Posted by Keith Reed
Guests last week were: Eric Birkenstein’s 3 children—Julia, Scott and Leslie. Thought of the Day was given by Eric and daughter Leslie.
ANNOUNCEMENTS: We have two new members of the club:  Bob Thomas, Executive Director of WCH, and Christina Gikas, Executive Director of the Winnetka Youth Organization.  Carl Yudell had a birthday.  Mark Kotz is celebrating 7 years as a Rotarian and Jean Wright is celebrating 25 years.  Tom Nash reminded members of the Rotary’s “ABCs of Rotary” program to be held January 29 at the International Headquarters in Evanston from 2-7:00 PM.
HAPPY BUCKS:  Heidi Sibert mentioned that her raffle ticket from the last meeting turned into gift of $290 to her and that she was turning such amount into a gift to Meals Against Hunger, which will turn it into a thousand meals for the needy.  Tony contributed in thanks that his son had completed some field work for Xavier University in Jerusalem and was now home safely.  Mark Kotz contributed in hopes that people keep donating to charity under the new tax laws.  Eric Birkenstein contributed to recognize that two of his children had their first skiing experience and completed a youth ski program successfully. David Grant contributed in thanking David Birkenstein for the great job he’s done in getting speakers for our lunch meetings.  Rich Lalley contributed in recognition of an unsolicited gift to Rotary from Robert Kessler.
SPEAKER BOB THOMAS:  Bob explained his background, his career with several large companies, and his decision to work for a non-profit organization.  He lives in Lake Forest.  His staff is in the process of surveying the wants and expectations the local community has of the WCH.  Things have changed from the days when the WCH was the only place for families and youngsters to engage in such activities as sports, movies, educational programs—now there are many competing organizations providing such activities.  Plus, there’s an increase in two-income parents and a decrease in the number of kids per family.  The WCH is trying to change and update its programs to meet the needs of the community.  The basketball programs, dance groups, children’s theater and fitness center have very robust activity, but there are other community needs that can be provided by the WCH.  Bob gave as an example young adults using the facility as a place to study or just to hangout with friends.
    He said that parts of the WCH are 106 years old; that most of the building was rebuilt in 1930 after a serious fire; and that the new addition is now 13 years old.  There is renovation needed and he will be addressing that in the near future.  He described what happened with the recent fire in a fitness center dryer and the water damage that was done by the sprinkler system.  The basement and WYO suffered most of the damage, which was quickly cleaned up.  The actual cause of the fire is still unknown, but he is convinced it wasn’t due to any negligence on the part of the WCH or its maintenance staff.
    Bob mentioned that the WCH gets no funds from the Village and that it operates primarily on fees and donations.  It has just completed a program to change all lighting to LED lights, which will save enough electricity in the next 4 1/2 months to pay for the change.  He is working on savings in the substantial heating and cooling expenses of the facility. Recently, the Board voted to close and level the Champion house on the South side of the main building to be used, for the time being, for additional parking.  Currently the WCH has only 37 parking stalls.  The Champion building was over 100 years old and had recently lost its only tenant.
    Basically, Bob and his staff are in the process of finding out what the community wants from the WCH and the intent is to do what is necessary and reasonable in keeping the facility an active and important part of the community—but at the same time collaborate with other local organizations that sponsor similar programs.