The following narrative is a continuation of a series of how a member was introduced to Rotary and subsequent memories. If you would like Rotary to be part of your life's story,  please contact Mary Bates at


Bob Mike

Joined Rotary April 25, 2012

July, 2023


When I retired in 2012, one of my primary goals was to volunteer my time to help others. My first effort was with the USO’s San Francisco Airport Center as the USO was there to support me when I was in the Army stationed on a remote mountain top in Alaska. I also enjoyed working collaboratively but wasn’t sure just what form it would take. It happened my brother-in-law, who had been invited as a guest to a Rotary luncheon in Foster City, invited me to attend with him. I didn’t know much about Rotary other than I would see their signs periodically but I thought “Why not?”. When I attended I was surprised and pleased to see that several acquaintances, including Elaine Pitts and Phil Stelling, were members. Once I understood Rotary and it’s mission of “Service above self”, I joined even though my brother-law did not.

I immediately became active in many of the club’s fund raising and service activities. Within a few weeks of joining I was asked to assist Debi Williams checking in members for the lunch meetings. I did this for about a year during which time I met all the members and soon felt connected. Within a few months Bob Pope asked me to chair the Holi Festival booth for the club. I agreed and have been involved in a form of chairing the Festival ever since, most recently with Shiraz Zack-Kanga and Jamie Cavagnaro. Over the years the festival has grown in size. When we started in 2013 we needed about 6 volunteers for a few hours to serve drinks, beer and wine to a few hundred attendees. Now we need dozens of volunteers to prepare and serve a wide range of alcoholic and soft drinks, including Indian soft drinks prepared from scratch, to more than 1500 people.

Over the years I have made friends with virtually all of the club members working with them to benefit our community. I worked on “One Warm Coat” collection and dictionary distribution with Richard Mozzini; “Senior Meals” with Rich Biederman, Mary Lou Griffin, Ed Grohe and Larry Kavinoky; the Arts and Wine Festival/City Fest with Ira Fruitman and Dave DeSmidt; and Concerts in the Park, the Fourth of July pancake breakfast and Ollie Qs with the cooking crew, including Craig Courtin, Bill Chow, Greg Kuhl, Larry Lowenthal, Ollie Patum, Paul Williams and Rick Wykoff, and Second Harvest Food Bank Food Distribution with Linda and Jon Grant, Jeff Brown and Mike Hoffman.

I have also performed a number of duties for the club over the years starting with Sargeant-at-Arms during Craig Courtin’s presidency (2013-14). I continued to serve as co-Sargeant-at-Arms until 2017. In 2017-18, I assisted Mary Lou Griffin with Vocational Service, and more recently, the Rotary Club Foundation as Treasurer for two years and currently as Secretary.

In 2014-15, I was a member of the World Community Service Committee (now known as International Service Committee) with Art Kauffman and Gil Guerin. One of our most memorable projects was to join with the Rotary Club of Woodside/Portola to bring clean water to 150 families who lived in the remote hillside village of Songis located in Bali, Indonesia. This effort was coordinated with the Rotary Club of Bali, Ubud Sunset.

Because of the prevailing winds, all the rain falls on the western side of the nearby mountain range leaving the eastern side, where Songis is located, dry for up to nine months every year. For the Songis families, life is very difficult. There are few roads, no schools, and no health facilities available to them. During the dry season, water borne pathogen diseases are a major problem especially among children and infants. The arid landscape is only able to produce a basic corn crop once each year. A few pumpkins, some peanuts, and cassava are also grown but the basic diet is corn. Economic development for the village is difficult.

During the dry season, 8-9 months of the year, villagers needed to travel 1-2 miles over rough terrain several times a day to a creek to collect water in 18-liter buckets. As part of our project, an existing well was dug deeper and a submersion pump installed. Once the pump was installed, a large catch tank was installed on a concrete pad at the highest point above the village and distribution tanks installed on concrete pads at lower elevations within the village. Gravity-fed PVC pipe was then laid between the catch tank and distribution tanks; and between the distribution tanks and the individual families to provide a sustainable source of water year round.

Joining Rotary was one of the best decisions I ever made. When I joined Rotary I was looking for like-minded individuals to give back to the community and found that effort very gratifying. But we are also a part of the world community striving to make life better for the less fortunate. As a single club we can’t do much to solve many of the world’s problems but when you consider there are more than 40,000 Rotary clubs and 1.4 million Rotarians throughout the world doing their small part, collectively we can and do make a difference.

My Rotary story would not be complete without mentioning the rewarding fellowship and friendships I have made along the way, including all of the members of the Sumanabocces two-time Foster City Ultimate Bocce Champions.