COOS BAY — Rotarians from District 5110 descended on Coos Bay this past weekend for the annual Rotary District Conference, an event that drew almost 400 Rotarians from 66 clubs from the southern two-thirds of Oregon and the Yreka area of Northern California.

Rotarians spent time at The Mill Casino-Hotel & RV Park where they listened to speakers, enjoyed meals and social time and attended break-out sessions on this year's topic of Peace and Conflict Resolution. 

From left, Paul K. Chappell, Jack Swickard and Rick Francona take part in a panel discussion at the Rotary District 5110 Conference at the Mil…

District Governor Bill Grile of the Coos Bay-North Bend Rotary Club, helped choose speakers with different perspectives on how to achieve peace. Some were made through friendships with former enemies, such as Jack Swickard and Dinh Ngoc Truc, who both fought in Vietnam - but on different sides - and later became friends. Lt. Colonel Rick Francona, a retired U.S. Air Force intelligence officer, Middle East expert and veteran of Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and the Balkans, asked the question "What is peace?" and participated in a panel discussion. Francona lives in Port Orford and is president of the the E-Club of the State of Jefferson. 

Speaker Paul K. Chappell, an international peace educator and Peace Literary Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, talked of the need to teach in schools a provably effective skill set for conflict resolution to children. "Wage peace," Chappell urged. "Lead by example, listen and respect others." 

Rotarians also learned of other ongoing projects that promote peace both nationally and internationally. Rotary projects provide training that fosters understanding and provides communities with the skills to resolve conflicts. Through service projects, peace fellowships and scholarships, Rotary members are taking action to address the underlying causes of conflict, including poverty, inequality, ethnic tension, lack of access to education, and unequal distribution of resources.

Rotary District 5110 Governor Bill Grile addresses the audience at the annual conference in Coos Bay last weekend.

It wasn't all serious business, however. Rotarians enjoyed taking the new Coos Bay trolley to visit the Coos Bay Wine Walk, the Coos Bay Downtown Association's Treasure Hunt, water cruises and dockside tours through the weekend. Many took a tour on the tall ships Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftan on Sunday morning.

Youth were involved as well. Both Interact (high school age) and Rotaract (college age) students attended the conference. Another group of students were part of a Rotary international exchange student program, both outgoing and incoming.

The District also welcomed the 2019 Group Study Exchange Team - a group of young leaders from Israel who have been meeting with District 5110 clubs. 

Three Interact Club members received scholarships after winning the Rotary 4-Way Test Speech Contest. Teal Hamner, a senior at North Bend High School won first place and a $3,500 scholarship for his speech based on how his 4-H experience has shaped his life over the years.

"We started planning this conference three years ago and knew Coos Bay-North Bend and The Mill Casino would be the perfect venue to offer a great weekend for District 5110," Grile said. "We were right, thanks to great leadership and delivery by conference co-chairs Steve Schneiderman and Amy Bailey, and a couple dozen dedicated volunteer Rotarians from local clubs."

Former Vietnam People's Army member Dinh Ngoc Truc waves to the audience after being introduced at the Rotary District Conference in Coos Bay.

"Throughout the weekend, attendees have been telling me this was the best District Conference they’ve ever attended," Grile said. "That’s what we hoped to hear. I can’t quantify the economic impact to our community but having all these Rotarians in town enjoying our area, downtown and the visiting tall ships was great. I understand Friday evening’s Wine Walk participation was larger than usual. Rotarians sold out the two tall ships for cruises Sunday morning."

Throughout the conference, different Rotarians were honored for their service and dedication to this year's theme, "Be The Inspiration." 

"On a personal note," Grile added, "Serving as our District Governor this year is one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever been privileged to do. Rotary changes lives. It has mine."

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Bandon Western World Editor Amy Moss Strong can be reached at 541-347-2423, ext. 305, or by email at amy.moss-strong@theworldlink.com. Follow Bandon Western World on Facebook.