Observer-Reporter Article - 9/21/2018

Rotary district governor touts volunteerism in visit to McMurray    

Harry Funk

Cherie Sears visits the McMurray Rotary Club, which meets at 12:10 p.m. Wednesdays at Atria’s Restaurant in Peters Township.

Everyone can use some “Intelligence for Your Life,” as John Tesh calls the radio show he hosts.

A nugget of wisdom he once imparted continues to resonate with Cherie Sears.

“He said, ‘There’s a study that’s been done, and adults laugh on average six times a day. Young children laugh on average 250 times a day,’” she recalled during a visit to the McMurray Rotary Club in Peters Township. “And I thought, I am in the right business.”

She regularly sees the evidence as president of The Village, a nonprofit childhood education center in California Borough.

“The kids do. They laugh all day long,” She attested. “That’s just very uplifting, and it helps me to not take myself too seriously. So that’s carried over into Rotary.”

As she visits clubs throughout seven counties, including Washington, as 2018-19 governor of Rotary International District 7330, she totes along a stuffed flying monkey and dons a safari hat, in part to promote the safari-themed district conference that she wants as many Rotarians as possible to attend in May.

She also is sending the message:

“If we’re having fun, it sure makes it a lot easier to do whatever it is we’re doing.”

That applies to the frequent Rotary activities focus on fundraising, as each club is part of a 1.2-million member worldwide nonprofit organization that has the motto “service above self.”

The money goes toward worthwhile local causes on up to endeavors that make impacts globally. For instance, Rotary International’s PolioPlus program, started in 1985 as the first initiative to tackle global poliomyelitis eradication through the mass vaccination of children, has contributed significantly toward eradicating the disease: Just 13 cases are confirmed this year, all in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Sears’ district project for her term focuses on the East African nations of Tanzania and Uganda, and their problems with power transmission that are erratic at best. Rotarians are raising money toward the purchase of We Care Solar Suitcases, easy-to-use units that can be activated when the grid fails for hospitals.


We Care Solar Suitcase

“When the lights go out, it’s dark,” the California Borough resident said, giving the example of a common situation: “Suddenly, you have a high-risk pregnancy and a doctor or a midwife or a nurse who can’t see what he or she is doing. This will prevent that.”

A self-described “Army brat” whose family eventually settled in Brownsville, Sears has earned two degrees from California University of Pennsylvania, including her master’s in childhood education just last year. She also has a master of business administration from West Virginia University, and both her advanced degrees serve her well with The Village, which she co-founded.

“We had two volunteers and one baby,” she said, recalling the center’s opening in 2008. “I was one of the volunteers. I did the morning shift. Someone else did the afternoon shift. And within about two months, we needed a staff. From there, we had people coming who said, ‘We don’t qualify for the scholarship, but we like your quality. We want to be here.’”


The Village offers full scholarships for children who have single parents enrolled as full-time students and meet certain requirements.

The concept drew early interest from members of the California Rotary Club, who invited Sears to speak about it. They then asked her to join. Eventually, they asked if she would consider serving as club president. And from there, it was on to leadership positions at the district level, culminating with the top one starting July 1.

“I just kept saying yes,” she explained – Rotarians aren’t really supposed to say no – “and that’s how I ended up where I am.”

Her husband, Mike, also likes to answer in the affirmative: He said yes to joining the California Club and, like his wife, also to serving as club president.

Cherie would like to see more saying yes to taking up invitations to attend Rotary meetings as guests and, optimally, becoming members who take the organization’s mission to heart.

“The more givers we have, we’re going to leave the planet better than how it was when we came,” she said. “I feel like whatever I do – personally, work, Rotary – if I can leave something a little better than when I first came to it, that’s important.”

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