June 17, 2024: President Transition Event (6:00 PM at Athentic Brewing)

We will not be having our regularly scheduled 12 PM meeting on Monday 6/17. Instead, we will hold our President Transition Event at 6 PM in the private event space at Athentic Brewing. There will be a food truck available.

Thank you to Jeff Auerbach for all of his hard work and leadership over the last year and best wishes to Jordan Bowen for a successful 2024-25 Rotary year.

June 10,2024: Tommy Valentine, Executive Director -- Historic Athens

Tommy Valentine, PhD, serves as the Executive Director of Historic Athens. A UGA "Triple Dawg", he holds three degrees from the University of Georgia's School of Public & International Affairs. A proud K-12 graduate of Clarke County School District, he attended Gaines, Hilsman, and Cedar Shoals. He earned Georgia Trend 40 Under 40 in 2021 and Athens Gamechanger in 2023.

Since 2018, Tommy has led transformative efforts at Historic Athens, including passing the West Downtown Historic District, securing $5.5M for local preservation projects, expanding education and community engagement programming, launching the award-winning Historic Athens Porchfest festival, and expanding preservation work for low-income homeowners, resulting in a $200k annual effort to maintain historic properties and preventing displacement of residents, mainly seniors.

Tommy's diverse background includes a decade as an award-winning hip-hop artist, Eagle Scout, 25 years of managerial experience in public and private sectors, and Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt certification. His top priorities are family and making a positive contribution to his hometown of Athens, Georgia.

Historic Athens is a 501(c)(3) non-profit working to celebrate and conserve community heritage in Athens, Georgia. For over 55 years, we have worked to improve historic preservation and heritage conservation in the Athens area. Founded as Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation in 1967, our mission is to be a proactive force in developing community-wide understanding of the value of historic buildings, neighborhoods, and heritage.

June 3, 2024: Gracelyn Thrash, Sr. Development Manager & Sarah Jones, Relay For Life Event Lead

Gracelyn Thrash & Sarah Jones will be joining us from the American Cancer Society as they kick off registration on 6/3/24 for next year's Relay For Life Event on 4/18/25 from 6-10 PM at Oconee Middle School.

Gracelyn is currently the Senior Development Manager for the American Cancer Society managing 10 counties in Northeast Georgia and several Relay For Life events.

Sarah has served on the event leadership team for Greater Athens Area Relay For Life since 2021. She works at Cannon Financial Institute and recently graduated from the LEAD Athens Program as part of their 2023-24 class.

The vision of the American Cancer Society is to end cancer as we know it, for everyone. They strive to improve the lives of people with cancer and their families through advocacy, research, and patient support to ensure everyone has an opportunity to prevent, detect, treat, and survive cancer.

May 20, 2024: Lauren Towe, Program Manager -- Concrete Jungle (Athens Branch)

The idea for Concrete Jungle was born in 2006 when Craig Durkin, Aubrey Daniels, and their friends searched for apple trees growing in Atlanta in order to harvest and press the apples for a Ciderfest and decided to share with families in need. Through fruit picks, farm days, adventure picks, and produce education classes, Concrete Jungle continues to grow and strive to make sure all families can access and enjoy fresh produce. In 2016, Concrete Jungle became a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and began their Adventure Picks Program - rescuing fruits and veggies from farms and orchards. In 2019, Concrete Jungle began harvesting produce in its first branch city of Athens, GA.

Lauren Towe is the Program Manager for our Athens branch. With UGA at its center, Athens can be a bit of a transitory town. But Lauren is one of those rare lifelong Athens natives and her roots go deep in this community. As Program Manager, Lauren really does it all. She manages volunteers on the ground, scouts local fruit trees, maintains relationships with our partners at UGArden and Campus Kitchen, and coordinates farmers' market and grocery collections, among a thousand other things. She first got involved with CJ in the early stages of the pandemic in 2020. She told us about her journey saying, “I was looking for something where I could meet people, get outside, and give back to the community. Concrete Jungle fit all of those things for me. I became a pick leader. And then I became the program associate. Then I became the program manager. So it was a perfect timeline over the course of just a few years, and I’ve loved every part of it.” Lauren has thought about her relationship to food for a long time, becoming a vegetarian at a young age. In her childhood, she would often visit her grandmother’s garden in South Carolina, where she grew up among the tomatoes, squash, okra, green beans, apple trees, and blueberry bushes. She’s fortunate to have always known the joy of homegrown food. But her connection to the local food community bloomed out of her experiences at the University of Georgia, studying ecology and sustainability. We asked for her favorite thing about CJ, and she said, “My favorite thing has to be connecting people with plants and their surroundings. Introducing people to new fruits is so cool. Like when the volunteers try a fig for the very first time while they’re on a pick with us – I think that is just such a great bonding experience.”

May 13, 2024: John L. Cleaveland, Artist

John L. Cleaveland Jr. is a contemporary artist who lives and works in Farmington, Georgia. Known for his breathtakingly realistic oil paintings, John offers viewers a timeless glimpse into iconic Southern scenes as well as vast pastoral expanses of the United States, Europe, and Southeast Asia. 

Mr. Cleaveland received his BFA from the University of Georgia and held a Graduate Assistantship in the UGA Study Abroad Program in Cortona, Italy. He has exhibited his work at the Huntsville Museum of Art, the Albany Museum of Art, Blue Spiral 1 Gallery, University of Georgia, Madison Morgan Cultural Center, Lyndon House Art Center, and the Missouri State Botanical Gardens. His paintings are in the permanent collections of the Asheville Art Museum, the UGA State Botanical Garden of Georgia, the Combat Art Collection at the U.S. Marine Corps Museum, the Morris Museum of Art, 3-M Company, Bessemer Trust, and the Alabama Power Company.

May 6, 2024: Susan Schafer, Probate Court Judge -- Athens-Clarke County

The honorable Judge Susan Schafer will explain the different types of law that the Probate Court handles, discuss the importance of having a will, powers of attorney, and advanced directives.

Judge Susan Schaffer’s almost 30-year legal career has been devoted to serving the public interest. After obtaining her undergraduate degree from Boston University and earning her Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Memphis School of Law, she started out as a legal services attorney, representing rural lower income clients in civil legal matters. After 6 ½ years, the last 4 of which having been spent with Georgia Legal Services Program, she moved to Athens in 2001 and served for 13 1/2 years as the Managing Attorney for the University of Georgia School of Law Family Violence Clinic (now known as the Jane W. Wilson Family Justice Clinic), teaching students and providing legal representation to indigent survivors of domestic violence and their children. For 6 years she served under former Judge Susan Tate as Staff Attorney, Pro Hac Vice Judge and Chief Clerk of the Athens-Clarke County Probate Court prior to taking office as Probate Judge of Athens-Clarke County in January of 2021. 

April 29, 2024: Rashe Malcolm, Owner -- Rashe's Cuisine & Farm To Neighborhood

Ms. Malcolm has always supported small businesses, mentoring entrepreneurs. She currently serves on the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and is chairman of the Clarke County Industrial Development Authority. She also serves as an advisor to the board of the Food Truck Association of Georgia and worked to pass legislation that allows reciprocity between counties for food truck licensure.

Rashe is founding director of Farm to Neighborhood, Inc., which partners with local farmers to create a community where all residents in Athens-Clarke County have access to delicious, nutritious, and affordable food choices. Rashe is also the founder of the Culinary Kitchen of Athens, which supports culinary entrepreneurs as they start and grow their businesses.

Rashe is a U.S. Army veteran, business owner, property owner, non-profit director, mentor to entrepreneurs, wife, mom to four, grandma to one! Her passion comes from a love of Athens and an awe for those who share the dream that this community – as great as it is – can be better. She is committed to listening to and problem solving with residents of District 6 to build on these collective dreams for Athens.


April 22, 2024: Janet Estrada, Life Coach & Realtor

Janet is a self-described Athens-enthusiast and, professionally, is a life coach and realtor. She will be speaking to us about creating authentic connections through networking. Janet is a passionate and intuitive coach with a deep-rooted desire to see others succeed.

She says that teaching and coaching have always been a natural part of who she is, building on the knack she has for understanding where people are in their journey and guiding them towards their desired destinations.

She has a strong belief that asking the right questions holds the key to unlocking answers and potential.


April 15, 2024: Dr. Victor Thompson, Director -- UGA Lab of Archaeology

Dr. Victor Thompson studies significant transitions in human history, specializing in the application of archaeological science to the study of collective social formations and the historical ecology of wetland and coastal environments. In the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts, his recent research focuses on socioecological histories and indicators to achieve high resolution, localized histories of human-climate dynamics. More broadly, his work centers on the nature of indigenous governance by addressing cases that demonstrate the variability in the forms that democratic institutions might take. He is also engaged with NAGPRA (Native American Graves and Repatriation Act), to make sure that ancestors cared for by UGA are treated respectfully and repatriated to their descendent communities.

Dr. Victor Thompson will tour us through UGA's Lab of Archaeology.

Directions to the LAB::
The name of the small road that the Laboratory is located on, East Whitehall Road, does not register in many GIS navigation systems. By searching 1055 Whitehall Road, GIS navigation apps will provide directions to the turn onto East Whitehall Road where the Laboratory is immediately located. A sign for the Laboratory is right beside the road to help direct visitors. There is plenty of parking on site in front of and along the side of the building. 


April 8, 2024 -- Drew Vandenberg, Owner -- Vandenberg Industries

Mr. Vandenberg will speak to us about the current state of the Athens music industry, the work by his recording studio, Vandenberg Industries, and his work with Athens Resonates, which is a group of Georgia-based creative businesses who have come together to raise money and awareness for Nuci's Space and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Athens' Music Makers Program by recording live bands and then pressing the songs to a 7" record.

Drew had a realization that "recording engineer" was a career when he was 15 years old from reading it on the liner notes of a CD, and in that moment decided that’s what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. He got an internship at Chase Park Transduction in Athens, GA when he was 16, and then went to college at Indiana University where he received a B.S. in Recording Arts. He’s been working on records with people ever since. He currently resides in Athens, GA with his incandescent wife Catherine.

April 1, 2024: Heather McElroy, Realtor -- Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices

Heather began working in the real estate industry in Athens in early 2002 while in college and became licensed in the Spring of 2004. She is a graduate of the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Science from the College of Family and Consumer Sciences majoring in Consumer Economics. She received her Broker’s license in 2007 and has continued her education, earning several designations along the way, including Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR), e-Pro, Graduate REALTOR Institute (GRI), Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) and At Home with Diversity (AHWD). She lives in Athens with her husband, Jon and their 2 daughters. Jon is a Lieutenant with the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office warrant division but also holds an active real estate license assisting Heather on his days off to ensure a seamless transaction. Heather has served on the Board of Directors for a number of local non-profits and volunteers at her church and girls’ school. She loves to travel, especially somewhere tropical, and ride bikes with her family. Her philosophy of providing top-notch service to her clients has afforded her loyalty and referrals from past clients for years. She genuinely believes in assisting her clients in making the most financially sound decision for their individual needs.

March 25, 2024: Laura Iyer, Steering Committee - Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action Group

Our very own Laura Iyer is on the steering committee for the Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action Group's "Million Solar Panel Challenge" initiative and works on tangible ways for local Rotary clubs to get involved.

The Million Solar Panel Challenge is a global endeavor that aims to promote renewable energy by encouraging Rotarians to install one million solar panels worldwide. Through this initiative, Rotary clubs are mobilized to support solar panel installation in their communities, including their homes and businesses, and through the work they do through grants from their club, district, and Rotary International. The challenge hopes to inspire practices across communities, demonstrating Rotary's commitment to environmental stewardship. By harnessing the power of the sun, the challenge is a path towards a clean and sustainable future, making a significant step in Rotary's journey towards Protecting the Environment.

March 18, 2024: Abbie Sawyer, Commercial Recycling Specialist -- ACC Solid Waste

Ms. Sawyer has worked for ACC since 2018 and stepped into her current position in 2023 to help the community reduce waste and preserve natural resources. Abbie graduated from UGA in 2020 with a degree in Ecology and certificates in Geographic Information Science and Urban & Metropolitan Studies. She is an artist and nature lover in her free time.

ACC Recycling Division's goal is to work with the Athens community to create a culture of zero-waste by encouraging proper management of discarded items, educating the public on waste minimization practices, and providing alternative methods of disposal that prolong an item's lifespan. ACC is proud to offer single-stream recycling, the Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials, composting, and re-use programs to residents in the area.

March 11, 2024: Eric NeSmith, Publisher & Partner -- Bitter Southerner Magazine

Mr. NeSmith has been the Publisher as well as a Partner at The Bitter Southerner online magazine since 2016. He is also the Vice President of Community Newspapers, Inc., a position he has held since 2013. Eric is a 2002 graduate of The Grady College of Journalism at UGA.

The Bitter Southerner has a single aim: to uncover the American South in all its truth and complexity -- and in the process to break stereotypes abut the region and its people by pushing out important, difficult, uncomfortable, irreverent, witty, and addictive stories online. It's work is intended to keep the region honest, inspired, and moving forward. The publishing arm at BS Publishing works to do the same through new books and the full-format, print magazine.

March 4, 2024: Eric Novak, General Operations -- Athens YWCO

A graduate of both West Texas A&M University and The University of Georgia, Mr. Novak is in charge of general operations at the Athens YWCO. He is primarily responsible for the implementation of new and current policies and procedures, creating a positive customer experience, and developing effective communication strategies for his staff. Prior to the YWCO, Eric had experience with local organizations including Golden Pantry, VanKirk Electric, and UGA.

February 26,2024: Scott Long, Executive Director & Jason Perry, President -- Bike Athens

Scott Long became the Executive Director of Bike Athens in August 2019. He joined the staff as Program Director in September 2018 after having volunteered nearly 2,000 hours since 2015. In February 2016, Scott started "Fix Your Own Bike" sessions on Thursday nights as a way to expand programming at the shop. His involvement with Bike Athens combines two passions -- bike mechanics and nonprofit administration. Scott holds a Master of Public Administration degree from UGA and is a League Cycling instructor.

President and Board Member Jason Perry has been involved with Bike Athens since 2008. also having served as volunteer shop manager and shop council member. By trade, he is a mechanical engineer and certified energy manager, working in the UGA Office of Utility and Emergy Management. Jason is also a League Cycling instructor and loves teaching beginner cyclists how to ride. He believes in making it possible for anyone who wants a bike to get one because bikes can change lives.

February 19, 2024: Emmanuel Stone, Strategic Partnerships Director -- Athens Land Trust

Mr. Stone joined Athens Land Trust as Strategic Partnerships Director in February 2023. He previously served as Sous Chef at The National, Manager of the West Broad Farmers Market, as well as Community Chef and Culinary Arts Coordinator at Clarke County School District.

February 12, 2024: Susanna Malmgren, UGA Student -- Georgia Rotary Student Program

We look forward to hearing from Susanna Malmgren from Sweden, our current sponsored student in the Georgia Rotary Student Program. She'll be speaking to us about her experiences in the program so far as well as her background, studies, and future plans.

February 5, 2024: Savie Rochanasmita Arnold, Owner -- Sweetie Pie

Savie Arnold is the owner of the East side bakery, Sweetie Pie by Savie. After earning her PhD in Science Education in Thailand, Savie and her husband, Speedy, relocated back to Athens where they had met years earlier while Savie was conducting PhD research. While completing her PhD in Bangkok, Savie continued the love for baking she had discovered while in the United States and it soon became a small home business. Upon returning to Athens, Savie spent some time working at Dondero's before opening Sweetie Pie in July 2015. The bakery's cakes and baked goods are known for their perfect level of sweetness and distinctive flavors, including Asian ingredients and spices.

January 29, 2024: Corey Watson, Complex Manager -- Pilgrim's Pride

Mr. Watson is the Complex Manager for the local Pilgrim's Pride facility.

Pilgrim's is a leading global provider of high-quality food products, including well-recognized brands and value-added premium products. As one of the world's largest poultry producers and a fully integrated pork producer, Pilgrim's has provided wholesome, quality products to customers and consumers for more than 70 years.

Their 58,000 staff provide more than 133 million daily servings of protein to retailers, restaurants, and food service providers around the world. They have 66 facilities in 14 U.S. states as well as Puerto Rico, Mexico, the U.K., and Europe. Pilgrim's partners with 4,900 family poultry farms and 6,300 family hog farms.

January 22, 2024: Wesley Mellina, CEO -- Athens Community Career Academy

Wesley Mellina is the CEO of the Athens Community Career Academy. Wesley’s 15-plus years in the hospitality industry and experience in secondary education equipped him with a skill set and passion for youth workforce development and Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education. 

Following his move to Athens with his wife Jennifer in 2015, Wesley joined the Clarke Central High School staff, where he coordinated the school’s Work-Based Learning Program and developed a summer program that focused on helping middle school students successfully transition to high school. In 2018, Wesley became the Clarke County School District Workforce Development Coordinator.  In this role, he coordinated the Work-Based Learning Program for the Clarke County School District.  Additionally, he led career readiness programming, collaborated with business and industry partners in the Athens area to develop the Advanced Manufacturing and Welding Pathway, co-wrote grants that resulted in awards of over $210,000 for lab equipment at the Athens Community Career Academy, and developed an educator externship program.  

Since becoming CEO in 2022, Wesley has focused on developing pathways that align with high-demand workforce needs in the Athens area, increasing opportunities for students to earn industry-recognized certifications, and beginning a Youth Apprentice Program. A CNA, Certified Phlebotomy Technician, and a Caterpillar Youth Apprentice Program kicked off in the 2023-2024 school year and Wesley is currently working closely with Athens-Clarke County Economic Development and Athens area employers to develop Bio-manufacturing, Firefighter/EMT, and Entertainment, Sports, and Event Management pathways to begin in the 2024-2025 school year.

Wesley is an avid Braves baseball fan and enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time outdoors with his wife, Jennifer, daughter, Bailey, and two Golden Retrievers, Maddux and Bobby Cox.

January 15, 2024: Dr. Kaitlyn Casulli, Assistant Professor of Food Science & Technology

Dr. Kaitlyn Casulli is an Assistant Professor and Extension Process Specialist at University of Georgia with expertise in microbial inactivation and risk modeling. Prior to joining UGA in January 2022, Kaitlyn was a doctoral fellow at Michigan State University. Her research program broadly encompasses developing mathematical models for process validation. Her extension activities have included assisting companies with process validation and delivering workshops to industry and government learners on topics such as developing food safety plans and starting a new brewery. She currently leads a newly formed USDA-funded center, the Value-addition Institute for Business Expansion, with the goal of supporting small business development in rural Georgia. When not at work, Kaitlyn enjoys visiting breweries with her dog, Porter.

January 8, 2024: Charlie Mustard -- Head Coffee Roaster, Jittery Joe's

Charlie Mustard has been the head roaster for Jittery Joe's since their early days when they first began roasting their own coffee. Not originally from Athens, coffee roasting wasn't always in the plans for Charlie. While working on his Master's thesis at UGA, Charlie spent a lot of time at the then new coffee shop in town, Jittery Joe's. He got to know the two brothers that started the shop and happened to hear them discussing roasting their own beans rather than continuing to outsource them. Charlie offered to help them out and roast for them as long as he could get all the free coffee he wanted. With no prior experience in the industry, he immediately began to research how to roast coffee, pulling from his background in Chemistry. More than twenty years later, he still has an ever-growing passion for his craft and Jittery Joe's.

December 18,2023: Club Assembly

This week's meeting is the annual Club Assembly. Come prepared to share your ideas and feedback.

December 11, 2023: No Meeting This Week due to Holiday Party

There is no meeting this week since we will be holding our Annual Holiday Party on Tuesday, December 12 at 6:00 PM at Epting Events, 1055 Barber St. in Athens. Don't forget to bring your naughty or nice gift for the White Elephant Gift Exchange (no more than $20 value, please).

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