NEXT MEETING: October 24, 2014
The Las Varas High School Project
Since 2003 Berkeley Rotary has led a series of service projects in the State of Nayarit Mexico. Today Berkeley PP Grier Graff visits Richmond Rotary to discuss the next project, renovation and modernization of La Prepetoria High School in the town of Las Varas. Grier will describe Berkeley’s success co-sponsoring with the La Penita, MX and Paradise, CA Rotary Clubs, building on a decade of service with Mexican Rotarians. Grier will also describe the technical parts of the actual renovation project. Because this project has easy access through the International Airport at Puerto Vallarta, MX, Grier is hoping you might consider a week of international service in Mexico in April/May 2015.
MEETING OF October 17, 2014
President Stoney Stonework called to order the Richmond Rotary Club. Felix Hunziker was asked to lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance. Stoney led us in the invocation. Sid provided a definition as the Thought for the Day – What is a Yawn? Possibly the only time a husband gets to open his mouth.
Bill Koziol who hasn’t been around much himself lately said his project in Oakland, Oaksterdam, is completed and he hopes to be more of a regular at Rotary.
Prez Stoney then asked Red Badger Jerry Faegley, holder of the oldest Red Badge in club history, to come to the podium and do his Who Am I.
Thank you to Don Lau, Stacey Street, Tom Butt, Jerry Feagley & Mark Howe for taking bins for your places of business. Stay tuned for e-mails and suggestions on how to get kids books and who to ask first.
Happy and Sad Dollars
"I walk in freedom"
Jim Young introduced new member Menbere Aklilu, owner and Hostess of Saluté Restaurante at Marina Bay. He said he didn’t know what was better in their acquaintance, the several years of lunches and dinners in the best Italian Restaurant in West County or the more subtle realization that Richmond was really lucky to have an angel among us. With that, Menbere, Menbi to her friends and customers, came to the podium.
I was born in Ethiopia and raised by my Mom, a single mother. Life was very difficult. My mother made wine and ran a small hotel & restaurant. When I was 10, on Easter Day, a thug in the military shot and killed my mother in the restaurant. In a state of shock and desperation I was taken in and raised by my older brother. While growing up I went to acting school and went into Ethiopian TV and entertainment. There I met a television producer on assignment in Ethiopia. He invited me to Rome and we got married. Unfortunately this relationship was not good and became very abusive. When I was nine months pregnant with my son I had to run away and I became homeless. Faith intervened and I was rescued by Nuns who got me into a homeless shelter where I gave birth to my son. We continued to live in Italy until my son was 11 and then, with very many difficulties, we came to this great county.
So much happened! But through friends of friends, other Italians, I met the owner of Saluté. The circumstance of this meeting is interesting as my friends, Italian gentlemen, were indiscreetly discussing me in Italian. When I told them of their indiscretion in perfect Italian they were shocked! “Oh my God”, they said, “She is not only beautiful but she speaks beautiful Italian and excellent English (which is not true). We must hire for Saluté.” So I was hired on the spot. I began working at Saluté at $7.00/hour. I began working my way up doing everything, but as you all know it is hard to live on even $10/hour.
After six years the restaurant was being sold. I needed to find another job, but my customers came to me and said, ‘Menbi, you should buy Salute.’ Oh how impossible! I have no money and live paycheck to paycheck. One of my very good customers said, ‘Menbi I will loan you the money.’ ‘Menbi I will loan you the money.’ So I bought Salute! How crazy! The restaurant was very successful. I paid back the loan in 11 months but said to my friend, ‘How can I ever really pay you back?’ He said, ‘Help other people the same way I’ve helped you.’ So four years ago I decided to invite homeless people to Salute for a real sit down Thanksgiving dinner. That year we served 300 dinners compliments of Salute. Year two we served 600 dinners. Last year we served 1,300 dinners and I asked doctor friends if they would also help the homeless people and families get flu shots. So we also ran a flu shot clinic with their volunteer help and the support of the community health department. Because last year was also my 10th anniversary of Saluté I gave the homeless people coupons for 10 take-out dinners that they can use whenever the wish.
In addition, I also invite local high school students to come to Salute for lunch and a class in etiquette. I know that many of them have never had the opportunity to learn about the finer things in life but, they need to know about them so they too can live gracefully and without fear.
This year at Thanksgiving Salute is again going to host homeless people, disadvantaged families and Veterans, but it is getting to be big event! So I have created a 501c3 non-profit corporation as a way of helping more people volunteer and donate to their needy neighbors. It is the GRIP-Salute Thanksgiving Celebration and you are all invited to donate and/or volunteer this coming Thanksgiving.
Menbi concluding by saying, “In this country (America & Richmond) I walk in freedom. Who am I among all these successful people? You make me bold! You make me special! I love you back!
- Rotating Editor, Jim Young.