Sam Bhargava, 88th President’s Farewell Message

Executive Director Fellow Kiwanians and Guests - I want to tell you how thrilled I am to see all of you. It has indeed been an honour for me to have had the privilege of serving this great club. You have all taught me a great deal. Challenges yes; heartache yes; but being there with all of you made it one of the best times of my life. Unforgettable people, unforgettable events.

I have enjoyed attending, and often speaking, at dozens of events in the City as your ambassador. Now, when I say the word EVENTS, my thoughts turn to my wife Uttra.

Shrinks will tell you that going out helps your relationship. I usually go out on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Uttra goes out on Tuesdays and Thursdays. All kidding aside, thanks for the great memories.

Our challenges are complex. It will always be this way. As an immigrant, I know that as long as we believe in ourselves the future will always be ours. One of the defining Kiwanis International statements is: One can make a difference. It doesn’t matter who you are. When your potential is pointed in the right direction, and talents released, it can lead you anywhere.

There is no limit to human imagination and that is what inspires us. Let me give you some examples closer to home. Bettina Choo, a 22-year old student at Ottawa U and President of their Kiwanis Circle K Club, started teaching piano to underprivileged children. Within a year, she developed a program with 30 volunteers in 10 schools and 200 young students to teach.

One Can Make a Difference Kiwanian Ken Nelson, Chair of the Project Development Committee is a doer and would never want me to mention his name. Ken secured $85,000 in funding almost single-handedly by approaching charitable foundations.

One Can Make a Difference. The past 2 to 3 years have been most demanding for service clubs globally and locally. I believe the challenges and discontinuities will be with us in the future. It will be useful to share how your Board has been dealing with this environment. We have always promoted practical ideas and policies appropriate for this time and environment, always putting our members first and always focusing on the future. We have reengineered our organization and doubled our efforts to promote growth. We have a sound and up-to-date Strategic Plan that serves as our broad road map to move forward. We would like to encourage all members to take ownership of the club.

Following are a few of our accomplishments this past year:

We reduced the number of committees to optimize the operation by a third, with generally successful results.

Relocated the Kiwanis office to a more user-friendly location that will also result in $7,000 savings per year. When better is possible, then good is not good enough. Together with staff, we fine-tuned the job responsibilities in the Kiwanis office to be more aligned with the club priorities and to use their hidden talents. Streamlining, significant cost reduction and some fundraising, was possible by the staff. With realignment of priorities Rita was able to recruit 5 new members.

Our Friday luncheons have been a definitive “high” for me each week, with dynamic speakers and entertainment. How often do you see a cook introducing a baker? Kiwanian Eddy Cook introduced the Israeli Ambassador Mr. Baker, at a Friday luncheon last spring.

Our member recruitment drive was successful but a loss of members in senior category was a setback. I am very proud of the new corporate membership initiative. We have already inducted 3 corporate members recently from Algonquin College Bob Gillet, Kent MacDonald, and a former Kiwanian, Pat Kelly. We have made a modest beginning in attracting visible minorities to our club.

The Taste of Lebanon dinner and the Chinese New Year celebration, were great initiatives to engage the minorities.

This year was an exceptional year, in our sponsored youth programs —what an investment we are making to approximately 700 youth in; Air Cadets and GGFG Cadets, usually #1 or #2 in Ontario; 2 Circle K Clubs in Universities and 4 High School Key Clubs, both hosting District Conventions in Ottawa this year; and our 2 AKtion clubs with 200 members.

Read-a-thon appears to have reached a critical mass for a big expansion, with 72 schools participating in Ottawa and abroad this year.

Our Reading Is Fundamental program continues strong at Connaught, and our Videos continue to be distributed. Youth and Community Service is the heart of our club.

In addition to providing funding to assist hundreds of individuals through difficult times, the committee served thousands of citizens at the Mayors Breakfast, Seniors Christmas Dinner, and the Seniors Tea. Many of their initiatives are self funding.

To date, we have contributed in-kind help of approximately $50,000 to the Boys and Girls Club at Camp Smitty, and have a great time on that weekend. A unique prerequisite to our fundraising is to have fun doing it. We are pretty good at having fun at our Charity Golf Tournament, the Ottawa Senators Partners-In-Caring event, the Bed Race and the Bon Appetit Silent Auction, which are our traditional fundraisers and doing better or equal to previous years.

Helping Hands is a brand new initiative and has done reasonably well for its first year, having raised almost $40,000 without much risk or cost, thanks to the pioneering personal efforts and leadership of the Chair Kathleen Holst. This is being fine-tuned for even better performance next year, under the leadership of Paul Drouin – a new member.

I am blessed with a strong and hard working Board of Directors, honorary treasurer and secretary. Board has been restructured for driving changes in our Club. Apart from their traditional role they have been very busy and productive in leading new initiatives for the club.

Some examples Office Committee to streamline office operations and to find a new location.

Finance Committee to review our club’s accounting process and cost cutting. Bylaws Committee led by Director Peter Nadeau. After many months of meetings and consulting, he has submitted the final draft to the board. Bylaws are being revised after 16 years. The entire election process and numbers have been evaluated.

Business Planning and Strategic Issues under Harold Feder has shed light on some complex club issues.

Director Dawn Morewood, with the help of the office, is building a basic database for volunteer management. Volunteer time is precious and scarce. Coordinating volunteers is an area that needs as much attention as Fundraising.

I felt particularly proud of organizing the Big Clubs Meeting at the Kiwanis International Convention in Montreal, where more than 100 Presidents and Club Executives attended our meeting. Big club issues are unique. We have laid the foundation to create a database of successful projects and fundraisers, and an electronic forum will be created to share information and ideas worldwide with the Big Clubs. Our club is highly regarded, for our high standards and achievements, by our peers worldwide.

Credit goes to all of you and to our predecessors, who have made the effort and deserve the honors I would like to acknowledge the hard work of our office staff, Rita Harper and Mike Kruger. I have greatly benefited from their training and I think I passed the year. I’m sure they are ready to start training on President-Designate Neil.

I am particularly thankful to my Executive Committee for advice and action. Peter Patafie, Neil McDonald, Bill Gosewitz, Derek Finley, Jamie Johnson, and Jane Flain. We often met at 7 a.m. at Peter Patafie’s office. Peter should improve his coffee making skills.

My special thanks to Immediate Past President Derek for our late afternoon conversations on club issues. His support and sound advice has been amazing all year. I would like to assure President Neil McDonald that I will be equally supportive in the next very interesting 12 months. The club is left in grand hands and I am very confident of leadership capabilities of soon-to-be President Neil. Our Club’s best days lie ahead.

I have given some thought to the question o `What will I do with my time after stepping down as President?` My time of Presidency is almost up but my days of service , I hope not. Also I have a permanent job of being Grandparent and parent. My wife Uttra and I will go out more often TOGETHER

From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank every member of this great club for the opportunity to serve as your 88th President. God bless our club.

Sam Bhargava 88th President Kiwanis Club of Ottawa