for 20 people, but the word spread and 30 showed up – with many more calling to apply. All thirty were allowed to watch and participate. Each student completing the course was going to be supplied with basic tools to be able to continue this work and start a small enterprise, but there were only enough tool kits for the original 20. This overwhelming response demonstrated a major need, so the two Rotary Clubs are submitting another district grant to fund additional training and tools in the fall, 2019.

The Rotary Clubs of Ojai and Westlake Village Sunrise would never have learned of such unique needs if they hadn’t developed an in-depth, cooperative partnership with The Nomad Foundation, and with nomad leaders in Niger during the past 14 years.  District 5240 Rotarians have contributed over $500,000 to the Ojai-based Nomad Foundation through 20 grants, plus club and individual donations. Programs addressed needs in maternal and infant health, education, vocational training and community development, water and sanitation, community health, and food and herd security.

Local Rotarians participated in numerous missions to Niger. After setting up and staffing the Tamesna Medical Clinic for several years, Rotarian physician Bob Skankey developed an innovative program to train illiterate nomad women in improved prenatal care and childbirth practices. These trained local “matrones” have dramatically lowered maternal and infant mortality rates in remote nomadic communities. Now the most experienced matrones are teaching life-saving skills to other women in even more remote communities.

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.