Profile Q & A focuses on the Rotary Club of Midland Morning

While doing research for this article on the Rotary Club of Midland Morning, it was learned that its charter was presented December 8, 1988, - 35 years ago last week - and that it officially joined the family of Rotary clubs on October 12 of that same year.
Selma Yamamoto is the president of the Rotary Club of Midland Morning.
Current Club President Selma Yamamoto also pointed out that the sponsoring club - Midland Rotary Club - was all male so that when Midland resident Donna Rapp became president-elect that first year, she would become the first female Rotary officer in Midland County history. And, as Yamamoto points out in the Q and A, it was just the beginning of inclusiveness across the county. She also tells us how the club has fared in the face of COVID, the changing nature of business and its relationship with technology. 

Yamamoto is a faculty member of the MyMichigan Medical Center Midland Pharmacy Residency Program and is System Director of Pharmacy for MyMichigan Health. 

Q-You are the president of the Rotary Club of Midland Morning. Tell us a little about how you got here?
A-A friend sent a random text exclaiming that her friend was looking for a host family. My husband and I were always interested in hosting an exchange student, but just couldn’t do it while we resided in Honolulu raising three children. We jumped at the chance and I was under the belief that you had to be a Rotarian in order to be a host. The people were so nice and being new to Midland, I was always looking for opportunities to meet new people through serving the community we lived in. So I asked to join.
Q-If someone wanted to join Morning Rotary, what would you tell them about what they could expect?

A-The Rotary Club of Midland Morning would be perfect for anyone who is looking to be more connected and make a difference both in the local community and across the globe. We are a diverse, active, yet close-knit Club of about 35 members, so it’s easy to get to know your fellow members and quickly fit in. Our club is younger, more gender-balanced and more diverse than the average Rotary Club in our District. We also offer a well-balanced mix of fellowship and social activities, fundraising, local and international service projects, a robust youth exchange program and guest speakers who keep us in the know on what’s happening locally and around the world. So there are lots of different ways to contribute and gain value from membership.  

Our meetings are hybrid meetings at 7:00 a.m. each Tuesday, allowing attendance in person at Northwood University or via Zoom. Anyone who is curious to know more about our club may attend at no charge, get a free breakfast and find out what we’re about with no pressure to join. Our meetings are lively and interactive with a lot of dialogue, discussion, laughter and occasionally some heart-tugging moments, so if you join us, you will not be bored. 

Club members partnering with the Little Forks Conservancy to plant pollinator-friendly plants at the Averill Preserve along the Pere Marquette Rail Trail.
One notable thing that sets Rotary apart is our global reach. When you join Rotary International, you are joining a worldwide network of leaders in every imaginable role and area of influence, so whatever advice, expertise or outcome you are seeking, you can find someone, somewhere in Rotary who can (and will) help. Rotary has accomplished things that governments, private entities and NGOs struggle to achieve, and it’s rewarding to be part of an organization with that level of impact. Those connections happen not just across the globe, but also within our own local communities and District, where we partner to get things done.

Q-Tell us a little about the club’s goals and what projects are upcoming, say in the next year? And historically, what projects has Rotary, specifically, been associated with?

A-Our grants and service projects are aligned both with local community needs and with Rotary International’s Seven Areas of Focus, which are:
1. Water and Sanitation
2. Economic and Community Development
3. Maternal and Child Health
4. Supporting the Environment
5. Basic Education and Literacy
6. Disease Prevention and Treatment
7. Peace and Conflict Prevention/Resolution
Below is a calendar of our annual recurring fundraising and service projects. In addition, we have funds earmarked for local grants that local community organizations can apply for, with a particular focus on early childhood education. We also sponsor international grants in partnership with other Rotary Clubs in District 6310 and around the world.. 

  1. Riverdays Festival, sponsored by the Midland Area Community Foundation. Each year we partner with the Midland Noon Club to hold a fundraiser during this event.
  2. Labor Day Tridge Walk - We partner with the Midland Noon Club and the City of Midland to host this free annual community-building event on Labor Day morning. Guests join us to walk across the Tridge and enjoy music, food, networking and fun.
  3. Rhythm and Brews Festival (formerly Oktoberfest) - This is our largest annual fundraiser, a food and drink event that raises money for our club grants, scholarships and service projects. From time to time, we may also designate new special projects where we direct the proceeds.
  4. Global Handwashing Day - We join with millions of people and organizations around the world to celebrate Global Handwashing Day in October by educating our community about the health benefits of handwashing and the need to have access to clean water and sanitation.
  5. World Polio Day - On this date, we join Rotarians and others worldwide to raise awareness and funds for PolioPlus, Rotary International’s signature cause to eradicate Polio.
  6. Holiday Giving – During the end of year holiday season, Club members volunteer and donate to a variety of local causes. Some past examples include the Midland County Emergency Food Pantry, the Salvation Army, the North Midland Family Center’s senior holiday dinner and care packages for first responders.
  7. Phantom Valentine’s Ball - In February, we deliver roses and chocolates that bring smiles to people’s faces while also raising funds for our club grants and service projects.
  8. Earth Day – In April we celebrate Earth Day and Rotary’s focus on protecting the environment through an environmental service project such as watershed cleanup, eradicating invasive species or planting pollinator gardens.
  9. Claire’s Day - We celebrate Claire’s Day in April by recognizing Midland County second graders who have improved their literacy skills and the teachers who have helped and inspired them. Awardees are nominated by their teachers and principals to receive this recognition.
  10. Midland Blooms – Our Club joins with many other volunteers each May to plant flowers along Eastman Avenue for community beautification.
  11. Preschool Scholarship – The Rotary Club of Midland Morning Preschool Scholarship Endowment Fund supports early childhood development by providing assistance for Midland County families to send their 3- and 4-year olds to preschool. 
Q-The pandemic hit the Midland community quite hard as it did the rest of the country. Has the club bounced back in the three years since then, and if so, how?

A-Thanks to virtual meeting technology, we were able to continue meeting throughout the pandemic. Our weekly meetings provided much-needed interaction and support for members who might otherwise have felt isolated, and we were able to respond dynamically to the increased needs in our community caused by COVID and the flood. For example, we donated our unused meeting room and meal fees to disaster response organizations, housing organizations and food pantries, and we partnered with the Kiwanis Club to replace school laptops and Chromebooks for Midland Public Schools students whose devices were damaged in the flood. Although we naturally experience some turnover in members every year, our total membership hasn’t dropped since the pandemic. 

We’ve continued the hybrid meeting format because it enables members to participate when they are traveling or caring for children or other family members or have a tight commute to work. It also enables us to welcome guest speakers from beyond our local community, so we’ve broadened our exposure to different topics and experts.

Q-The service clubs are different in a lot of ways from other types of organizations, in that developing camaraderie and friendships are made to last generations, as well as providing resources to help the community. How has the Rotary organization weathered the changes that have seen most historical service alliances grow older?

A-Rotary initially started as a men’s club for business professionals, so they’ve definitely had to work at expanding that demographic and people’s perceptions about Rotary to ensure a more inclusive culture. The current strategic plan is focused on making membership more meaningful and doable. 

Today Rotary not only welcomes women, people of all ethnicities, job categories, LGTBQ+ individuals, people with disabilities, etc., but is actively recruiting those underrepresented groups into leadership roles even in countries where that’s not typical of the culture. They’ve also eliminated the attendance requirement, introduced new membership categories and offered many new ways to participate on a busy schedule, such as virtual or hybrid meetings, e-clubs, special interest fellowships, social and service activities and more. There’s also a focus on reducing the time burden to serve as an officer or committee chair so that it doesn’t become a second “full time job.” 
Members of the Rotary Club of Midland, Morning show off their purple pinkies to raise awareness and funds for PolioPlus, Rotary International’s signature cause to eradicate Polio worldwide.
Rotary also has programs specifically targeted at developing and supporting youth, including several global exchange programs, scholarships, RYLA leadership academy, Interact Clubs for high school students, Rotaract Clubs for college students and Clubs specifically targeted towards young professionals. So there’s a lot of effort underway to keep Rotary vibrant and recruit new members. 

Perhaps the biggest challenge is to ensure that more people become familiar with Rotary, understand how it can benefit them and how to join. We often say that Rotary is a best kept secret, and the data certainly shows that the number one reason people don’t join Rotary is simply that nobody asked them to.

Editor’s note: The Midland Rotary Club, which was founded in 1920, meets at noon on Thursdays at the Midland Country Club. Angela Cole serves as the president. Visit the club’s website for more information.
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Read more articles by Ralph E. Wirtz.

Ralph E. Wirtz is a native Midlander who retired from the Midland Daily News as a managing editor in 2015. He has been freelancing since then in between traveling and volunteering. He has four adult children, all who graduated from Bullock Creek High School as he did. He is an eight-year veteran of the U.S. Navy and a Central Michigan University grad. He can be reached at