Posted by Mary Breckenridge on Dec 20, 2017
It was a full and festive house of merry Rotarians and guests Wednesday morning the 20th. Heather Ward and the ever-cheerful Wyatt greeted us, along with new member and volunteer greeter,  Andrew Ozanich.   As we mingled and loaded our plates, we were serenaded in grand style by the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra’s string quartet.  Brenda Nakanishi offered a heartfelt prayer, Mike Stepanovich stepped up to lead us in our flag salute, and Rockin’ Dan Johnson accompanied us in “Have A Holly, Jolly Christmas” (which really did capture the mood of the morning, by golly!)
We celebrated two wedding anniversaries:  Athena and Steve Collup (31 years!) and Michelle and Tim Cooper (29 years). We boomed out a “Happy Birthday” tune to Leslie VoVilla, whose big day is December 26th.  She admitted that she had never had a birthday present that was not wrapped in Christmas paper.
Our innovative President Denise presented us with a word search and an adult coloring page for our Fit for Rotary Moment, and the folks at my table jumped right on them. 
There were no visiting Rotarians but a number of our group brought spouses:  Neil Walker was joined by his wife Pam,  Bill Black brought his wife Jan, Craig Holland introduced his return guest Kathleen  Andersen, Leslie VoVilla brought (her husband Matt?), and our program host, Ira Cohen was joined by his wife, Carol.
We had an especially Happy Spots from Denise McCombs who announced that Nygil has asked her to marry him (The answer was “YES!”).  Karen Bonanno is happy that her newly married daughter came from out of state to visit, and Dan Johnson traveled to San Diego to reunite with his best friend from high school.  Will Duerkson was overjoyed to announce that not only had his son graduated from Boise State, but also got a job while he was there.  Stephanie’s husband continues to deal with cancer (*there was more to this story, but I could not hear her).  Michele McClure was grateful for the success of the fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity, and Ed O’Donnell was relieved and happy for the success of his nephew’s triple bypass surgery.
 Mary Jo gave us a Wreaths Across America follow up: a massive 5,000 wreaths were laid at a cost of $15 each, with the help of 30 Interact volunteers, as well as many other community volunteers.
 We were reminded of two Rotary efforts to help victims of the Thomas fire:, and the Ventura County Community Foundation at - (enter the fund name as Rotary Relief Fund). 
Upcoming dates to save:  
 On January 18, our social will be at Frugatti’s in the wine room.
 On February 10, we will be helping with the Rotary Clubs of Kern County Collaborative YES Program, a one day youth empowerment, RYLA-like event in Taft.  Volunteers are needed!  
 Our Charter Night will be on February 24th.
  March 3rd, Broadway Music
 The annual all-club luncheon will be on March 8th this year.
 March 16th is The Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra’s “Viva Las Vegas” Gala Fundraiser to support its first-of-its-kind program to bring 400 high school juniors and seniors from all over the country together with key concert masters and principles. BSO is working in collaboration with Bakersfield College, CSUB, committed individuals and major Bakersfield businesses as well as high-end restaurants to give these kids an experience that they never could otherwise have.  Support this effort, and you could even win a Lexus lease!
Michael O’Doherty introduced Ira Cohen, senior vice president of UBS, ex-Army, and past president of Bakersfield North Rotary. Ira, a devoted and ardent board member of our Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra, presented a short video of the BSO’s extraordinary undertaking described above.  In turn, Ira introduced the members of the String Quartet, each a principle in the Orchestra itself. 
Dr. Jennifer Garrett from Bakersfield College returned with her award-winning choir, which has been selected among prestigious choirs from all over the world to perform with the world’s best in Sydney, Australia, at the iconic Opera House on July 8th.  For the remainder of the meeting, we were fortunate to be entertained, first by the choir, then the string quartet, alternating for the rest of the program.  If we were not in the Christmas spirit when we entered the room, there was no avoiding it having been serenaded by these remarkable musicians.