Samantha Diedrick Harris Thank You Speech

Samantha Diedrick Harris, President 2017-2018
End of Presidency Thank You speech at Dave Fleming’s Installation on July 12, 2018


Good afternoon. Thank you for being here today. Always an exciting day for our club when we have a new president taking over the reins.

Dave and Lisa – it has been a pleasure working with you, and I always look forward to our meetings. You are both going to be strong presidents, and our club is lucky to have you.

My leadership team – I wish I had the time to thank each of my committee chairs individually. Many of you helped me tremendously, and I truly thank you for that.

A million thanks to Sue, who I already embarrassed two weeks ago when I thanked her then. And a huge thanks to Emilia, our booker keeper. Such an asset to Sue, and this club.

Of course my husband Jack for your support from the start, and my mother Age here with us today.

I didn’t ask for this job. I didn’t campaign. I didn’t ask for votes. I was asked over two and a half years ago, by a committee of past presidents to take on this awesome responsibility. This massive job of being president of this club.

Any past president will tell you – it is just that. Massive. Many weeks, it is more than a part time job. A staggering amount of emails. But, it is a role I have been honored to take on.

I am extremely proud of our community service committee. Teresa Avery and John Matarese for their work with STUBBS School, Bell Ringing, Can-Do Playground, the Camp Fairlee Clean-up and more. Plus, this year we had two first time events – Rock the Block with close to 30 volunteers, and a guest bartending event that raised over 4 thousand dollars. And the return of Flags for Heroes for its second year. Plus, we got to check the box for Rotary International’s goal of plant one tree for every member, which we did this past fall.

Speaking of checking boxes, we just confirmed yesterday afternoon, that we did complete the list of requirements for receiving Rotary International’s presidential citation for our club.

The annual charitable contribution request, thanks to the help of Nicki Pickles, raised over 65 thousand dollars, and even inspired Dick Hatfield to make a large donation to grow our scholarship fund. Last month, we were able to take 10 thousand dollars from our operating checking account, and transfer it into the clubs endowment savings account. This was due to the money we are now saving – thousands of dollars a year – by having moved the Rotary office to the community services building. All exciting financial accomplishments for our club.

One of my goals this year, was asking you to give and volunteer. Be engaged. We had a great turn-out at all of our volunteer activities, and hope to see that continue. These projects allow for fellowship while volunteering together, and really what this club should be about.

Now, what do you actually DO as president of this club? You manage. You manage over 20 committees, and a board. My amazing leadership team. We met, set expectations, then had our club assembly last May, where I shared my goals. One of them was, I did not want to micro manage. I expected them as my leadership team, my “management” to do exactly that – manage their committees and do their jobs. We, mostly succeeded. Mostly.

One the hardest goals, and I think for all presidents – is grow our membership. Jobs change, people retire, they move, or they have financial difficulties. Membership chair Brian O’Neal asked us: “who, who do you know?” And we should be asking ourselves that every day and finding more, shall I say – fabulous people just like us, to be a part of this club. To be a part of something that helps our community, and enjoy fellowship together.

And we have fellowship each week at lunch, at the social functions, and also when we volunteer. Like many of you, I ring the Salvation Army bell every December, each time spending an hour with a fellow member, learning more about who they are and what they do. Only these past two years, I went down to Camp Fairlee. A very rewarding day preparing the facility for summer camp, and I hope more of you will go down next year, and in many years to come.

We had a blast going to BJ’s – filling shopping carts with fresh foods, and bringing it to Stubbs School. It made us feel good to know we were providing healthy food for so many families in need, and we helped make a difference in their lives.

And just last month, when 10 of us gathered to put together 325 goodie bags for the Stubbs students with a T-shirt, little toys, candy, donated toothbrushes and tooth paste – to give to them on their last day of school. The smiles on their faces when they looked in the bags, as they each walked up to us, was wonderful to witness. We gave them something that made them happy, and also cared for. By us – our Rotary club.

We are a service organization, here each week to learn from our speaker, and from each other. To give back to our community, and support those around us. But it takes a lot of work on our part to make these things happen. We have to set budgets, decide the best course of action, plan, ask for volunteers, and then do the work. Our program committee needs to find interesting speakers our members want to hear. Our scholarship committee has to review dozen of applications to pick just three worthy recipients. Hospitality, Foundation, History, Transportation, and more.

Each committee has work to do in order for all of these things to happen, and thus we need members to be active, be on these committees, and work together for the benefit of this club. We have a long history to be proud of, and we are lucky to have guidelines in place as we transition each year. And of course our constant goal of creating continuity between presidents.

I readily admit, there were a few days I didn’t want to be president. When we had members spouses pass away, and I had to tell our fellow Rotarians. It was difficult when we were told to leave our office and find new space. And certainly challenging, when the Hotel told us they were going to move us upstairs to the du Barry room permanently, due to low attendance numbers.

My worst day, was my very first meeting as president. That was the day that Hugh fell. The day when members of our club jumped to help, shield him and protect his dignity. I didn’t want to be president then. I didn’t want to have to start the meeting by ringing the bell. I wanted to go to hospital with Hugh, because I didn’t want him to go alone.

And the next day, calling each of the members who had helped Hugh. I wanted them to hear it from me that he was not going to make it. Not from the email that would go out to the membership after he passed later that day.

I had quite a few days that were discouraging to me over these last few years. When some assumed I was a push-over, or ignored my opinion, and turned to others. But, I am forever grateful for the support and advice of so many members. You cannot do this without a board, a finance committee, your leadership team, or Sue – and certainly not without the presidents before you.

As president, I liked reviewing the agenda each week, working closely with Sue, sitting at the head table. When we introduced new members, gave out PHF’s, had members share with us their why rotary minute – all the while obsessively watching the clock to see if folks would stick to the new time limits. And they did. Well, most did. We had a few go rogue on us. Only three meetings out of 44 did we have speakers at the podium after 1pm. Three! That is a 97 and a half percentage rate of success. We created a tool for future presidents, and set a tone for our members, so that we can be more aware of our time and to the benefit of our speaker, and their time.

Three of my favorite days this year… The Stubbs Class trip, when we loaded onto school buses, and had lunch in the school cafeteria. When Sarah McBride spoke, bringing many a tear to those in attendance, and receiving the only standing ovation for a weekly speaker we have seen, other than for a politician. And, the annual holiday party – our highest attended ever.

Thank you to the many members over the last year that called, wrote emails and personal notes, pulled me aside after the meetings – even hugged me – thanking me for what I was trying to do for our club. I am so grateful for you, and will cherish your kind words and encouragement.

No, we did not accomplish all I wanted to this year. You cannot do everything you want in this one year. It is impossible. We have to prioritize. We have to make cuts.

And I was not the best manager this club has seen, not by a long-shot. Most of us know well who they are. Many sadly no longer with us, but certainly some in this room today.

But, I do know that I am so proud that I have been president of this club. I am proud that we did have more people engaged, and I hope we can continue to make our volunteer hours and donation numbers increase – more and more each year.

Please be active in this club. Please be proud to be a member of Rotary, and help grow our membership. Please work together so we can make a lasting impact on our community.

No personal or political agendas, just, as Rotarians.

We are the Rotary Club of the City of Wilmington, and I thank you for allowing me to lead this club this past year.

It has been my true honor to do so.

Thank you.