(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 Alison Proctor at alisonproctor@gmail.com.) 


Mary Bates

Joined Rotary August 24, 2005

April, 2022

In the Fall of 1994, I was hired by the Foster City Parks and Recreation Department. Excitement was managing the city-wide Special Event Program. Part of this Program was the Cultural Arts Committee two Sunday concerts presented the previous summer. What an inspired program, held at the Ryan Park Amphitheater, and opportunity for the future!

I began to work on expanding these concerts by developing the “SUMMER CONCERT SERIES” to be presented in the Summer of 1995. We needed a non-profit organization to manage the food and beverage service during these concerts, so I reached out to the local Foster City Lions and Rotary Clubs for support. Requirements included an advertising campaign and posters, so I reached out to Alvin Joe, a resident Foster City Rotarian and professional artist. Now many of you know the rest of the 27-year Summer Concert Series story…

Ollie Pattum, Bill Chow, and Dave De Smidt met with me agreeing to become an integral part of the Concert BBQ Team, which became a club fundraiser to this day. Then they asked me to join Rotary, but unfortunately I had to decline due to raising four young daughters, being on a very tight budget, and commuting from the South Bay.

Over the proceeding years, the Summer Concert Series grew into an amazing annual community six concert series program. I grew too as I was warmly welcomed into the community, with many of the Rotarians and Lions Club members becoming close friends to this day.

In Summer of 2005, Ollie, Bill, and Dave asked me again to become a Foster City Rotarian. My daughters were grown, I had received a promotion to Facilities and Recreation Superintendent (with a nice pay raise), and therefore said an enthusiastic YES! I was installed as a Rotarian in August 2005 by President Larry Shaw. As I said that day, “The Power of Many Outweighs the Power of One”, is why I joined, as well as due to my long-time friendships with local Rotarians (on a side note, the Foster City Lions Club never asked me to join).

Throughout the following 17 Rotary years (and the 10 years before as a Foster City Community Volunteer and Employee), I was fortune to build individual and community relationships by being of service. Here are few Rotary stories that changed my life and others that we served together.

A retired brand-new resident visited the Foster City Recreation Center, who spoke with me about how to become involved in the local community. I encouraged her to apply to be a member of the Senior Citizen Advisory Committee. A few years after her City Council appointment, in 2008 Patricia Player Maxwell and I invited her to become a Rotarian. She joined and became a very active member. An invitation to membership made a phenomenal difference in Ms. Nancy Gordon’s life and for our Rotary Club Members. Her passion for quilting, and rose care and gardening began her legacy. Little did we know, as the Endowment Fund was formed in 2015, Nancy would make a bequest of almost $2,000,000 to continue the Rotary Rose Garden and fund scholarships in perpetuity upon her passing.

International Service is one of my passions, due to my father’s career as a Naval Officer and his tours of duty all over the world. My first experience was traveling to Mazatlán to serve beyond borders with my fellow Foster City Rotarians. We shipped over 300 wheelchairs and eight reclaimed playgrounds that were due for replacement from my Parks Superintendent job.  I was open and eager as we arrived at an open-air gymnasium filled with local residents in need of mobility. We unboxed and assembled the never-ending mound of wheelchairs, organizing them by size. My team of three approached a teenage girl with her father who had carried her into the gym. Marcelina had lost the use of her legs and gravely needed her freedom to attended school and to get around town. She cried. Her father cried. We all cried tears of joy as Marcelina tested her shiny new chair with a grin from ear to ear. The photo here is of her, me, and her father, a moment that I hold deep within my heart.

Our work was not done in Mazatlán. We all took a bus to Central Park in town. There was a makeshift stage and local dignitaries in attendance. Speeches were made to the attendees including the local Mazatlán Rotarians, Foster City Rotarians, local children and their families, and Mazatlán Public Works employees. I was trying my best to understand the ceremonial speeches which were spoken in Spanish.

As the ceremony was coming to an end, a speaker thanked us for the playgrounds that were now installed at the Jon Grant Central Park! These were the playgrounds I was able to reclaim, our club shipped and were ALREADY installed by the local Rotarians and Public Works staff. I had no idea! I was surprised and filled with pride for our Rotary Club, as we witnessed children for the first time playing on the refurbished equipment in this newly established public park.

In closing, I found myself over the years at my best when in the service of those in need alongside my fellow Rotarians. My time, talents and resources were always freely given as I served as club president in 2011/12; District 5150 Governor in 2020/21; and numerous other positions. You may ask, which “position” stood out to me the most… President of the Rotary Club of Foster City, which was an honor and a privilege to serve!

And the story continues…