by Mitch Lehman
More than 34,000 clubs are in existence around the globe and Gary Huang, incoming Rotary International President, chose San Marino’s last Wednesday to break bread with the membership – and pay back an old favor.
Thirty eight years ago, Huang and San Marino Rotarian Shody Chow were fledgling members of a club in Taipei. Chow worked for a Volvo dealership and Huang hatched the brilliant idea of raffling off a Jeep – that Shody would donate.
“His boss said ‘OK,’ we paid the import fee, sold 20,000 tickets and made $200,000 for the club,” said Huang as the capacity crowd simultaneously laughed, gasped and applauded. “When I was nominated as president-elect, I received an email from Shody saying ‘do you remember me?’ I said ‘how can I forget you. Even someone who donates a bicycle, I remember them. You donated a car. Shody, I am here to pay you back!”
This time, the response was just uproarious laughter.
Though he doensn’t officially take office until July 1, Huang – who now lives in Evanston, Illinois – was in the middle of a mini tour of the west coast, but seemed to genuinely enjoy reconnecting with Chow. A day earlier, Huang had addressed Rotarians in San Jose, and was pleased to report that a member pledged a $1 million donation for the day Huang took office. Another member of the local club told Huang he had requested a third term as president that would coincide with Huang’s international governancy “because he will turn 100 years old on the day Huang takes office.”
While toasting the charitable mission of Rotary, a good time was had by all in Fellowship Hall of San Marino Community Church. Huang was presented with proclamations from Gary Huang by representatives from the offices of Assembly member Judy Chu, Assembly member Ed Chau and Senator Carol Liu. San Marino Mayor Dennis Kneir cleared up a slight mispronounciation of the city’s name, leading the crowd in an impropmtu cheer before honoring Huang for his visit to 91108.
Rotary members from several surrounding communities were on hand as well as District Governor Miles Petroff.
Acknowledging a banner on the dais touting the 2014-15 theme “Light Up Rotary,” Huang encouraged members of the organization to “find your own light within. What is important to you?”
Huang referenced a pending gift that will match every $1 Rotary donation with $2 from the Bill Gates Foundation.
“We have a chance to raise up to $105 million through that program alone,” said Huang. “We have come so close. We need to go the rest of the way.”
Towards eradicating polio from the planet, that is. The stated goal of Rotary, the group’s mission has been somewhat deterred by hostime nations that won’t allow physicians access to children. Rotary recently extended the goal until 2019.
Huang displayed a flair for the moment, teaching all those in attendance a “happy clap,” giving lessons in how to sing Mandarin karaoke, telling poignant stories (the tale of a poor boy and his magic paint brush was most appropriate) and providing inspirational encouragement.
In closing his presentation, Huang explained how he is personally guided bu three words, all of which begin with the letter H.
“Hand,” he said. “Always be willing to give a helping hand.”
“Head,” he added. “Use your head so you are sure to help in the right places.”
“Heart,” Huang concluded. “Make it sincere. Without your heart, nothing else matters.”
Huang then encouraged the assemblage to “use your hands. Let’s thank Shody!”
Huang has labeled as a top priority growing the organization’s membership base by attracting quality men and women committed to improving communities worldwide through volunteer service, especially through membership outreach in Asia.
“To increase our membership, we must go beyond borders to wherever we see growth potential, such as the countries of China, Mongolia, and Vietnam” said Huang. “I will put an emphasis on increasing the numbers of female and younger members”
He is a recipient of the Rotary International Presidential Citation and the Service Above Self award, Rotary’s highest honor. He also received the Rotary Foundation’s Citation for Meritorious Service and Distinguished Service award. Gary and his wife Corinna have one son and two daughters – all are major donors to the Rotary Foundation.
The Rotary Club of San Marino was founded in 1939 and currently has about 110 members. The club is active in community service projects including the Rotary Readers Program for schools in surrounding cities, an annual Christmas Party for La Casa de San Gabriel community center, mini grants to San Marino teachers to support innovative classroom instruction, youth leadership camps, funding for projects for YMCA, SGV Valley Council Boy Scouts, Red Cross, as well as speech, art and music contests.
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