Club Information

Fisherman's Wharf

We meet In Person
Thursdays at 4:00 PM
Fisherman's Wharf
San Francisco, CA 94133
United States of America
Webex meetings weekly on Thursday at 4:00 pm. Contact Co-President Suzanne Varacalli for login information:

Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia that strives to represent the knowledge of all people, was explained by our October 21 speaker, Frank Schulenberg, Executive Director of Wiki Education and a member of the Chico Rotary Club. He said thousands of volunteer contributors worldwide help to ensure the quality and accuracy of Wikipedia’s content.

“Fundamentally, there are more good people than bad,” Frank said. Contributors monitor their individual watch lists and are immediately notified of any change made to an article on their list. “Five to ten minutes is the average time before false information that was added by vandals is removed.”

Wiki Education conducts training programs and solicits articlest on a huge range of subjects. Frank said that in 2018, contributions exceeded the content in all volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica.  

As stated on its website,, “Wiki Education envisions a world in which students, scholars, scientists, archivists, librarians, and other members of academic and cultural institutions are actively engaged in sharing their knowledge with the general public.”

Nine of our members enjoyed the club's  November  social on Thursday, Nov. 11, at the outdoor venue of San Francisco Brewing Company in Ghirardelli Square. The club currently meets virtually on Thursdays, 4:00-5:00 pm, and gathers in person once a month from 5:30 to 7:00 pm at a restaurant in the Fisherman's Wharf neighborhood.
Front row, from left, Roger Kaufman, Bob Intner, Kay Auciello, Nancy Slepicka, Riki Intner and Steve Ike. Back row: Herman Jones, Erik Scheller and Randall Scott.
Our speaker for the October 14 meeting, Keith Axtell, provided a comprehensive program on Rotary Foundation Global Grants. He explained the strictly defined process of applying for a Global Grant and the short and long term responsibilities of both the host club and its international sponsor club. Keith said that based on what he's learned to date about the malaria eradication project in Nigeria that our International Chair Steve Ike is researching, it has good potential to qualify for a Global Grant.

Central Police Station Captain Julian Ng and Officer Chris Sabella were our special guests for the club’s 7th annual First Responder Recognition. This year’s event, which took place virtually via Zoom, focused on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001,terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City and crashed an airliner near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The attacks resulted in 2,977 fatalities and over 25,000 injuries.

Captain Ng recalled that on 9/11 he was an officer in the Bayview district and had just gotten off the night shift when he saw TV coverage of the towers falling. “I couldn’t help but think, what if that happened in San Francisco?” he said. “But I know what would happen. Firefighters and police here would do the same — we wouldn’t run away, we’d rush towards the disaster. That’s our job.”

“We have to be prepared, and we are,” Ng said. 

Officer Sabella said he was a high school freshman and vividly remembers the morning of the attacks. “It’s one of the things that spurred me to become a police officer,” he said, adding that his older brother is a firefighter and another brother is an EMT.

Foundation Chair Riki Intner surprised Captain Ng with a special gift from the club, a $1,000 donation naming him a Paul Harris Fellow. He received a lapel pin and certificate from the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International what states, “In appreciation of tangible and significant assistance given for the furtherance of better understanding and friendly relations among peoples of the world.”

Noticeably moved, Captain Ng thanked the club for this “tremendous honor.” 

Co-President Aline Estournes reported that pastries, goodies and ice cream were being delivered to Central Police Station for all the officers and staff to enjoy. Our hope is that next year, our First Responder Recognition will be an in-person celebration.

Kathleen Sasso, the commercial property manager for Ghirardelli Square, was our featured speaker for our July 15 meeting.  She shared with us the long and interesting history of Ghirardelli Square, from its origins in the late 1890s when it was a chocolate manufacturing plant, to its transition in the 1960s to a mixed-use retail complex when the chocolate plant moved to San Leandro.  

Kathleen described new tenants recently added to the exciting tenant mix and highlighted some of the more unusual of the existing retail and dining establishments. Her talk wrapped up with a peek at what the future plans might hold for this world renowned historical landmark.

Club members enjoyed an evening of conversation, awards, laughter and praise for successfully completing a Rotary year of virtual meetings during the Change Over Dinner on Friday, June 25.

The club returned in person to Fisherman’s Wharf ––  at Swiss Louis Italian Seafood Restaurant on Pier 39 –– where Co-Presidents Suzanne Varacalli and Roger Kaufman passed the gavel to  Aline Estournes and Erk Scheller, now serving as Co-Presidents for the 2021-2022 year. Pictured l-r: Roger, Erik, Suzanne and Aline.

Suzanne and Roger reported that despite the Covid pandemic, our club gained three new members, Yvonne Curley, Bettie Grinnell and Randall Scott, and created a successful online fundraiser.

Club Fugazi, for 45 years the home of the iconic Beach Blanket Babylon, will be reanimated this fall by acrobatic performers of The 7 Fingers, a Montreal based circus company that started in 2002 in San Francisco.

David Dower, co-producer, described this exciting news — for San Francisco and the North Beach neighborhood — to club members at our June 10 meeting. 

Dower said the show is a love letter to San Francisco that  will include scenes about the Gold Rush, the 1906 earthquake and the Summer of Love.

Club Fugazi is being renovated to provide an immersive experience to  theatergoers in all 350 seats. Finger foods of the North Beach and Chinatown neighborhoods, wine and beer  will be available.

"This project is a labor of love. To have the opportunity to reanimate a venue with such a rich history, at the very moment we are coming out from under this long, dense cloud, is a powerful and energizing privilege for us,” Dower said.

The show opens in September, and tickets go on sale later this month. For more information visit


Janelle Estournes, the Americorps Disaster Services Coordinator for Sonoma and Napa Counties, presented a Red Cross program on “How to Prepare for an Emergency or Disaster” for our April 15 online meeting. She is a niece of club member and Co-President Elect Aline Estournes.

Noting that every county in California last year was struck by wildfires and other disastrous fires, Janelle focused on what should be included in an emergency kit and how individuals and families should plan and practice escape from a building or residence.

The pandemic’s effect on the local business community and projections for the future were the discussion topics with our April 8 guest speakers, Rodney Fong, President and CEO, and Emily Abraham, Interim Director of Public Policy, from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

As of February, 50% of the city’s small businesses were shuttered, Rodney said. He displayed and explained a variety of data/statistics charts that are available under Resources on

Rodney noted that San Francisco has recovered from previous setbacks — the earthquake, .com boom and financial crisis — and tourists, especially from the East Bay, are already returning to places like Fisherman’s Wharf.  “We need to extend their stays,” he said.

To attract tourists the city’s streets must be clean and neighborhoods safe. Club members agreed with Rodney on the need to elect district supervisors who understand that the city is a network of public services and businesses that must work together in order for all to thrive.

Members attending our March 18 via Zoom got a primer on the Magnolia Collection at the San Francisco Botanical Garden, a 55-acre living museum within Golden Gate Park that showcases more than 8,000 different kinds of plants from around the world. Our knowledgeable speakers were  Steve Gensler, the Garden’s Geographic Information System (GIS) Manager, and Victoria Stewart, Plant Records Manager.

We learned that there are 7,300 species of magnolias, one-third of which are located in China, and more than 300 species are considered threatened. Eric Walther, SF Botanical Garden director from 1937 to 1957, introduced magnolias, and trees located throughout the Garden are now the premier collection in the world outside of China. The blooming season is January-March.

The Garden’s oldest magnolia tree, at 99 years, is this Magnolia Campbelli.

Our guest speaker on March 11 was Ben Amyes, Disaster Response Coordinator for the San Francisco Human Services Agency (HSA). He explained how he’s able to help families and individuals who’ve been displaced by fires and other natural disasters. 

Tenants of non rent-controlled units can apply to receive a one-time payment to cover the move-in cost to a new unit. The program makes the payment directly to the landlord of the new unit.

Tenants of rent-controlled units can receive a monthly rent subsidy that pays the difference between the rent at the tenant’s permanent residence and a comparable unit leased at the current market rate. The subsidy can last for up to two years, or until the permanent address is ready to reoccupy. Rent-controlled tenants have the right to return after repairs are completed.

To find suitable housing, Ben said he works with a network of landlords, including the Northpoint Apartments complex which club member Aline Estournes manages. He currently has 35 clients, about 150 individuals. Ben said no other city in the U.S. provides this type of housing subsidy to victims of disasters.

Our February 11 speaker was John McNulty, a founding principal and architect of MBH Architects.  He and two other self-described “ambitious” architects founded the firm in 1989, and it continues to be headquartered today in Alameda with offices in NYC, Denver, Mumbai and Bengaluru. 

John is a member of the advisory council for SPUR and serves on the board for the Good Tidings Foundation.  As a former board member of the SF Chapter of AIA, he is a frequent guest lecturer at UC Berkeley, where he received his degree in Environmental Design.

Club member Aline Estournes said John is a dear friend of 32 years. They first met soon after she began her property management career with the Northpoint complex and he was involved with work there following the 1989 earthquake.

John said that “Reimagine” is a core mission of MBH Architects. He showed slides and described the evolution of various projects around San Francisco, including the recently completed building at Grant and Sutter, Harbor Lofts, North Beach Malt House, Northpoint Apartments, Wax Museum, Epic and Waterbar. 

More information and project photos can be found on the firm’s website,

Yvonne Curley, Development Director for Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center, was inducted as our newest club member by Co-President Suzanne Varacalli during the Dec. 3rd Club Assembly. She was sponsored by longtime member and past-president Aline Estournes.
A number of Yvonne's friends and Tel-Hi co-workers were special guests in the Webex meeting.

Guest speaker for our Nov. 12th meeting was Lt Jonathan Baxter, Homeland Security Operations and Public Image Officer for the San Francisco Fire Department. He passed on fascinating facts about the department as well as helpful advice on how we should prepare our homes and work places for disasters like earthquakes and fires.

Thanks to Lt. Baxter, we now know that the SF Fire Department has 47 fire engines, 22 ladder trucks, 55 ambulances, 3 fireboats, 1,780 firefighters and 47 fire stations, including 3 at the San Francisco Airport.

He urged members to become involved with their local NERT (Neighborhood Emergency Response Team), which will be essential in saving lives during a major disaster. Included in his virtual presentation were these “be prepared” and “make a plan” tips.

Thank you, Steve for introducing us to the new Rotary International area of focus, Supporting The Environment and for challenging each of us to take on a project to join this Rotary International initiative.

Several of our members are already busy, including Nancy, who's involved with planting native Illinois prairie flowers and grasses, and Bettie, Aline and Herman with their gardens. They may have a jump on the rest of us, but even though it is autumn, let’s all start thinking about and developing individual projects for the year to celebrate Rotary’s new direction.

At our next Club Assembly on November 5th, we will share our plans.

Speaker for our Aug. 13 meeting was Keith Axtell, Past President of the Rotary Club of Marin Evening who has been a leader in organizing international humanitarian projects through Rotary. He described the COVID-19 Project in Guayaquil, Ecuador, which our club supports. The project will provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to doctors and nurses in 15-17 hospitals, including 20,000 face masks and 800 uniforms, all produced in Ecuador.

Keith also updated us on other Rotary projects in Ecuador, including a water well for the Henry Davis Orphanage in Quito, and a micro-credit lending program for new businesses and training center in the Esmeralda Province.


We welcomed Heather Edwards, Director of Development, to our July 16th Zoom meeting to update us on Project Amigo, which the club supported in past years and was recently designated for a portion of our District Designated Funds. 

Project Amigo was the official international service project of the Rotary Club of Novato, CA between 1996 and 2002. Today it is an independent public 501(c)(3) charity.

Project Amigo provides educational scholarships, material support, enrichment activities and preventive and remedial health care to disadvantaged children and youth. Since its founding in 1984, more than 1,000 students from the village of Cofradia, population 2,000, have graduated from high school with the education and skills necessary for jobs that pay better than working in the surrounding sugar cane fields.

Heather said she was introduced by a friend to Project Amigo and fell in love with the program when she participated in an English Tutoring Work Week, one of six one-week experiences offered to volunteers from developed countries. Other themed Work Weeks on the 2021 calendar are Literacy & Culture, Spanish Language & Culture, Swim Week & Back to School, Environmental Week, and Christmas Fiesta. 

For ore information, visit or email Heather:

On June 18, Steve Carlson of the Rotary Club of San Carlos updated club members on the Morocco High Atlas Irrigation Aqueduct project, which he initiated and our club has supported with DDF funds since its beginning. Steve showed slides and photos via Zoom to inform and inspire us.

When complete later this year, the 2200-meter cement structure will carry water from a mountain river, fed by snow melt, to 30 villages in the Berber community. Gates along the aqueduct will divert water to irrigate farm fields. Washing stations, for clothes and dishes, will built along the route to the delight of village women.

Carlson said the project has been funded by $131,000 from the Rotary Club of San Carlos and a $175,000 Global Grant. The final section will be completed by the Rotary Club of Redwood City.

Betsy Bliss of J.P. Morgan Securities, whose first career was as a writer for the Chicago Daily News and Cincinnati Enquirer, presented the “who, what, when, where and why” of sustainable investing for the club’s June 11 Zoom meeting.

“Socially responsible” or “sustainable” investing encourages and allows investors to “do good while doing well,” Betsy says. More and more successful companies are working to preserve our environment, fight global warming and treat their employees well. Investment in these responsible and sustainable companies has multiplied four times since 2018 and now totals $30 trillion. During the current roller coaster market, sustainable companies are performing 50% better, she said. 

Betsy, the sister of club member Nancy Slepicka, is in partnership with her son, Christian Ach, at J.P. Morgan Securities in San Francisco. She can be reached at

Dale Fehringer, author and resident of the Noe Valley neighborhood in San Francisco, was our speaker for the May 28 meeting held via Zoom. He entertained us with the life stories of two of the local characters featured in his book, San Francisco Legends, Heroes and Heartthrobs.

"Sunny Jim" Ralph, a natty dresser and womanizer, was a popular mayor of San Francisco but not-so-popular governor of California. Alice Marble, tennis star who won 18 Grand Slam championships, later became a spy for U.S. Intelligence.  

On Saturday morning, May 23rd, a fire erupted at Pier 45, destroying an estimated 7,000 crab traps, 2,000 shrimp traps and 500 black cod traps, seriously impacting local fishermen and the industry overall. It is estimated that the monetary loss to replace the needed gear could exceed $5 million.

 In the past this club has directed our District Designated Funds (DDF) worldwide to support other club projects to assist those in need. Now, we have an opportunity to use the club’s DDF to support our immediate community by providing local fishermen with the help they desperately need.

The Rotary Club of Fisherman’s Wharf Board of Directors voted unanimously to designate $28,000 of its $30,000 of the 2020-2021 DDF allotment to fund a District Grant toward replacement of some of the fishing gear destroyed in the fire.

Rotary Club of Fisherman's Wharf supported the "Mission Science Project" with a joint District 5150 Community Service Project Grant. The Mission Science Project participants constructed the depicted Solar Vehicle, and developed a program that is to be shared with youth in the Unified School District and area community centers on how to construct their very own.
Sheltering -in-place club members met via ZOOM at 4:00 pm Thursday, April 16. Following regular business and reports of district activities related to the Covid-19 pandemic, we welcomed our speaker, Tresa Eyres, a Past President of our club. Rotary Club of Fisherman’s Wharf. Her topic, ”Volunteering 2020: What’s trending now.” Tresa took us on a journey into her lifelong tireless passion of volunteerism, identifying the many efforts she has helped to facilitate the needs of others worldwide and across the generational spectrum. 

Some of the nonprofit programs she is working with currently are Reimagining End of Life, Generation Citizen, a volunteer program which provides civics education to middle school students, The Grand, and Upwardly Global, which serves to assist professionals new to this country find employment. Tresa’s volunteer activities are truly inspirational and reaffirming of the idea of service above self.

In response to the current spread of Coronavirus, Club President Herman Jones cancelled our weekly meetings for the remainder of March, as well as the annual fundraiser, Fiesta Italiana, planned for April 16. 
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