Thom Gilbert, 66, is the current president of the 300+ member Rotary Club of Sacramento, of which he has been a part for 25 years. Gilbert is chairman of the board of Gilbert & Associates Inc., a local firm of CPAs and advisors. Susan Sheridan, 59, recently retired from the Sheridan Law Corp. A 20-year member of the Rotary Club of Sacramento, she is this year’s president elect. She serves on several other regional volunteer boards, including the Girl Scouts of America.

Thom Gilbert, 66, is the current president of the 300+ member Rotary Club of Sacramento, of which he has been a part for 25 years. Gilbert is chairman of the board of Gilbert & Associates Inc., a local firm of CPAs and advisors. Susan Sheridan, 59, recently retired from the Sheridan Law Corp. A 20-year member of the Rotary Club of Sacramento, she is this year’s president elect. She serves on several other regional volunteer boards, including the Girl Scouts of America.

100 Years of Service

Acuity with the Rotary Club of Sacramento

Back Q&A May 1, 2014 By Douglas Curley

On May 17, the Rotary Club of Sacramento will mark its centennial of service to the region at a gala celebration at the McClellan Conference Center. For 100 years the club has been a source of financial and physical support for almost every major charitable institution in this community, with an emphasis on children, health and education.

T.G.: “I didn’t have Sacramento connections. I moved here after college, but I hadn’t grown up here. In my profession as a CPA, building connections through community involvement is critical to building a business. As I got into my career, I realized how important that was. I had the opportunity to meet several Rotarians through my involvement in other nonprofits. I thought joining the club would be a good way to leverage those personal connections. From that standpoint, it has really paid off.”

S.S.: “When I was introduced as a new member, I was pregnant with twins. That made then-president Brian Van Camp very nervous. His biggest fear was that I would go into labor during one of the lunch meetings. It was a changing time for the club. It had only been about five years earlier when the late Jean Runyon became the first female member of the long-time men’s-only club. There was a maturation process that had to take place, but these guys have come a long way.”

T.G.: “Above and beyond building relationships, the mission of Rotary is service. More important than your money is your time and commitment to local, state, national and international Rotary projects.”

S.S.: “That’s true. It’s not just showing up for weekly lunch meetings. You have to be actively involved in committee work to be truly involved in Rotary. By doing that, you show fellow members you’re willing to volunteer your time, you come through and you do what you say you’re going to do. Fellow professionals remember that when they need a business contact or resource.

S.S: “The millennials may be the driving force behind the resurgence in service clubs like Rotary. Some of that is being led by the growing number of women, but the younger generation is also seeing the great opportunity for mentorship from our older members. I just attended a large club conference in Memphis. This attraction of Rotary to younger members is happening all across the country, unlike what we’ve seen in probably 20 years.”

T.G.: “I also think we’re seeing a renewed commitment to involvement and service from a younger generation. Ten years ago, we had 500 members. Today we hover around 300. While that’s a significant drop, we’re still the 25th largest club in the world. We, along with other clubs in the district, still have the ability to make a lasting impression on our individual communities and region. As the 102nd president of Sacramento Rotary, I’m proud of what the entire membership has been able to achieve during my term.”

T.G.: “This year’s local focus for service and fundraising is literacy. Through the efforts of the centennial gala celebration and other yearlong programs, we hope to raise at least $150,000. We agree with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson’s contention that a person’s ability to expand his horizon is tied closely to literacy. If you’re not reading at expected levels by the third grade, your future is bleak. Right now, only 40 percent of Sacramento Unified School District students are reading at or above grade level by the time they reach the fourth grade. Our goal is to move that statistic much higher. Half of the money raised will go to the Powerhouse Science Center’s [science, technology, engineering and math] literacy program. The other half will go to other local organizations.”

S.S.: “We’re also very proud of our mentoring program. For 20 years we have matched individual Rotarian mentors with at-risk students beginning in middle school. This youth incentive program allows students and mentors to maintain a relationship through high school graduation and college acceptance and includes a $10,000 scholarship. This remains a very active and successful program. We have helped create a lot of first-time high school and college graduates for local families.”

T.G.: “On the international front, Rotary’s focus is on health-related issues in third-world countries. We want to prevent the spread of disease by supporting and improving water, sanitation and education programs. International Rotary has great programs whereby members donate locally to make a huge international impact. We’re currently working on a project with other clubs in our district to provide $100,000 for a water project in Uganda.”                 


 

 

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