Recently Pierce County Rotarians welcomed Rotarians from Nova Scotia as part of the Rotary Friendship Exchange program. Last fall, Rotarians from Rotary District 5020, which covers the area between Vancouver Island, B.C. and Western Washington from Pierce County south to Woodland including the Olympic Peninsula. This is one of the few international districts in the world of Rotary. The object of the exchange is to experience different cultures and build international friendships.
The Rotary Friendship Exchange program sends members to other countries and welcomes members from other countries here. Last September, Jim Whitacre, a past president of the Rotary Club of Tacoma #8 along with his wife Katherine and other Rotarians from Rotary District 5020 went to the east coast of Canada. They visited Rotary clubs all around Nova Scotia learning both about the area and its people.
For two weeks in May District 5020 welcomed visitors here. Whitacre met the Canadian group in Bainbridge Island and brought them to Tacoma to finish their trip. They had a quiet home dinner on their first night here.
The next day included a guided tour of the Tacoma area and a trip to the Point Defiance Zoo. To show off the beauty of our waterfronts, the Rotarians were hosted for lunch at Katie Downs on Ruston Way. Donald Gray is a Civilian Investigator with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. We talked about his career while Kathy Whitacre joined in.
Don’s wife Mary was able to join him on the trip. On the first evening she enjoyed seeing Kathy’s sketches and watercolors. What’s so nice about the exchange is the informality of the visit. It is hard to feel welcomed if you are always in a rush and speaking to groups. We like to mix the exchange with a little downtime.
That evening was a perfect combination of Rotary and friendship. Three times a year the Rotary Club of Tacoma hosts a “fireside” where Rotarians gather at the homes of different Rotarians and share stories and concerns over dinner. The exchange visit coincided with the planned Tacoma Rotary fireside. The Rotary Club of Tacoma #8 is a Rotary “large club,” which means it has over 250 members. I’ve been a member since 1990. The average Rotary club has around fifty members. Tom McCaughey (gray shirt), a past Rotary District Governor, and Don shared their thoughts about Rotary, various community projects, and ideas for the future. Tom’s wife Shirley took ill just before the trip began, unfortunately, and stayed home. Generally, Friendship Exchange participants travel as individuals, couples, families, or groups, and may include Rotary members and nonmembers.
Firesides usually have between five to 12 Rotary members and exchange students attend each gathering. The events are low-key and give people a chance to ask questions and speak their minds.
The day after the firesides the visiting Rotarians had a chance to visit the Rotary meeting at Tacoma’s Landmark convention center, where they had the opportunity to listen to our Rotary Exchange students share stories of their year in Tacoma. In addition the Thursday meeting was also scholarship day, where high school seniors from our local high schools received scholarship checks as they ready themselves for higher learning. Each year Tacoma Rotary gives out between twenty and thirty scholarships for colleges and universities.
Our guests visited several other clubs in Pierce County before returning home to Nova Scotia. Their trip to the Pacific Northwest didn’t leave much time to unwind and relax, but the atmosphere and discussions about Rotary and local projects gave us all a common ground. I hope the best memories the Canadians have of their trip to the Pacific Northwest are the new friends they made.