Spotlight on Dennis Dunbar, New President of the Fair Oaks Rotary Club and Strong Community Advocate

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Pictured Above: Dennis aand Gwyneth at Trivia Night

We're pleased to introduce Dennis Dunbar, New President of the Rotary Club of Fair Oaks, in our Business Spotlight Series.

We're spotlighting various merchants in the Fair Oaks Village, as well as individuals who support what FOVEC does, all while giving you a little insight into our history and what we do for the Village. We encourage you to share these local stories and visit with merchants to get to know them firsthand.

We connected with Dennis to learn more about him and his work with the Rotary Club.

What is the Fair Oaks Rotary Club, how would you describe it to a friend?

Rotary International describes itself as is a global network of 1.2 million neighbors, friends, leaders, and problem-solvers who “…see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change – across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves.”

Rotary was founded in 1905 with four members in Chicago, Illinois, making it the oldest service organization in the world. Today, Rotary is composed of over 35,000 Clubs in more than 175 countries. Rotary's people of action have used their passion, energy, and intelligence to take action on sustainable projects. From literacy and peace to water and health, we are always working to better our world, and we stay committed to the end.

The Rotary Club of Fair Oaks was founded in 1946 and is one of over 40 Rotary Clubs in District 5180.  The Clubs in this District stretch, from north to south, from Oroville to Walnut Grove and, from west to east, West Sacramento to El Dorado Hills.  

I emphasize to my family and friends that Rotary is an international service organization that focuses it service projects on improving the lives of people locally in Fair Oaks, as well as in other areas of the world.  

What's something you wish people knew about the Rotary Club?

If more people knew how much fun we have doing our service projects in Fair Oaks and elsewhere in the world, they would join us in an instant. We’re not some stodgy organization that only meets for a meal.

Also, we meet most Mondays at 6:45pm at the Fair Oaks Community Clubhouse.

What is a common question you get about the Club?

Generally, the most common question I get is “…what is Rotary?”

To answer, I have a short spiel about what Rotary is and then I find out if they have an itch the Rotary can scratch. I ask them, “What is your passion?” and that usually gets a great dialogue going.

What's the biggest compliment the Club has received?

The Rotary Club of Fair Oaks has an active membership of over 80 men and women who volunteer their time and energies to improving the lives of people in our communities.

As a result of Club members’ efforts, the Rotary Club of Fair Oaks was named the Best Club in the District for our size from years 2010 to 2013.

In 2013, we were named the top Club in the District. That is high praise that we are very proud of.  

What are some of the local nonprofits, community organizations, and/or causes that you support?

Because of the diversity of service projects we perform we interact with a large number of other organizations.  

We have a youth literacy program that provides reading materials and other supplies to local elementary schools to improve students’ reading skills.

Annually, we sponsor a speech contest and photography contest for high school students in our community to encourage an appreciation of the arts. We also provide vocational mentoring and career fairs to high school students to help them see the opportunities for selecting a career after school and college.

For our community, we put together food baskets for low income families who would not otherwise have holiday dinners in December.

We, in conjunction with the Fair Oaks Recreation and Parks District, staff the Senior Luau at the Fair Oaks Community Center, a Hawaii-themed lunch for senior residents, who always enjoy the food and hula dancers.

We also provide a graduation buffet for women graduating from the Women’s Empowerment program and we participate with those women in mock job interviews to give them the skills to perform successfully in job interviews.

With the Fair Oaks Theater Festival, we participate in the annual Safe Halloween event, which provides a safe alternative to trick-or-treating for younger children and provides books free to the young children who attend the event.

We also participate in two international service projects. For example, in conjunction with the Rotary Club of Los Barillas in Baja, Mexico, we work to provide the local village with safe drinking water. In Baja Sur, we help renovate dormitories at local grade schools.

These examples are just a part of the work we do throughout the year…there are many more examples.

Does the Rotary Club have any upcoming events that people should know about?

Our next big event is our Craft Beer Garden which we run during the Fair Oaks Recreation and Parks District’s Chicken Festival in September.

This is a fundraiser for us where Festival guests purchase tickets to exchange for a taste of local craft beer. This event has been ongoing now for 13 years and puts the FUN in fundraiser.

The Chicken Festival has crafts, music, food, games, and, of course, beer. This should not be missed.

Congratulations on being the newly elected President! What are you most excited about with your new position in the club?

For me, being President of our Club is an honor. I hope to bring a fresh perspective to Club organization and operations so the Club better meets the needs of the community.

By all Rotary measures, the Rotary Club of Fair Oaks is a strong Club, but my goal will be to make it even stronger so we can make a larger impact on lives, both locally and globally.

Every President comes in with ideas and goals they want to implement to help an organization improve. Can you tell us what yours (ideas and goals) are and how they fit in with the Rotary Club’s Mission?

As I prepared for my year as President, I reviewed a lot of background material regarding the administration and operation of the Club. I noticed that some of our processes had not been reviewed in a while.

Consequently, I am going to conduct a Community Assessment Survey to ensure that the problems we tackle now are still the problems that need to be tackled. This analysis will be a comprehensive review of what other organizations in Fair Oaks are working on, what our community citizens would like addressed, and so forth. The idea here is simply to update our understanding of where we could better focus our efforts and money.

The end result of this Analysis will be a comprehensive strategic plan of where we need to take the Club on the next several years to make Fair Oaks a better community. We want to ensure that the Club stays relevant in this time and place.

I am also going to emphasize increasing our member numbers overall and will work on getting younger professionals to join the Club. New and younger members will also give us a fresh perspective of what the Club should be doing.

We conduct three fundraisers each year: our Crab Feed in February, the Chicken Festival Craft Beer Garden in September, and Fair Oaks Uncorked in October.

We have been struggling with diminishing net revenues from these fundraisers over the past couple years. Since we need healthy fundraisers to fund our many projects, we will be reviewing each fundraiser to identify improvements.

Can you tell us about some recent projects that the club has completed?

Our most recent project was the installation of solar photovoltaic panels on the roof of the Orangevale-Fair Oaks Food Bank.

This project was worked in conjunction with the Rotary Club of Orangevale, Grid Alternatives, and SMUD. Rotarians came together to physically install the panels under the watchful eyes for the Grid Alternatives experts.

The project was fun for our members and will save the Food Bank about $50,000 over the next 10 years that it can churn back into its operations, thus making a larger impact for food challenged citizens in Orangevale and Fair Oaks.

What are some projects that are being worked on right now?

Center Point in a transitional facility located in Fair Oaks that provides training to parolees. The house was physically run down, so the Rotary Club of Fair Oaks came together and painted the facility.

The facility is on a large lot that is under-utilized and over-grown. The Rotary Club of Fair Oaks is now waiting for approval of a $10,000 grant to provide landscaping to the property. The design will take advantage of a large area in the back that will be sodded as lawn; BBQs, picnic tables and benches will be installed; and a small playground area will be installed for visiting children.

Our goal with Center Point is to create a more family-friendly environment that will improve the residents’ transition from incarceration to being upstanding members of our community.

In your own words, what is the importance of the Rotary Club for the community?

The Rotary Club of Fair Oaks is a multi-faceted service organization in that it can (and does) tackle a variety of social issues affecting the lives of the citizens of Fair Oaks as well as citizens of the world.

We collaborate with other community leaders to work on projects that have a positive and lasting impact on people’s lives.

For you, what is the importance of FOVEC for the Village community?

I see FOVEC consolidating the talents and efforts of numerous people and organizations to improve the experiences people can have in Fair Oaks Village.

I also see FOVEC making sure there is community buy-in on the enhancement plan to make the Village a viable business district while maintaining the Village’s small town feel.

William mentioned that the Rotary Club will be helping with FOVEC’s Parking project by way of supplying a letter of support to the Grant Funding Program. Can you tell us more about that and why you believe the parking project to be important for the Village?

There is clearly a shortage of parking in the Village given the amount of demand there can be at times.  More parking will, of course, increase the number of people coming into the Village to shop and dine. This will improve businesses operations and make Fair Oaks a destination.

I believe it was the County Board of Supervisors who asked that FOVEC provide letters of support from other stakeholders in the Village to ensure that there was community buy-in for additional parking. The Rotary Club of Fair Oaks is pleased to be able to support this.

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