CG Rotary hosts "Changing of the Gavel" ceremony


In Rotarian speak, “the Changing of the Gavel” is the service organization’s equivalent to “the Changing of the Guard.”

On June 30, members of the Cottage Grove (CG) Rotary Club celebrated the closing of yet another year of community service and comradery during a special gathering at Saginaw Vineyard.

It was a comfortable summer evening; at the foot of a covered pavilion, tables and chairs had been set out on one of the vineyard’s shaded lawns. Enjoying the relaxed setting, members of the Cottage Grove (CG) Rotary Club shared a meal together while taste-testing Oregon-made vintages and honoring club officers that had fulfilled their terms of duty the year prior.

Diane Hazen, the club’s 2021-2022 president, emceed the proceedings.

First to be announced was Rotarian of the Year: Karol Kuhn.

When asked what it meant to receive this honor, Kuhn said, “It's such a good feeling to know that what I do for the club is appreciated. As a service organization, it's been hard to keep members motivated to attend and stay involved, yet there are some amazing people who volunteer a lot of time and energy to helping others through our donations and service projects. I'm honored to be recognized for the work I do for and with the club.” 

Recognized next were the club’s longest-serving members. This was followed by the “Changing of the Gavel” or the swearing-in of the 2022-2023 newly elected leadership team.

Club officers that retained their positions from the previous year were as follows: Don Strahan, Youth Service Director; Dana Merryday, Community Service Director; Karol Kuhn, Club Secretary, and Chandra LaHusen and Amanda Ferguson, both as International Service Co-Directors.                         

Members elected to new or different positions were as follows: Heather Murphy, Vocational Service Director; Joe Raade, Rotary Foundation Chair, and Karen Munsell, Club Treasurer. Finally, Peggy Whalen and Gary Manly each received a gavel as they were introduced as the club’s 2022-2023 co-presidents.

After the swearing-in of the new Rotarian officers, Co-Presidents Manly and Whalen presented the 2022-2023 theme selected by Rotary International President Jennifer Jones: “Imagine, a world that deserves our best.” To the sound of sincere applause, Manly noted that Jones was the first female to become president at the organization's International level. 

Manly continued, addressing the Rotarians in the crowd directly, saying it was up to them to imagine what Rotary can be and can accomplish. For the Cottage Grove club, Manly announced that acquiring new members would be one of the major focuses during the coming year.

Larry Bottemillier, one of the club’s senior-most members with over twenty years of service, underscored the importance of this goal during a conversation with the Sentinel. It is the diversity of a club’s membership, he explained, that tends to determine a club’s goals and problem-solving abilities during any given year.

As the June 30 evening ceremony concluded and the club’s departing president, Diane Hazen, was about to relinquish the pavilion “stage,” Manly and Whalen stopped her to give her a parting gift and speak a few words in testament of her fortitude.

Before COVID-19 complicated the Rotary social dynamic and made it necessary for members to become acquainted with video chat technologies in order to continue meeting, one could not frequent Cottage Grove club meetings without quickly learning that it was “a hugging club.” Although Hazen had stepped into a leadership role amidst unprecedented trials and chaos the year prior, she managed to keep the Cottage Grove group focused on what was possible to accomplish, the two co-presidents attested.

Whalen said that, while many Rotarians did not particularly love video conferences, hybrid meetings that offered both an in-person and an online means through which to attend would continue.

“It’s a way for us to meet people where they are,” Whalen explained.

Weekly Rotary programs typically bring members together to have lunch, hear club news, decide club business, and listen to presentations from professionals that either live in the South Lane County community or that, through their work, have some effect on it. Guest speakers cover an array of subject matter. Rotary members may learn how a particular business in the area operates “behind the scenes” one week, meet a well-known Oregon author at the next meeting, and then hear from an Oregon politician at the next. Each of them might be thought of as an abbreviated, hyper-local type of TED Talk.

Looking back at her year as club president, Hazen recalled some of her favorite speakers. Among them was a man that trained police dogs and a member of the Rotary Climate Action Team.

When asked what she looks forward to during her upcoming year as co-president with Manly, Whalen did not hesitate with her reply. Scheduled to take place this fall, the CG Rotary Club's "Uncorked" fundraiser will be the first major event that the group has been able to host since the initial COVID-19 shutdowns in Oregon took place in 2020.

Many of those attending the Thursday ceremony at Saginaw Vineyard noted just how grateful they were to be able to see fellow club members in person again recently. No doubt the upcoming Uncorked event will double as a special kind of reunion for them, in addition to being a fundraiser for the community's benefit.

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