District Conference brings snow, rain and fun!

Four members of the Rotary Club of Missoula joined other Rotarians from around the state who attended the 2022 District 5390 Conference held May 6-7 in Fairmont Hot Springs, including PE Royce Engstrom, Treasurer Kathy Schulte, IPP & AG Victoria Emmons Bouzina, and PP Martha Ripley (via Zoom). Royce and Kathy represented the club at the District Annual Meeting with our club’s two delegate votes. The number of votes allocated per club depends on the membership count.
At the Friday afternoon session, DG Mike Mayott praised all the many leaders throughout the district, including governors-elect, assistant governors, district chairs and club presidents, for their support this year. 
“It’s not about me, not about the district,” said Mike, a theme throughout his year as DG. “It’s about the boots on the ground. We are here to support clubs and we are here for that purpose.”
Friday’s agenda included a very reverent memorial for the Rotarians who died over the past two years, including those from the Missoula club -- Dr. Bob Seim, John Talbot, and Dr. John Browne. 
Betsy Mulligan-Dague, chair of the district Peacebuilding & Conflict Prevention Committee, discussed the Rotary Peace Challenge, a timely topic that will be stressed throughout the next year. She discussed a desire to proliferate peace poles in Montana.
Chris Wright presented an option for clubs to consider using a debit card for Rotary expenses. 
PDG Roy Beekman, who as the district’s alternate representative for the RI Council on Legislation never thought he’d have to attend, relayed his experience representing the district after all. The Council, which only meets every three years, was held April 10-14 in Chicago and on Zoom with attendees from all over the world and language translations galore. Roy said there are 523 districts worldwide and 522 participated. There were 324 Rotarians who attended in person and 198 who attended online. 
“Imagine 200 people on a Zoom meeting and every one of them has an opinion!” he said. 
Roy explained there were hours of discussion, translations and votes, but he mentioned a couple of items that passed, including an addition of DEI to the bylaws and a new pilot program for governing structure that will test first in Britain, Australia, Ireland and New Zealand. He said the Council also approved dues increase to $82 over the next four years. Roy directed everyone to MyRotary.org to check out the Council on Legislation pages.
“The most moving moment of the whole session was when RI President Shekhar Mehta of India introduced the delegate from the Ukrainian town of Kyiv,” said Roy. “He had two lengthy standing ovations. To date, according to the Rotary magazine, Rotary has given over $10 million to the Ukrainian refugee effort.”
Other speakers Friday included PDG Bill Spath, Polio Plus Chair; DG Mike who spoke about RYLA on behalf of RYLA Chair Levi Merkel, and about district grants which Mike will continue to coordinate next year; Dick King, Foundation Chair, who updated giving to Rotary Foundation; and DGN Rick Powers who focused on the in-progress strategic plan for the district.
Friday evening, attendees joined for cocktails and dinner with keynote speaker William Mercer, who spoke about Living a Life of Service. Before the buffet began, the traditional bidding started to see whose table would be allowed first in line -- the proceeds all going to Ukrainian relief via the Rotary District 5390 Foundation. The table with Missoula, Missoula Sunrise and Bozeman Noon club Rotarians won that bidding with a $360 donation! We must have been hungry!!
The silent auction items were also displayed beautifully with gifts donated from clubs all around the district, including Missoula’s lovely basket of Montana items assembled by Diane Dawson. Auction bidding continued Saturday night and our club’s basket sold for over $150. The big winner was the donation from the Polson club, a basket including a round of golf, stay at a local hotel, dinner and more. That item sold for $1,150! Overall, the auction raised $5,000 for Ukrainian refugee relief, according to PDG Sandy Carlson.
Saturday inspirations
Saturday’s session opened with an inspiration from PDG Sandy Wong, followed by DG Mike’s pounding of the gavel officially opening the Annual Business Meeting. Following a report from District Treasurer Jim Oates and approval of the minutes from last year, DG Mike asked for a vote among club delegates to determine the procedure in which the DG for 2025-26 would be selected. According to the district bylaws and Rotary International requirements, there are three options: (1) a nominating committee, (2) Club ballot, or (3) a vote at district conference. The vote taken of the clubs favored a vote at the district conference. DG Mike then requested nominations from the floor.
“I’m one of those people who read manuals,” said Mike, a retired IRS investigator. “RI Manual of Procedures is complicated. Our own manual is easier to read now. How the DG is selected is determined by RI rules.”
PE Royce nominated Kathy Schulte for DG 2025-26. AG Lucy Smith from Kalispell was also nominated. After nominations closed, the two candidates sat together talking like old friends, awaiting the outcome. Following a vote, Lucy squeaked out a win and will be our DG for 2025-26. Lucy has been active in the district for many years. Thank you, Royce, for nominating Kathy. Her name is now out in the public for a possible future spot in the DG Lineup. And what a great DG she will make some day!!
Following the close of the Annual Business Meeting, presentations continued from International Chair Terri Smiley who presented a long list of projects in the district, including our club’s involvement in the Western Montana Coalition to support water projects in Guatemala. She mentioned that there was discussion about applying for a future global grant for a project here in Montana in conjunction with one of the Native American tribes.
Mark Dvarishkis, secretary of the Missoula Centennial Club presented a project his club has implemented in partnership with the Rotary Club of Zamosc, Poland, to help support Ukrainian refugees, and is asking for support from other clubs.
AG Lucy Smith discussed a fundraiser to support Rotary Foundation. She plans to ride in a 100-mile Rotary WooHoomanie Bike-A-Thon and invites other Rotarians to support her or ride along, too.
The next item on the agenda was dubbed “Speed Dating” by DG Mike. Club presidents from around the district had three minutes to talk about their year’s accomplishments. It was impressive to see the depth and breadth of all that Rotary clubs in Montana have accomplished. Some clubs had issues to overcome, and others did a service project each month. One club changed its name, another volunteered at a circus, and another cleaned up highways. Others gave out dictionaries, while yet another club raised $35,000 with a car show. The different projects and the funds raised were numerous and varied.
PE Royce, Kathy and AG Victoria represented the Missoula club and President Dean Fiedler, who could not attend due to a work commitment. They gave a rounding three-minute overview of some of our club’s most outstanding accomplishments -- 9 new members, 25+ fellowship activities, thousands of dollars in Happy Bucks donated to one project after another, water projects in Guatemala, youth awards, scholarships, RYLA, Rotaract, etc.
Additional presentations were made on Rotary Youth Exchange (RYE) by YE Chair Tracy McNew as she introduced outbound students; and Ed Handl, WGIPP, spoke about the Waterton Glacier Peace Park and its upcoming conference in September. 
Saturday afternoon was given over to the 5th Avenue of Service -- Is it FUN? Rotarians chose whether to play golf, do some wine tasting in Phillipsburg, or swim in the Fairmont’s hot spring waters. The weather challenged us a bit as a huge rainstorm complete with grapple blew over, bringing heavy winds. After a brief delay to await clear skies, five golfers braved the wind to play nine holes (AG Victoria and PDG Sandy Carlson among them) and three gentlemen joining them played a full 18 holes. Another group had a great time in Phillipsburg, they said, hosted by the Phillipsburg Rotary. Swimmers at one point had to evacuate the pool due to lightning, but that delay brought about fresh waters to loll around. All in all, a FUN afternoon!
Saturday evening’s dinner highlight was speaker Vicki Puliz, Rotary International Director representing Zones 26/27. The Nevada resident’s poignant words are always inspirational. In addition, more inspiration came from the outbound youth exchange students who gave their “This is me” presentation in the language of the countries to which they will be going. Students are headed to Italy, Taiwan, Japan and Brazil.
District Conference 2022 ended officially with Rotarians writing checks if they had a winning bid for an auction item -- all for a good cause. The camaraderie continued late into the evening with conversation and laughter over after-dinner drinks as friendships cemented even further. Rotary is about friendship, too.