Ketchikan resident and longtime Rotary member Michelle O’Brien has a couple years to prepare for her role as the Rotary District 5010 Governor, representing Alaska and the Yukon for 2016 and 2017.
O’Brien was nominated for and appointed to the volunteer position. She said it’s an exciting opportunity.
“There’s roughly 39 Rotary clubs in our district. What this means is that in the years 2016-2017, I will be there to assist all of those 39 clubs in the various goals that they have,” she said. “It could be community service projects, worldwide projects, membership. Each club is a little bit different; each club has its own personality.”
Ketchikan is home to two Rotary Clubs, and O’Brien is a member and past-president of First City Rotary. The other Rotary in Ketchikan is Rotary 2000.
O’Brien is active in a variety of Rotary projects, including the youth exchange program and training sessions for regional meetings. She works for Ketchikan Public Utilities, and is president of the Ketchikan School Board.
O’Brien said that her goals as district governor are to make Rotary relevant, exciting and surprising.
“Relevant enough to have our Rotarians so engaged with Rotary that it’s one of their top to-do things each week; exciting because that keeps members wanting to be involved; and yet surprising for people that might visit, and to give them that aha moment: ‘Oh, I didn’t know Rotary was that cool,’” she said.
O’Brien said the way to achieve that is through communication, letting people know what Rotary is about and what club members accomplish. She cites the youth exchange program, which sends local students abroad each year and brings students from other countries to experience life in Southeast Alaska.
Rotary clubs also donate their time and funding for local projects, such as improvements to Black Sands Beach State Park; and global projects, such as eradicating polio.
O’Brien said many people initially join Rotary for the camaraderie.
“And then everyone has this Rotary moment, if you will, where they go, ‘It’s so much more than just this weekly club meeting.’ And they become passionate about various projects,” she said. “For me it’s youth exchange. Both my daughters have been on youth exchange, and I love working with the kids.”
Ketchikan’s Rotary 2000 was the first Rotary club in Alaska, founded in 1925. First City Rotary was founded in the mid-1980s.
There are about 34,000 Rotary clubs worldwide, with 1.2 million members.