BANGDALESH & PAUL FREESE at WVRC on May 18th
DWIGHT HEIKKILA provided the Invocation - some thoughts; After the wisdom of the Koran last week, let’s give the profane equal time. By Profane, I refer only to the original sense of “outside the temple”. We could do worse than the quotations of our beloved American, Mark Twain - Action speaks louder than words, but not nearly as often…Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it’s stored than to anything on which it is poured…Don’t let schooling interfere with your education…Try to live in such a way, that when you die, even the undertaker will be sorry. Yes, Dwight, it’s hard to argue with those thoughts. Thanks. PDG BILL GOODWYN led the Pledge, plus The Four Way Test. And LENNY was with us again, and led You’re a Grand Old Flag.
No Visiting Rotarians, but several guests. PEGGY was with her helper, and her granddaughter, surprisingly named Margaret Bloomfield and SUNNY was with LENNY. PP JIM COLLINS had three guests -his wife, CAROL, plus two grandchildren, Natalie Hession and Trevor Gudim. SHARON was with CHRIS, and PDG ANDY brought his wife, PAT. Special Guest Crista Tilley was introduced by PP MIKE NEWMAN. There were three Rotaractors - all freshmen. They were Genevieve Aljumaily, Scott Russell, and Nicole Malele. Genevieve Kayat of Enthalpi Advisory was also a guest along with Miloni Gandhi. And alas, PP MIKE NEWMAN was pinless, and thus paid a $5.00 fine.
Two of our guests spoke about Bangladesh. Genevieve Aljumaily provided some general information based on her recent visit. Then Miloni Gandhi, our Ambassadorial Scholar, who went to Singapore two years ago, provided some more information. Incidentally, Miloni is seeking children's books, up to age 12 for use in schools in Bangladesh. Some facts about the country - the population is over 162 million, and Islam is the major religion, followed by about 90% of those who live there. Bengali is the official and most widely spoken language. For questions, or much more information, you can reach Genevieve Kayak at (310) 634-5226 - she is actively fundraising for a school project in Bangladesh, plus several other active projects.
There were some announcements:
DAVID FRIEDMAN reminded us about WOMP, which is the major cleanup program for the Village - it took place on April 17th, and over 400 UCLA students participated. All the local restaurants were involved, and the results were excellent - As you may know JOHN HEIDT was our lead person on this, and it also involved most of the local merchants.
June 7th will be a gathering at the Hammer Museum in WW, starting at 6 pm. We will have cocktails, then a Museum Tour, followed by dinner. This is the replacement for what used to be called Yearling Breakfast, and we are urging ALL recent members to attend. Dinner costs $20.00 - but your guest is free! So save the date - it’s not far away.
On June 8th, our Auxiliary will meet in the Bel Air home and garden of Sally Brant. It starts at 11:30, and Dr. Angelique Campen, an emergency room doctor at UCLA will discuss medical emergencies. Her husband is the outgoing president of Wilshire Rotary. At this meeting, incoming officers will be inducted by Peggy Bloomfield. Call Margie Downie for reservations, and there will be a $5.00 charge.
June 9th, after Rotary, we will be preparing dinner for a homeless group - JOHN HEIDT, again, is the contact.
June 25th, Saturday, is the Demotion Dinner. Put it on your calendar - invitations are on the way!
PP CHRIS BRADFORD introduced our main Speaker, Paul Freese. Paul is the Vice-President of Public Counsel, the public interest law firm founded by the LA County and Beverly Hills Bar Associations. They are the largest provider of pro bono legal services in the entire U.S!
Paul graduated Magna cum laude from St. Mary’s College in Winona, Minnesota, after having graduated from Loyola High School here in LA. His law degree is from UCLA. He is married to Dr. Denise Freese, a family physician with the UCLA Medical Group, and they have two sons, David, 16, and Paul Leo, 13. He supervises the work of some fifty lawyers on his staff, plus the many lawyers from local firms who offer their services. He is both well-known and highly regarded in his field.
Paul began his presentation with a film which provided good background to what Public Counsel is and does. One specific example was getting a requirement changed that mandated a $1,000 fee to start a child care center. This simply kept most people from applying, and Public Counsel got the fee adjusted. There were several other examples, mainly dealing with low-income people who didn’t know how to move within the system - Public Counsel shows them how, and thus they receive benefits to which they are entitled. At one point, I turned to PP ERIC, who was sitting next to me, saying, “This is OK, but it’s almost too long”.
When the film clip ended, Paul noted that he appreciated all the interest and support he had received from Westwood United Methodist Church (and you know I’m not about to fail to mention this!) He then related a true family story, as follows: Paul was playing in a basketball game, and his two sons were watching - or at least present. Lo and behold, he made a basket, looked over, and his younger son was indeed watching. Afterward, When Paul saw him, Leo said, “Dad, how come you can make a basket but you can’t find?” (and I missed whatever it was, somehow). Another story - “When you grow up, what do you want to be? An attorney, like my Dad. What, you don’t want to be a doctor, like your Mom? A male doctor, NO. - so, indeed, times have changed.
When Paul was growing up in LA in the 1970’s, he never saw a homeless person. At that time the estimate was that there were perhaps 25,000 homeless in the entire U.S. Today, it is estimated that we have 90,000 homeless in LA alone - as noted above, times have changed.
He told the story of a homeless man he met - (and you should know that when Paul meets someone who is homeless, he makes a point of introducing himself, and engaging them in conversation.) This man told Paul that he had been earning a six figure salary, but lost his job, which led to his divorce and loss of contact with his kids, and he started to drink. So, while it is true that a good percentage of the homeless have mental problems, there are also many who simply fell through the safety net.
Another example shows the desperation which can result. They encountered a young woman who was visibly upset. Upon questioning, it turned out that she had lost her job, needed medical attention (which she obviously couldn’t pay for), and was being evicted from her room THAT VERY DAY! With counseling, they were able to solve her immediate problems, so what was left wasn’t nearly as overwhelming. Thus, the opportunity to help people in need on an almost immediate basis is one of the most satisfying aspects of what they do.
Q&A - Should you give them money? No, they usually don’t ask for money, but if they have it, it will be spent foolishly. Instead, you should spend a few minutes talking to them - again, introduce yourself, and depending on what their situation may be, you can ask them if they know about 211? This is a toll-free number, and rings in to a service that can put them in touch with several social services that are useful. Most homeless don’t know about 211, so it can be a really useful tool. However, note that you cannot just spout off the number and walk away - it takes a bit of conversation as an introduction, and once you have some mental connection, give it a try.
Paul Freese, we thank you for your very useful message today.