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Strong women take the helms of local Rotary Clubs

by: Vern Uyetake, 
Rotary Club of Kruse Way President Nanci Cummings, left, and Lake Oswego Rotary Club President Carol Winston were inducted in ceremonies last week.

With the Rotary Club's motto of 'service above self' close to their hearts, Carol Winston and Nanci Cummings plan to make their clubs proud as newly inducted presidents of the two Rotary clubs located in Lake Oswego.

The ceremonies were held last week for both women.

'I'm humbled to lead my club,' Cummings said. 'We are like family.'

Cummings is a reverse mortgage officer for Columbia River Bank and serves on the Lake Oswego 50+ Advisory Board and on the Advisory Council for Senior Resource Alliance of Portland. She has held many positions on the Rotary board as well and was honored with the Rotarian of the Year award.

Winston, owner of Accessories from the Heart located on McVey Avenue, is the past president of the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce. She currently is on the board of directors for the Downtown Business District Association. She has chaired several committees and served as secretary for her Rotary club as well. She received the Vocational Service Award for this past Rotary year.

Winston said she is 'extraordinarily honored' and will serve as the fourth female president of the 50-year-old Lake Owego Rotary Club while Cummings will be the fifth female of the younger 21-year-old Rotary Club of Kruse Way.

Women in leadership positions in the organization has been a growing trend.

'This Rotary year (there are) more female presidents in our district than in years past, almost 23 percent of the Lake Oswego Rotary Club's membership,' Winston said.

Another Lake Oswego woman is making history as well. Kristi Halvorson, born and raised in Lake Oswego and a member of the Kruse Way Rotary Club, is the incoming District Governor for the rotary year July 2009-2010 for the District 5100 Rotary clubs. The position involves leading more than 73 clubs located throughout the Northwest, Cummings said. Halvorson is the second woman to hold this position. Laurie Carlson, who resides in Lake Oswego, was the first.

Future plans for Winston and Cummings, who are friends as well, include working and meeting to assist each other with ideas for their clubs and ongoing service events, Winston said.

'(Working together) benefits our clubs and the members of the community,' Cummings said.

'The more the hands, the lighter the load,' Winston added.

Cummings was first interested in Rotary and later joined in 1996 because of the service work the organization is known for.

'I was intrigued because it was meaningful.' Cummings said. 'If I'm going to donate my time, I want it to be meaningful.'

The service projects not only contribute to the community locally, but on a global scale as well.

Winston, who has been a member since 1998, said her first humanitarian trip to Tanzania, Africa last year solidified her reason for becoming a member.

'I felt like a true Rotarian when I got back. Ro-tary's work where my heart is,' Winston said. 'Everyone should experience abject poverty at least once in their lives because it makes you appreciate all the things you have and take for granted.'

Cumming's club teamed up with the Pearl Rotary Club in Portland with a four-year project allowing members to travel to Costa Rica. The club will be sponsoring a school by providing education, supplies and some hard working members to fix up the school.

The Polio Plus program, which has existed for 20 years, is Rotary International's push to eradicate the polio disease and to immunize the children of the world.

'There are only four countries left,' Winston said. 'We're so close.'

The countries are India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Polio Plus also serves as the organization's philanthropic focus and has drawn in support from all of the clubs through fundraising events held during the year.

The Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation has also aided in this cause with a dollar for dollar match with a goal of $100 million, which is the largest donation in the Rotary's history, according to www.rotar

y.org .

One major event held every year contributing to the cause is the annual Lobster Feed and Charity Auction. The Lake Oswego Rotary Club, in partnership with the Lakewood Center for the Arts, puts together the big feast. The lobster dinner is prepared and cooked by Rotary members, and takes almost a year of planning and hard work.

'It's a very symbiotic partnership,' Winston said. 'Without the Lakewood Center, it would not be a Lobster Feed,'.

This year's 25th annual Lobster Feed event titled 'Night of the Golden Lobster' held on June 14 drew in more than 600 lobster diners and more than $300,000 for the Lake Oswego Rotary Club.

The event also increased the community's awareness about the Polio Plus program.

'It was a great community effort to raise that much money', Winston said.

The other money collected is used to support many of the local charities and programs such as the Lake Oswego School Foundation, Clackamas County Women's Services and the numerous grants the club presents each year.

Rotary Internat-ional has recently approved the Lake Oswego Rotary Club for a 3-H grant valued at $283,000. The money will assist Rotarians in helping the people of Tanzania, Africa with their project partner Africa Bridge. This grant is the first of its kind for the Lake Oswego Club as well as District 5100. The Kruse Way Club also participated in this grant as well and is another example of how the clubs work together for the cause.

The three H's, which stand for health, hunger and humanity, stay true to the organization's motto and driving force behind the multitude of fundraising both clubs do.

The Rotary Club of Kruse Way also holds the Oswego Wine and Food Festival, an annual event to raise money for the polio program and other charities throughout the community such as two $2,000 scholarships given to Lake Oswego high school students and funding for their Rotary Exchange program for students around the world. It includes 20 wine vendors from all over Oregon and concerts throughout the day, culminating in a city-sponsored concert.

The festival will take place on July 27th at Millennium Plaza Park.

Other service projects the club takes part in are Meals on Wheels and a concert called Oregon Sounds. The proceeds of this year's musical performance, which included artists Michael Allen Harrison, Julianne Johnson and Patrick Lamb, went to the Africa Bridge project.