(The following narrative is a continuation of a series of how a member was introduced to the Foster City Rotary Club and subsequent memories. If you would like Rotary to be part of your life's story, please contact Joyce Cave at caveclan@yahoo.com.)

 

Dr. Jon Grant

Rotarian since January 13, 1977

November 2020

 

 The first provisional Foster City Rotary Club meeting took place December 13th, 1976. Somebody should have told me to miss the second meeting instead of giving the impression Rotary kept track of attendance, so I would not have felt the pressure to keep up 100% attendance for the last 44 years! Because I was a Charter Member I did not have the same criteria or restrictions subsequent members had…no vetting, no voting-to-accept, no red and blue badge. Officers and committee members were selected by us volunteering or just being assigned. At one of the first meetings I found my hand in the air way too often and thus found out I was the “Foundation Chairman”, on the Board of Directors and on the Social Committee. This name sounded more fun than Foundation so it was where I concentrated for the first few years. Our Charter President and a few sponsoring members from San Mateo were the only ones with any Rotary experience and they were trying to get us organized – designing a Rotary Exchange Banner, buying a bell, switching restaurants and trying to keep us from inviting women into Rotary – so they let The Rotary Foundation (TRF) information and fundraising slide under the radar.

I was selected to be the second Full Term President of our Club in 1978-1979 and, despite that, continued to be the TRF Chairman and subsequently continued that role for many years. Soon after “volunteering” to be Foundation Chairman I wrote to Evanston to ask about getting more information about a new program they were promoting – The Rotary Volunteers. It was a lot different then – you actually had to write a letter and put a stamp on it to get information from Rotary. I did get a reply after a few months…the letter read: “Congratulations, you have been assigned to be a Rotary Volunteer in a Vietnamese Refugee Camp in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines in April/May 1985”. I had four employees that needed to be paid, rent due on my dental office and office equipment loans – so I thought: “This is perfect time to take six weeks off!” So off I went. This was my first exposure to Rotary Service and what the Rotary Foundation can accomplish.

After returning, I spoke at many Rotary Clubs and introduced our Club to contributing to -- and more importantly, utilizing -- the programs of TRF.

My speaking to the Clubs in the District, and concentration on TRF programs made an impression - I was presented the TRF Meritorious Service Award in 1993 and then selected to be District 5150 Governor in 1994-1995. During my year as Governor I really pushed TRF Matching Grants and our District went from having only five TRF Matching Grants to being awarded 13 successful Matching Grants during the 1994-1995 year. Following my year as DG I was awarded the TRF Distinguished Service Award in 1996.

This success and my continued promotion of The Rotary Foundation caught the eye of Past RI President Cliff Dochterman as he appointed me to be a Regional Rotary Foundation Coordinator in 1998-2000. This assignment involved coordinating donations, promoting programs and conducting regional TRF seminars in California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Nevada.

I was attending a TRF seminar in Oregon where I was introduced to the Whirlwind Wheelchair Program. I enrolled in the wheelchair building course at UCSF where I welded and sewed together my own wheelchair and helped them get three TRF Matching Grants to build wheelchair fabrication shops in Mexico, Guatemala and Uganda.

In 2000 I saw an article in the SF Chronicle saying Ken Behring of the Blackhawk Subdivision in Danville was forming a Foundation for distributing wheelchairs. I had been assigned to be on the Rotary International “Jobs for the Disabled Task Force” by President Frank Devlyn so I was able to get an appointment to meet with Ken and his staff. President Frank had spoken with Ken and Ken had asked Frank to be on his Advisory Board mostly, I believe, to be able to access the 1.2 million Rotarians volunteers to help distribute wheelchairs. Ken had offered 10 - 40 foot containers of wheelchairs to Frank…I suggested that we make this gift 20 - 20 foot containers and write 20 TRF Matching Grants to fill the other half of the 20 foot container with wheelchairs to match Ken’s gift. President Frank agreed and we began!

I went on to write over 100 Grants for wheelchairs – well over $8 million. Ken Behring became member of our Rotary Club and contributed over $600,000 through our Club for sponsorship of wheelchair Grants. We wrote three of the largest Matching Grants ever written. This relationship allowed me to travel to 40 or 50 countries specifically to distribute wheelchairs – bringing the total of countries I have visited to 132 - and to also organize a wheelchair presentation on stage at the Rotary International Convention in Barcelona Spain – following the wheelchair ceremony and a subsequent ceremony where I was presented a Global Quest award as one of the top Past District Governors in the world - Linda and I joined Ken Behring and President Rick King for dinner with that day’s Key Note Speaker – Mikhail Gorbachev, who coincidentally is a Paul Harris Fellow in our club because of contributions to the TRF/Wheelchair Foundation Matching Grants Program.

Rotary has allowed me to meet world leaders around the world. Gorbechev, Ted Kennedy, King Abdulla and Queen Rania of Jordan, several First ladies in Central and South American countries who have since been deposed and forgotten – but I must admit the people the most memorable to me are members of the Rotary Club of Foster City. Traveling companions, dependable friends, bocce ball pals and coaches, generous (and sometimes willing) donors – Ollie, Greg, Paul, Rick, Larry, Mike….thank you all.