NEXT MEETING: May 20, 2016

COSAS: Fighting for Economic Justice and Freedom in South Africa

Nicole Richards, a South African native, is the Operations Manager of Committee for South African Solidarity (COSAS) and Editor of the South African BEACON.  Ms. Richards moved to the U.S. in 2005 with her family and volunteered with a number of community organizations while going to school and working.  In 2012, she became a full-time volunteer organizer with COSAS, which she now leads.

Nicole will speak about her organization’s role in continuing the unfinished struggle for economic justice and freedom in South Africa, defined in the 1955 Freedom Charter, and how the struggle against poverty and inequality here in the U.S. is connected to the struggle in South Africa.

MEETING OF May 13, 2016


Alan Blavins called the meeting to order and asked Nick Despota to lead the Pledge of Allegiance, which was followed by a moment of silence in thoughts of peace.

Visiting Rotarians and Guests

Sid Chauvin brought Joe Kelman
Bob Dabney brought Cheryl Maier


  • Jon Lawlis reminds us that it’s time to make our annual Rotary payments. Dues for the year 2016-17 are $200.00. In addition, the Rotary Foundation encourages a donation of $100.00. You can make your payment from this page (see right sidebar, bottom), mail a check to P.O. Box 70643, Richmond CA 94807-0643, or pay our treasurer David Brown in person at a club meeting.
  • Nick Despota announced that the club needs another member to volunteer for scribe duty. The weekly publication of the Flywheel relies on the commitment of several reliable volunteers (see sidebar here) but we need one more member to maintain a sustainable division of labor. Contact Nick to learn more.
  • President Alan Blavins reminded members that on May 27, Stacey Street’s husband, Don Benham, will be bringing SIXTY TO SEVENTY violin students from Benito Juarez Elementary School to provide entertainment.


Happy and Sad Dollars

Norm’s Nonsense


Pogo Park in Richmond's Iron Triangle Neighborhood

Our speaker, Toody Maher, is an artist, inventor, and entrepreneur. In 1983, she pioneered Swatch’s product launch and drive sales in her region from $0 in 1983 to $30 million in three years. She then started Fun Products, which created the world’s first clear telephone with lights. While working for a research institute on how to increase overall health and well being in communities, she realized how valuable parks could be if only they were properly designed and managed.

Formerly the Elm Playlot (located at 8th and Elm streets in one of the most blighted areas of the Iron Triangle), Pogo Park was virtually unused despite the fact that 3,500 children lived within a seven-minute walk. Almost every house adjacent to the park was boarded up. The park was littered with needles, liquor bottles, condoms, and shell casings. Park swings had been chewed by pit bulls. The solution, Maher saw, was to engage local residents to plan, design, build and manage the playlot themselves. She and her team interviewed 2,300 neighbors and asked, what do you want? They came up with a lively innovative design. Ron Holthuysen, whose Scientfic Arts Studio is located only blocks away, stepped forward to show residents how to build the playground equipment themselves. Today, the park has become a model for others across the nation. It has revitalized the neighborhood, created employment and acts as a symbol of hope. Toody invited Rotarians to stop by the park and see for themselves and also to visit the website:

David Cole, Rotating Editor