On February 2, 2019, 404 Rotarians and friends gathered for dinner at the Austin Hilton to celebrate the District’s support to The Rotary Foundation in Calendar Year 2018. The attendees experienced an uncommon treat, as Rotary International President Barry Rassin served as the guest speaker; it is not every day that the RI President visits an event in one of Rotary’s 539 individual Districts!
President Rassin shared amazing stories about our progress towards polio eradication, the importance of the Rotary Peace Fellows program, how work within our Areas of Focus helps bring peace to the world, and how Rotary was the first organization to respond to the earthquake in Haiti. He challenged us, as Rotarians, to think bigger - to find even more ways to have impact on our communities and the world.
Finally, he described the cover photo from the July 2018 issue of The Rotarian Magazine to the audience. In that picture, Rassin and his wife Esther are standing in front of seven flamingos, six of which face left, and the seventh faces right. He described the seventh flamingo as “the Flamingo of Change” – the individual that chooses to go against the flow despite the challenges and difficulty. Interestingly enough, the other six flamingos all performed an about-face and began following the Flamingo of Change just a few minutes after the photo. Rassin’s analogy was that we need a Flamingo of Change in every Rotary club, someone who will ask whether the club is relevant today and if it is taking the steps to remain relevant in the future. President Rassin concluded by describing three ways our clubs can embrace change today to remain relevant in the future: deliberately attract young professionals; encourage diversity among our membership; and ensure we provide value to each of our members.
The night was not just about speeches, it was also about recognizing and honoring the selfless contributions made by District 5870 Rotarians to The Rotary Foundation. RY 2017-2018 was a great year for our District, with over $499 thousand raised for the Foundation; we’re poised for an even better year in RY 2018-2019, with more than $468 thousand raised in the first six months alone! These accomplishments are not possible without the dedication of our individual Rotarians, many of whom were honored in person during the dinner. Across our District in CY 2018, 22 Rotarians achieved a new level of Major Donor status, four achieved a new level of Bequest Society status, 12 achieved a new level of White Hat status, and 561 achieved a new level of Paul Harris Fellow!  
Recognition is important, but Service Above Self is what truly drives Rotarians. Each Rotarian in District 5870 understands that three years after contributing to The Rotary Foundation, a portion of their gift returns to their Club by way of the District Assistance Program (DAP) program, and potentially via the Global Grants program. District 5870 clubs are very active in each of these programs. In prior years, Global Grants awarded to our clubs have funded international water projects, literacy projects, and many others; DAP grants have helped our local communities by funding projects at homeless shelters, food pantries, schools, and the Early Act First Knight (EAFK) program. Our giving to The Rotary Foundation is what allows us to “Be the Inspiration” in our communities and around the world!