Next Thursday, 164 people from Barrow to Ketchikan and as far away as India are expected to come to Kodiak to take in the historical and scenic sights and learn how to better serve their communities.
The visitors are delegates of Rotary, an organization whose motto is “Service Above Self.”
The main attraction is the Alaska District Conference, which will feature various workshops and speakers. The last time Kodiak hosted a statewide Rotary convention was in the early 1990s, when Sen. Gary Stevens was the Rotary district governor.
This year Kodiak was chosen through the efforts of Mike Ferris, a former island resident who is currently the district governor.
Ferris said he “worked hard to make sure there is plenty of free time” for delegates to see the highlights of Kodiak.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of people use this opportunity to experience the beauty and culture of the island,” he said.
Ferris, who lives in Anchorage with his wife, Shannon, is owner of Alaska Enterprise Solutions.
While living on the island, he was a commercial fisherman, working with his brothers, Bryan and Darren, and father, Stuart Ferris. He was a wrestler for the Kodiak High School Bears and after graduating, attended college in Forest Grove, Oregon.
His first job out of college was at MAPCO in Fairbanks. Ferris later worked for an oil refinery in Lithuania. The company sold the business to Yukos, an oil and gas company based in Moscow.
Ferris returned to Anchorage, where he had previously lived. He didn’t know very many people, but when someone invited him to a Rotary meeting, his social contacts increased.
Most people who join Rotary are seeking ways of networking and opportunities for community service, but they stay in the organization because of the friendships they’ve made, Ferris said.
Rotary has many venues for community service, education and good will. The Rotary Youth Exchange, for example, provides young people with opportunities to expand their understanding and appreciation of the diverse world they live in by living with families in other countries while attending school there.
Although Ferris wasn’t a Rotary exchange student, he did attend high school in Australia, an experience that opened his eyes to “how big the world is,” he said.
Locally, Rotarians helped create a park on Near Island, launched the Coats for Kids benevolent drive, raised funds through the Rotary Telethon, sponsor sourdough pancake breakfast feeds, host a golf tournament every August as a primary fundraiser, and provide scholarships for those who seek to continue their education.
At this year’s convention, Rotarians will be selling raffle tickets for a quilt created by Denise Huffman. Proceeds from the sales will go to a memorial scholarship in honor of the late Chris McVey, who was a teacher in the Kodiak Island Borough School District.
Workshops, training sessions and other activities will take place at the Kodiak Best Western Inn and the Afognak Native Corp. Center on Near Island.
Keynote speakers include Sam Movva, a Rotarian from Vijayawada, India; author, leadership trainer and motivational speaker Ronnie Doss of Scottsdale, Arizona; and Dr. Jeremiah Myers of the Kodiak Lions Club.
During their free time, attendees have opportunities to visit the local museums, including the military museum at Fort Abercrombie, the Pacific Spaceport Complex rocket launch site at Narrow Cape and other local attractions.
Before visiting Rotarians leave on Sunday there will be a memorial service officiated by local Rotarian and Church of Christ Pastor Brandon Ahrens.
Rotary is a global network with more than 1.4 million people, more than 36,000 Rotary clubs and 10,000 Rotaract clubs (intended for college students and young professionals) in more than 200 countries and geographical areas.
Rotary’s mission is to unite people to bring about lasting change. The Kodiak Rotary chapter consists of two groups. The noon club is Kodiak’s first, with roots going back to 1942. Dr. A. Holmes Johnson was a charter member of that club, and grandson Craig Johnson is a past president of the noon group.
The morning club was established in 1993 through the efforts of Rotarian Ron Acarragui, among others. Before moving to Kodiak, Acarragui was president of the Rotary Club in La Grande, Oregon.
During his time there the group created a park. This experience provided him with knowledge and insight that came in handy when he and fellow Rotarians created the Rotary Park on Near Island.
During his presidency in La Grande, the club went through a major change. At first only men were members. However, women wanted to join the organization, but some of the men didn’t want that change. Eventually the “good old boys” gave in.
Once women were allowed into the club, it flourished. With men and women involved in projects, it was a lot more successful, said Acarragui.
The Kodiak Rotary didn’t struggle with that issue, and perhaps that’s why it embarked on many successful projects.
Rotarian accomplishments will be celebrated at the convention.
The district convention provides an “opportunity for all 37 clubs in Alaska to celebrate accomplishments,” said Cheryl Metiva, president of the Wasilla Rotary Club and past Deputy District Governor for Rotary District 5010.
Area-wide Rotarians “only see each other once a year,” said Metiva, noting that at the convention they can get “warm, fuzzy support to tie up the year in a nice big bow.
"The leadership and volunteers make Kodiak special. Every district governor tries to pick a location that is celebrated,” said Metiva.
Last year the convention was held at Talkeetna Lodge, in the shadow of Mount Denali.
A lot of people in the district have never been to Kodiak, so this convention will open new vistas for them.
“I’m looking forward to sharing and celebrating in Kodiak,” said Metiva. “We couldn’t be doing the convention without Kodiak Rotarians. My husband (Marty) and I give (Kodiakans) a warm ‘thank you,’” she said.
Ferris said he’s excited about the district convention. “I’m really looking forward to showing off my home town,” he said.
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