NEXT MEETING: January 25, 2013

New Executive Director of Richmond Art Center, Ric Ambrose

As it approaches its 80th year, the Richmond Art Center, affectionately known as the “RAC”, has a new Executive Director. Come learn about the RAC’s present and future in the community.

MEETING OF January 18, 2013


Jim Young, Club President, called the Richmond Rotary Club to order, after which Jerry Feagley led the Pledge of Allegiance. Stoney Stonework asked today for a prayer, not only for “freedom, peace, and justice on earth” but also in memory of the four young Pakistani women who were recently gunned down while administering polio vaccines. Henry Kelman, gave us the “thought of the day” by stating his belief that we are at war with others when they are at war with us.

Rotarians with Guests

Jon Lawlis announced that his “sweetheart” Darlene is with us today. She was enthusiastically welcomed by the club.

Sunshine Report

John Nicol’s 90th birthday party is tomorrow at his home, so be sure to come and get a “live” sunshine report about John. John Wilson is undergoing chemotherapy for leukemia and although he reports he is doing well, the doctor suggested he stay away from crowds. We hope to see John back soon! Jim Young’s eye surgery went extremely well and we are all happy for that.


  • Felix Hunziker reminded everyone about the tree-planting workday tomorrow, January 19th starting at 9:00 A.M. The location is the Solano Playlot at 38th and Solano Ave. where fifteen trees will be planted. The job will probably take 3-4 hours. Bring your gloves, sunscreen, and a hat. Drinks, snacks, and tools will be provided.
  • Jim announced that he has one spot left in the limo for the Bankers Lunch tomorrow. If you are interested in the banking industry, see Jim and grab that spot!
  • Erle Brown passed around the sign-up sheet for the crab feed. He has 106 signed up now but would like to make it 120. David Brown then unceremoniously interrupted telling everyone to go to Paypal and pay for their tickets or write a check and give it to him ASAP– he said he couldn’t deposit a sign-up sheet, though Joe Bagley suggested he try!
  • Jim reminded everyone of the RotoCare grand opening on February 21st from 4-7 PM. He said that they’re having a “two-tiered” event at both the clinic site at 2727 Macdonald Ave., and at the Bermuda Room of the Richmond Memorial Auditorium. More information will be forthcoming.
  • Alan Blavins made a desperate plea for more members to become scribes. He said he needs a total of twelve so that each scribe only has to take one month a year, and he needs five or six more to round out the team. Josh Surowitz graciously agreed to scribe next month. Please see Alan about becoming a scribe, especially if you might have any hidden desires to express yourself in the written word.
  • George Egan announced that he’d received an update on Tephiny Jones who was the Richmond Rotary Scholar in 2007 when the club provided her with an $8,000 scholarship through the King-Kennedy Foundation. She graduated from U.C. Berkeley with a B.A. in Social Work. She then received another scholarship from the foundation in 2010 with the intent of earning an M.A. in Public Policy and Social Work at Columbia University. Tephiny had been a Contra Costa College student who’d finished two years there but needed assistance to go on to a four-year college to earn her bachelor’s.

Lastly, Joe “Swampy” Bagley told us that he, Alan Blavins, and Tom Waller had gone to visit Charlie and Jean Wong. He reported that their spirits are great though Charlie’s knees are bothering him. Joe reported that he and his committee members are going to do more visiting of older and former Rotarians as well as former Rotarians’ spouses.


Joe announced that it is Josh Surowitz’s Rotary anniversary today. Josh has been in the club for five years. Josh started off “happy and sad dollars” by giving $20 in celebration of his anniversary.

Happy and Sad Dollars

Markku Pelanne had sad dollars for the closure of the Boilerhouse Restaurant, and in the same breath, had happy dollars for the opening of the new Assemble Restaurant in its place. He reported that he’d told Stoney’s joke from last week to his church members and they’d heartily approved. He then tried his hand at telling a joke himself – something with ‘cabbage’ in the punchline…

David Brown had happy dollars for being here today and for having received the most comprehensive eye exam he’d ever had from fellow Rotarian Dan Sanders. David reported that he’s been in continuing education classes the last few weeks.

Josh Genser also had happy dollars for being here today – he’s been in the same continuing education classes that David’s been in which apparently are preparing them to become “temporary judges”. Josh’s happy dollars were also for having had a great time at the Rose Bowl with his daughter.

Erle Brown had happy dollars for the Cal women’s basketball team having beaten Stanford and breaking Stanford’s 81-home game winning streak. He reported that whatever strange urge he’d had recently to root for Stanford has all worn off!

Connie Tritt had sad dollars for her old University of Oregon coach going to the Philadelphia Eagles, but happy dollars because the 49ers won!

Dan Sanders had a happy $20 to have returned to Rotary after the completion of his continuing education classes.

Jon Lawlis had one hundred happy dollars in honor of his friend who’d done a wonderful portrait of Jon which he proudly displayed to the club.

Jim had happy dollars because his daughter and her family arrived safely home in Singapore yesterday, and the LADEE satellite that his son is working on is ready to be launched.

Josh Surowitz had more happy dollars and an answer to Elaina Genser’s question about why her husband is training to be a temporary judge. Josh Surowitz’s answer is that a judge is a lawyer who wants to be governor. Governor Genser – hmm . . . . it has a nice ring to it.

Herb Cole wanted to know who would be joining him and his wife in Portugal for the Rotary convention and for what sounded like some great travelling afterward. Apparently there’s going to be a meet-up with Josh Surowitz and his family in Barcelona. It sounds like a great time is going to be had by all.

Norm’s Nonsense

Charles, the son of an ailing rich man, decided he was going to need a woman to enjoy life with when his dad died. He went to a singles bar, saw a beautiful woman, and walked up to her and said, “I’m just an ordinary man, but in a week or two my father will die and I’ll inherit twenty million dollars.”
The woman went home with Charles, and the next day she became his stepmother.


SparkPoing Richmond

Alan Baer introduced Betty Cantrell from SparkPoint noting that SparkPoint was originally started by the United Way of the Bay Area (UWBA) with a $1 million grant from Chevron. It is a one-stop center that helps low-income individuals and families struggling with making ends meet, to build financially secure futures. The model combines the expertise of a variety of partner organizations to meet the specific goals of individual clients.

Betty started by telling the group that the Richmond SparkPoint office is located in the same building as Brighter Beginnings and the new RotoCare Clinic at 2727 Macdonald Ave. The model was developed after the UWBA completed a study of the economic conditions of bay area residents several years ago. The study indicated that one out of every five families in the bay area had trouble making ends meet, and that for families of color, this number doubled to two out of every five. It also showed that 86% of these families had at least one person working. The study determined that in order to make ends meet in the bay area, a person needs to work three full-time minimum wage jobs.

There are currently ten SparkPoint offices located throughout the bay area including offices in Oakland, American Canyon, San Mateo, Vallejo, Fairfield, Baypoint, San Francisco, Fremont, and Richmond, and offices will be opening in Fresno and Orange County in the near future.

In the SparkPoint model, clients have a financial coach who helps them develop a plan to meet their specific financial goals. Having said that, each SparkPoint center strives to achieve four overarching goals for each client:

  • Each client will earn a livable income.
  • Each client will achieve a credit score of at least 650.
  • Each client will have a savings plan that includes reductions in expenses and increases in income.
  • Each client will have a debt reduction/prevention plan.

Specific services include:

  • A debtors’ rights clinic staffed by attorneys who help clients understand their rights related to debt.
  • Employment assistance including the identification of appropriate positions; resume development; mock interviewing; and other services related to obtaining gainful employment.
  • Home buying assistance including credit score improvement, understanding mortgages, and down payment assistance.
  • Assistance in earning a GED.
  • Assistance in obtaining admission information and financial aid to attend college.
  • Tuition payment to earn a computer technician certification through the Stride Center.
  • Loan modification services.
  • Budgeting assistance.
  • Assistance and information related to starting and growing a business.
  • Tax preparation services.

All services provided by SparkPoint or their partners are free to clients, but clients must commit to keeping appointments, providing information, and doing the work. Betty noted that in their first year of operation they served 718 clients, approximately seven times the number they had originally expected to serve.

In answer to questions from the audience, Betty noted that there is a SparkPoint center starting up in Denver, and several communities on the east coast are exploring the model as well. Chevron International visited SparkPoint with the intent to replicate the model in South Africa. SparkPoint is different from other collaborative endeavors because all of the offices share a single database, and they meet jointly on a regular basis to discuss mutual clients. Currently, sixty percent of SparkPoint’s clients are women and their “typical” client is an African American woman, aged 30-40 with some college, and an annual income of under $15,000. The ultimate goal of SparkPoint is to empower people by giving them the skills to becoming financially self-sustaining.

SparkPoint gets many referrals from their BART train posters but word-of-mouth is their biggest referral source, many of them from past clients. Betty invited anyone who would like to attend one of their welcome sessions held every Tuesday at 2:00 PM in English or every Thursday at 2:00 PM in Spanish.

Betty stated that Richmond Community Foundation is the lead agency for the Richmond SparkPoint office.

Tours of the Richmond SparkPoint office will be available during the grand opening celebration of the RotoCare Clinic on February 21st.

Lynn Martin, Rotating Editor