Rotary Club of El Cerrito Service Projects

El Cerrito Library Foundation Donation 2015

In 2015, funds raised at our annual “Sip and Savor” event are donated to the EC Library Foundation who has a vision of a new library with more square feet to better serve the children, youth, families and seniors in our community. Our Club is extremely grateful to the EC Library Foundation for coming on board to partner with us in promoting the event. Not only did they help us the day of the event, but they sold tickets and secured sponsors as well. This joint collaboration resulted in more attendance and more donations than ever before!

Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) Summer Camp Scholarships 2014

El Cerrito Rotary

In 2014, funds from the EC Rotary Club Wine Tasting Fundraiser went towards 8 full scholarships to children wanting to attend MDA summer camp in N. California. The week long camp is extremely popular. Numerous volunteers provide care and support to campers so they can participate in the traditional activities of summer camp including horseback riding, swimming, campfires, and crafts. The kids cherish the time with their MDA peers and often call it “the best week of the year.” Parents and care takers are also grateful for the time to give attention on their other children and breathing room for themselves.

[Pictured: EC Rotarians – Karen Nierlich (left rear) and Sonja Givens-Thomas (middle); MDA Director of Business Development – Hannah Scriven (right of center)]

Support to Contra Costa Foster Youth and Foster a Dream 2013

El Cerrito Rotary

Foster A Dream is a local non-profit that provides multiple services to foster youth of all ages. The group provides for many basic needs such as clothing and school supplies. It seeks to create some of the fun and happiness of childhood via a fantastic Winter holiday fair and field trips. They also seek to remedy the particular challenges foster youth face transitioning from the high school to adult life with mentoring and coaching around life skills and goal setting.

Start-Up Funds to New El Cerrito High School (ECHS) Drama Department 2012

El Cerrito High School Drama Department

As is widely known, school funding has fallen in recent years due to the recession and backing for arts programs have suffered. The Contra Costa School District had funded a new drama teacher for the recently built state-of-the-art theater at ECHS. What was needed was funding for buying scripts and storage units for the growing collection of props and costumes. EC Rotary was pleased to come through with this “seed” funding to kick off the fledgling program.

Surgical Microscope for Cambodian Eye Clinic – Doubled Numbers of Surgeries Completed – (2011)
Seva FoundationEC Rotary collaborated with the Seva Foundation on this project.  We raised $17,000 to buy this microscope which went to Battambang province in Cambodia; a very rural part of one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world. This special surgical microscope has a second set of binocular optics so it could also be used to teach others how to perform eye surgery.  The last time we talked to Seva, about a year and a half ago, it had be used to perform over 3,300 surgeries to people who would otherwise be blind.
Critical Support to Alzeheimer’s Respite and Older Adults Day Program 2011

We learned from former Mayor Janet Abelson that these two key programs are short of funding for the coming year. The focus of the Older Adults Day Program is to provide a place where local older adults can gather one day a week for learning, dining, and fellowship. The Alzeheimer’s Respite program is similar except the benefit is attributed to the caregiver who benefits from a few hours off during the week for self-care or errands.

Alzeheimer's Respite El Cerrito

The non-denominational programs meet in various El Cerrito churches (who donate the space) and include a variety of activities including line dancing, computer and language classes. One of the most moving aspects of the Older Adult Day Program is that the participants in the program are also volunteers themselves. The adults handle set up, clean up and teach many of the sessions to their peers.

Above Photo from left: Rotarian Frank Lee, Jan Duckart & Carol Kehoe (co-director of Older Adult Program), Rotarian Past President Jane Del Simone and Current EC Rotary Club President Karen Nierlich. Jan and Carol receive a check for $3000 to the El Cerrito Community Foundation. The funds will cover half the summer operating budget.

Painting the Bleachers at El Cerrito Vista Park with ECHS Interact 2010

We kicked off Fall by gathering at the El Cerrito Vista Park to sand and paint the bleachers which had suffered a good deal from sun and heavy use during the Spring baseball season. As these pictures show we had plenty of help from the ECHS Interact Club and completed the job in 2-3 hours including a break for lunch. We also scoured the park for trash and found plenty to collect for our efforts.

EC Interact Club 2010 EC Interact Club 2010
Established Sister Interact Club in Nairobi, Kenya/ Hands On Universe Astronomy Program 2009 – 2011

This is a rather complicated endeavor that began when El Cerrito Rotarian Leeza Barnes met UC Berkeley Astrophysicist Carl Pennypacker. Carl had been running the Hands On Universe/ Astronomy for Kids program worldwide for several years and was actively working on introducing the program at a high school in Nairobi.

Hands On Universe Astronomy ProgramWe saw an opportunity to help him get the astronomy program started by setting up a new Interact Club at the school. We assisted Susan Murabana (Carl’s colleague in Kenya) in joining the Nairobi Rotary Club and then establish an Interact Club at Kenya High School, a girls boarding school in Nairobi. It was a bit of a challenge to get Susan into Rotary but our Past President Jack Freethy contacted a District Governor in the Nairobi area who in turn coordinated getting Susan introduced to the Nairobi club.

Susan quickly established an Interact Club that has 90 members. Typically, 3 to 6 of our El Cerrito High School Interactors and approximately ten of the Kenya High Interactors hold joint meetings using audio and video Internet connections.  We have probably spent fifty to one hundred hours on this project this 2009-10 school year.

This summer Helen Kim (Interact Pres of Ignacio Valley Interact and entering UC Berkeley in Fall 2010) along with Rebecca Phuong and Assya Reshetikhin of our El Cerrito Interact Board are working with Carl to develop an astronomy curriculum.  The money spent thus far comes from a grant from the National Science Foundation for $10K which pays Susan for equipment, tutoring time and incidentals.  In addition, EC Rotarian Gary Buffon donated a new laptop computer to the Kenya High School Interact so they can go to grammar schools to set up Hands on Universe modules for those students.

$50K of Medical Equipment for Children’s Eye Surgery in Nepal 2005-2010

Over the last 3 years, the Rotary Clubs of Albany, Richmond, El Cerrito, Pinole, and El Sobrante have worked together to raise $25K. Once that goal was achieved the El Cerrito Rotary applied and received a matching grant from Rotary International for an additional $25K. The fundraising project was initiated and coordinated by Tracy Giles of El Cerrito Rotary.

It all started when Tracy and her daughter accompanied Dr. Otis Paul of Rotavision (a Rotary project that helps prevent blindness in the developing world) to Kathmandu as volunteers. They helped Dr. Paul by comforting families waiting to be assessed and prepared for eye surgeries and observed Dr. Paul training Nepalese opthomologist. While they were there the director of the hospital asked Tracy if she could raise money in the U.S. for equipment to treat children for a children’s eye hospital.

Dictionaries to Local El Cerrito Schools 2009

Local third-graders were delighted to receive their very own dictionaries from the Rotary Club of El Cerrito this Fall.

Rotarians delivered the free dictionaries to all third-grade students at Prospect Sierra School, St. Jerome’s Catholic School, St. John’s Catholic School, Tehiyah Day School and Windrush School.

The books were supplied at wholesale cost by the Dictionary Project, a national non-profit organization which has previously provided dictionaries for all local public schools.

Hands For Kenya 2008-2009

For the past 3 years under the leadership of Candy Pierce, Stan Smalley and now Jim Campbell, Rotary District 5160 has been a staunch supporter of the prosthetic hand project called LN4 which was started in District 5110.

Our two Districts have worked very closely to raise funds and supply these hands to areas of the world where there is a dire need due to civil war and land mines. LN4 means “for Ellen” as the project was created in memory of Ernie Meadows’ daughter Ellen.

The hand works on a simple mechanical basis whereby the user uses the remaining hand to open and close the fingers of the artificial hand. By this means he/she is able to grasp objects and do normal activities such as write and use a fork. The hands are manufactured in California on a non-profit basis and the cost of each hand is $50.

Every year for the past 3 years El Cerrito Rotary has supported the program. This year we are very pleased to make a donation of $10,000.00, half of which came from a benefactor of the EC Rotary Club Mr.Marshall Merriam. This will allow 200 needy persons in Kenya and other parts of Africa to obtain a hand.

For further details on the hands for landmind victims in Kenya project visit


Donations to STAND – Stand Against Domestic Violence 2008

This year we donated welcome packages…welcome buckets really…to a Contra Costa program for women and their children. The program known as STAND helps women anywhere in the US who need to flee their home because of a violent partner or spouse.

When they arrive they receive housing at a secret location for their safety and peace of mind. Generally, they move into an apartment with other women and children from the program. Since they are starting over
…they need basic stuff for
their home and their personal use.

Creating the buckets full of cleaning supplies for the new apartments was coordinated by Tracy Giles. Many Rotary Members and Interact Members helped fill the buckets, which to our surprise took mere minutes. El Cerrito Rotarians included Ilhami Karaca, Jack Freethy, Karen Nierlich, Kathleen HuntGary Aguiar…then the buckets were delivered by Mark Figone.

School’s New Instruments are ‘Band Aid’ from Rotary Club 2006

West County Times Article: OUR NEIGHBORS: CHRIS TREADWAY 2006

THE POPULARITY ENJOYED by the music program at Portola Middle School in El Cerrito has its downside. The program is in high demand, with 151 students attending classes, but that takes a toll on the school’s stock of aging, deteriorating instruments.

All of the decades-old instruments were lent out at the beginning of the year, said Tiffany Carrico, who is in her third year teaching music at Portola, so if any broke, as the old instruments frequently do, they would end up in the shop for repairs. In the meantime, there were no replacements for students to continue practicing. The situation was bad enough that two students had to share the school’s lone baritone saxophone, and the high cost of new instruments was far beyond the school’s budget.

“There was a real need,” music parent Gary Aguiar said. “They were scrimping and having cupcake sales to try and buy one instrument.” Aguiar, fortunately, was in a position to help. As the current president of the Rotary Club of El Cerrito, he was charged with coming up with a community service project for the year, and this seemed to fit the bill.
“I was a little worried because I had to present it to the board, and it was funny how many said they had been through the music program” either as parents or students, Aguiar said. “They were very enthusiastic.”

As a result, the program now has 15 new instruments: four flutes, four clarinets, four trumpets, two alto saxophones and, perhaps the most prized of all, one baritone sax.

It couldn’t have been better news for the program. “It was a big surprise,” said the energetic Carrico, who teaches the beginning, intermediate, symphonic and jazz bands. “It’s a wonderful thing.”

The Rotary donation went even further because Dick Akright, the owner of A&G Music Products in Oakland, arranged to sell the instruments at cost. As a result, the Rotary Club’s $9,000 donation bought twice as many instruments as it would have otherwise.

For Carrico, who was writing applications for grants from national organizations in the effort to bolster the program, the donation is as good as an early visit by Santa Claus. And she is particularly happy that the funding is coming from a local source. “It seems like the whole community is coming together to help the kids out,” she said.

The club also helped the program fund students’ trip to a music competition.

The instruments are here in time for Portola’s annual winter concert on Thursday, a show that the Rotary chapter plans to attend. And the music program, in turn, will pay tribute to its benefactor by performing at the Rotary chapter’s annual pancake breakfast benefit March 18. Portola music program supporters will be helping the Rotary sell tickets to the event. (note: these events took place in Dec 2006)