Gary Bennett joined the Rotary Club of Kelowna in 2001. In 2002, he was elected to the Club’s Board of Directors and took on the challenge of being the Director of Fundraising. During his tenure as a member of the Rotary Club of Kelowna, Gary served on numerous committees, serving on an average of four committees per year.
He was President of the club in the 2006 – 2007 Rotary year. That same year, he became the Founding President of the Rotary Club of Kelowna Foundation, a position that he held for seven years.
The Rotary Club of Kelowna had a very good year during his Presidency in 2006-2007; Gary is shown above, on behalf of the Club, accepting the Central Okanagan Foundation’s Volunteer Organization of the Year Award at the Thirty-Second Annual Civic and Community Awards Ceremony at the Grand Hotel in May of 2007. Winning that award would not have been possible without the dedicated service of the members of the club.
In February 2007, the club approved a motion to establish the Rotary Club of Kelowna Foundation. During his seven years as President and the principal fundraiser of the Foundation, not only did the Foundation distribute tens of thousands of dollars into the community to a variety of deserving programs (please see the pictures below), but the investment portfolio under management grew to over $600,000. During Gary’s tenure as President of the Club Foundation, he ensured that all funds disbursed came from private donations destined for immediate use, thus ensuring that funds donated to the Foundation’s Endowment Funds established by the Club and others were left to grow for the benefit of future generations.
The highlights of the 2006 – 2007 year are shown below. They give some idea of what Rotary does and are a testament to a great deal of hard work by many Rotary members in that year.
- Establishing The Rotary Club of Kelowna Foundation,
- Establishing the club website,
- Publishing the ‘Rotary Club Weekly News’,
- Honoring the club ‘Rotarian of the Week’,
- Honoring the club ‘Committee of the Week’,
- Supporting the international Rotary Foundation:
- Aggregate donations for the 2006-2007 Rotary Year of $25,880US – a club record,
- Achieving a member participation rate of 74% – a club record,
- awarding 18 Paul Harris Fellows awards to members – a club record, including:
- eight new Paul Harris Fellows,
- eight multiple Paul Harris Fellows,
- two major donors,
- Supported many international projects including:
- the eradicate polio campaign,
- clean water by establishing wells in Ethiopia and the Amreli Dam in India,
- providing computers for students in Ethiopia,
- contributing to Rotary World Peace Fellowships,
- supported in-coming and out-going Rotary Exchange Students,
- hosted Group Study Exchange team from Chile,
- providing medical equipment for clinics in Chile,
- establishing mobile libraries for Honduras,
- supporting Rotoplast surgeries in Ethiopia,
- supporting the Kenya Water Project,
- Supported the local environment with additional planting at Rotary Marsh,
- Raised money for the Rotary Centre For the Arts,
- Organizing the inaugural Past Presidents Dinner,
- Fundraising over $120,000 by organizing the following campaigns;
- The Pro-Am Golf Tournament,
- The International Wine Exhibition,
- The Car Raffle,
- Sheriffs’ golf tournament,
- Bingo nights at Chances,
- Providing over $29,000 in financial support for local non-profit organizations including:
- $10,000 to the Holding Hands for Hospice Campaign,
- Holding Hands for Hospice,
- Hospice Association,
- Kelowna Community Food Bank,
- Salvation Army,
- Gospel Mission,
- Freedoms Door,
- Reach Out For Youth,
- Royal Canadian Legion,
- Silver Lake Forest Education,
- Cops For Kids,
- Living Positive Resources.
- Financially supporting the club’s Pleasantvale Homes Society:
- paid off their $40,000 mortgage,
- created a $20,000 reserve fund,
- financed $5,800 in renovations,
- provided 900 member volunteered hours,
- Supported many scholarship programs:
- two $1,000 academic scholarships,
- Created the Strive Scholarship Program and awarded 9 – $500 scholarships,
- Created the Vocational Scholarships with Okanagan College and awarded 2 – $5,000 awards,
- Encounters With Canada Bursaries (5 – $200 bursaries),
- Student initiatives:
- Rotaract Club,
- Interact Club,
- Student interviews at KSS,
- Public Speaking Contest for elementary students,
- One To One Literacy Program,
- Lady of the Lake Pageant,
- Provided entertaining weekly meeting programs including:
- RCMP Superintendent,
- Kelowna RCMP Dog Squad
- Remembrance Day,
- UBC Okanagan,
- Club Valentines Day,
- Club History Day,
- Inducted 12 new members,
- Awarded 3 Honorary Memberships,
- Organized several social events including:
- Bocce party,
- Pool Party,
- Let’s Do Lunch,
- Club History Day,
- Chef’s Night Out,
- Christmas Party,
- Family Valentines Day Luncheon,
- Seniors Barbecue,
- Sheriffs’ Soiree,
- Skin to Tee Event,
- District Conference,
- President’s Dinner,
- Was named as the Central Okanagan Foundation’s ‘Volunteer Organization of the Year’ at the 32nd Annual Community Awards.
In May of 2015, Gary suffered a stress-related heart attack and decided to step away from Rotary for a while. In December of 2017, he joined the Sunrise Rotary Club of Kelowna which is a morning club.
A few of the many initiatives supported by the Rotary Club of Kelowna Foundation during Gary Bennett's tenure are shown below.
Several of the community youth initiatives currently supported by The Gary and Maureen Bennett Fund were initiated and, or supported by Gary during his time as President of the Rotary Club of Kelowna and as President of the Rotary Club of Kelowna Foundation.
Gary introduced the concept of the Strive Scholarship for students that have overcome significant challenges to the Club in the fall of 2006. Since that time several hundred students have received this scholarship.
The Gateway Program
Support for The Central School / Okanagan College Gateway Program began with a phone call to Gary from the Strive Scholarship coordinator at Central School. They approached The Rotary Club of Kelowna Foundation for financial support in getting the initiative started. During his tenure as Foundation President, the Foundation consistently provided funds for textbooks and scholarships. These monies were raised from outside funding, again protecting established endowments. Below, two Gateway Graduates and Program Coordinator Rob Law are honored at a Rotary meeting. The Gary Bennett Family Fund, in the Central Okanagan Foundation continues that support today.