Posted by Jenifer Loon
Suzi Howe: RI Director 2020-2022; Rotary Opens Opportunities: Leadership, Membership and Engagement
Club Membership Chair, Holly Link, introduced our special guest speaker, Suzi Howe. Suzi is a Rotary International Director for Zone 29 which includes District 5950. Suzi hails from the Houston area and had a career in education, running a Montessori school for 29 years. She now heads up leadership training and
development for Rotary International and has organized several million dollar fundraising dinners for the Rotary International Foundation.
Suzi was in the process of building a new Montessori school and joined Rotary after attending a meeting to find that was the one location to connect with her banker, architect, contractor, etc. for the project. Suzi became the second woman president of her club. During Hurricane Katrina, Suzi volunteered to help coordinate relief at the Houston Astrodome where 250,000 disaster refugees came for shelter and assistance. She was asked to go the Astrodome to receive 200 shelter boxes that Rotary was donating and quickly received a seat at the table with local emergency officials as she stepped up to receive phone calls from donors providing 1 million meals, or 3 jet airliners to evacuate refugees. Suzi shared that many celebrities came through the Astrodome during that time to offer support, including U.S. Presidents 41 and 42 (George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton). Suzi talked with former President Bush, noting that he was a Rotarian.
The refugees in the Houston Astrodome were relocated to stay with family or relatives around the country. Those persons with no where to go were taken to Ft. Chaffee, Arkansas. Suzi made contact with the people being relocated there. She appeared in a CNN television interview, wearing her Rotary hat, and suggested we all have a Rotary cap to don when helping out, as it is a symbol of Rotarian’s being people of action, leading and doing what is needed, showing that kindness matters.
In Q and A after her remarks, Suzi discussed reaching out to new members and finding out what they are interested in, noting the importance of engaging club members. When asked what she sees in leadership around the world, Suzi reflected upon the differences in handling the COVID-19 pandemic from country to country. Social distancing is hard for many people, but it is important to find ways to connect. In a reluctantly shared secret, Suzi acknowledged that she does have a pair of special, red “End Polio Now” shoes, and at least 4 red jackets, so that she is always ready to share Rotary’s mission with others. 
  • We are pleased to have Jean Cadwallader, Blake’s mother, joining us for our meeting this morning, as well as Linda, Executive Assistant to guest speaker RI Director Suzi Howe.
  • Our June 16th meeting will feature Carter Staaf, police detective who works to combat human trafficking.
  • The next club Board meeting is June 16th at 4:00 p.m. via Zoom.
  • The EPAM Rotary Foundation Board will be holding their year end meeting on June 23rd at 8:45 a.m. immediately after our Rotary club meeting.
  • June 30th will be our year end meeting and passing of the gavel to incoming President, Prafulla Vegunta.
  • Andrea Jamison provided information on the upcoming “Stop the Trafficking” 5k. The Eden Prairie AM Rotary club is a sponsor for the event, so Rotary members can register at a reduced cost via the website. Andrea and Jane McGinty will be walking together. Since the event is virtual, participants can walk any time between June 13-21.
  • Roger Jorgensen announced that, to date, we have $20,148 donations to TRF. 32 of our club members have not yet contributed during the current Rotary year (which ends June 30, 2020). Our goal is $31,000 and Roger encouraged all members who have not yet had an opportunity to contribute to do so. You can send a check to Roger or contribute online—contact him with any questions.
  • President John Crudele mentioned the club survey that was done a few weeks ago and the number of club members feeling isolated during the social distancing required to prevent the spread of COVID-19. A few members have been reaching out to fellow Rotarians to see how they are doing, offing friendship and support.
  • Bearpath is planning to open on June 16th , but our club will be continuing to meet via Zoom for the month. More information for plans after June will be forthcoming, as the Board continues to discuss the possibility of resuming live breakfast meetings for the club and what that may look like, while maintaining a Zoom option for those not comfortable with live meetings.
Spotlight on Kurts Strelnieks
Kurts is one of our newest club members, and has the distinction of being inducted via Zoom—a first—to the EPAM Rotary club. For people curious about the “s” at the end of his first name, that is a Latvian tradition, and Kurts is a first generation citizen of the U.S. With 30 years of business banking experience, Kurts currently works for Union Bank & Trust in NE Minneapolis, a union owned and community oriented state chartered bank. Kurts grew up in Minneapolis, attended Central High School, then Augsburg College and received his MBA from the University of Minnesota. Fun fact—Kurts had a class with Prince! Kurts has lived in Eden Prairie for 20 years, and his two children attended Eden Prairie High School and were part of the marching band. His other volunteer activities include the Tree Trust (the city of Eden Prairie just joined this organization) and Adopt-a-classroom. Kurts enjoys sports of all kinds, music (especially jazz and blues) and travelling. Kurts played college tennis and is hoping to resume playing after recovering from joint replacements that both he and his wife have in their futures. Welcome, Kurts!