Roger Kozak, Vermillion, district governor of Rotary District 5610, said two important factors helped make last week's Rotary district conference a success – the Vermillion Rotary Club and the entire Vermillion community.
The conference was held in Vermillion Aug. 27-30, with meetings held at the Muenster University Center on the University of South Dakota campus, and various activities held throughout the community.
"That was quite a weekend, and I'm so pleased with our Vermillion Rotary Club," Kozak said. "You cannot imagine the number of e-mails and notes that I'm getting. One guy in particular wrote that he had attended 42 district conferences, and this was by far the most well-organized, on time, interesting conference he had attended. The job that the Vermillion Rotary Club did in hosting this was just fantastic."
Over 200 Rotarians from a four-state area traveled to Vermillion to participate in the conference.
Kozak's tenure as district governor began July 1, after first serving as district governor nominee in 2007, and district governor-elect in 2008. District 5610 encompasses the entire state of South Dakota, and southwest Minnesota, northwest Iowa and northeast Nebraska. The district is made up of approximately 2,500 Rotarians.
"As district governor, you get to choose where you will hold your conference," he said. "Some choose to hold their conferences in communities other than their hometown."
"And I believe it was first class all of the way," he said.
Conference activities included a dinner opening night at Valiant Vineyards, meetings and break-out sessions at the Muenster University Center, a golf outing at The Bluffs, a barbecue meal served at the President's House, and a social at The National Music Museum.
Saturday's activities ended with a banquet in one of the university center's ballrooms.
"The centerpieces, the table settings were just simply elegant and beautiful," Kozak said. "We don't have to take a back seat to anyone. Our club put forth such a good effort, and the result was an outstanding conference."
He said one of the goals he hoped to accomplish at the conference was to demonstrate the role Rotary International is currently fulfilling around the world.
"Primarily, I wanted to show the relevancy of Rotary today, and do that by showcasing projects that are being done by the district."
Examples of those projects include the club's Miracle Field in Sioux Falls, which gives the handicapped and the disabled an opportunity to participate in sports.
"We have water projects that are being done in Honduras, where we are literally digging the trenches, laying the pipe, digging the wells and providing water to households that never have had running water. Just by getting running water, you improve the living standard and the health of those families."
Rotarians in LeMars, IA, Kozak said, are in active in a project called Food for Life. Rotarians and other members of that community, including its youth, are involved in filling packets of food that are sent to underdeveloped countries to provide needed nourishment to children.
"I wanted to showcase some of those projects so that people could understand that we are doing a lot of good right here in our district that goes around the world," he said.
There are more than 32,000 Rotary clubs and over 1.2 million members world-wide. The purpose of the organization is to bring together business and professional leaders to provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build goodwill and peace in the world.
The most notable current global project, PolioPlus, is contributing to the global eradication of polio. Since beginning the project in 1985, Rotarians have contributed over $600 million and tens of thousands of volunteer-hours, leading to the inoculation of more than two billion of the world's children.
Inspired by Rotary's commitment, the World Health Organization (WHO) passed a resolution in 1988 to eradicate polio by 2000. Now in partnership with WHO, UNICEF and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rotary is recognized by the United Nations as the key private partner in the eradication effort.
"Right now polio is present in only four countries – Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and India – so we are so very, very close to eradicating it," Kozak said. "The eradication of polio is Rotary's first priority. To remove that from the face of the earth would just be remarkable."
Kozak and his wife, Patricia, have been busy the past year, visiting Rotary clubs in over 30 communities in the district.
"One of the responsibilities of the district governor is to personally visit each club in the district, and Pat and I visited 31 Rotary clubs to extend to their members a personal invitiation to attend the conference here in Vermillion," he said. "My goal was to get to as many clubs as I could so that it could be a personal invite and explain what was going on, and I think it did help encourage some people to come to the conference."
Kozak was able to share details of the conference to members of the various clubs before the event. "Plus, I got to tell them about the National Music Museum. I got to explain that we would have the Rawlins Piano Trio entertaining, and that we would have a hog roast at the residence of the president of the University of South Dakota," he said. "These are all things that are unique experiences that individuals may not otherwise have an opportunity to experience.
"With everything that we have in the community, we are a very attractive location for what I would call a modest-sized conference or convention," Kozak said. "The conference was a tremendous effort on behalf of the Vermillion Rotary Club, but granted, our community was a major factor in being able to attract others to come in and spend three days with us."