Brookline Rotary Club President Susan Rack is brainstorming ways to attract new members for the club. But first, she has her hands full organizing the club’s 22nd Annual Pancake Breakfast, which will be on Saturday, April 2 at Brookline High School.

The breakfast extravaganza will start off at 8AM, and for just $7, everyone is invited to fill their bellies with as many pancakes as a belly can stretch. This collaborative community effort has attracted more than 800 families every year.

Various Brookline businesses donate goods to auction off. For many years IHOP donated the batter and syrup, Stop & Shop donated the sausages, Whole Foods donated the berries, Starbucks donated the coffee, and When Pigs Fly donated the bread. Proceeds will go towards Brookline High School and to the Brookline community.

It’s a fun morning atmosphere that gathers family, friends, and residents to converse beyond simple greetings, eat beside each other, listen to live music, and maybe together dance away the pancake calories. By the end of the event at noon, not only will people leave rubbing their full lucky tummies, but they’ll also walk away with an interest in joining Brookline’s Rotary Club.

Rack said she would like to see the club reflect the demographic of Brookline more.

“Service projects we choose are driven by membership,” she said.

The Brookline Rotary Club is one of 35,000 clubs with 1.2 million members from 200 countries that carry a broad mission to promote peace, fight disease, provide clean water, save mothers and children, support education, and grow local economies. The first rotary club first started in 1905 in Chicago. Many others joined the International Rotary, with Brookline Rotary Club joining in 1938. Just like other clubs, Brookline Rotary Club focuses on servicing its local community while solving global issues.

Rack said that the club is still often misconceived as a white men’s club. The first challenge to increasing diversity began with the Rotary Club in India, when it proposed to ratify deleting the word “male” from the Standard Rotary Club Constitution in 1950 that said membership in Rotary clubs are limited to men. Ever since then, proposals to admit women into membership followed. As more women held high positions, the push for women members in Rotary clubs became even greater.

In 1977, a Rotary Club in Duarte, California admitted women into membership and lost its membership to the Rotary International, but was later reinstated in September 1986. Shortly thereafter, in May 1987 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Rotary clubs may not exclude membership to women because of gender. The Rotary Club in Duarte was then the first to have a woman president. By 1989 Rotary clubs around the world welcomed women. By June 1990, there were 20,200 women rotarians in the world, and in July 1995 eight women held district governor roles and other high ranked Rotary roles in the following years.

Rotary clubs have also become more diverse regarding new ideas on servicing local and worldwide communities. Rotary International even has a Member Diversity Assessment sheet for clubs to review, which in it says “Having members with different backgrounds and viewpoints gives your club a broader understanding of the community, its problems, and possible solutions.”

Since members choose service projects, Rack said it’s important that the club strives to reflect Brookline.

“We would love to have the Rotary reflect the demographic of the community,” she said.

The Brookline Rotary Club is currently made up of an equal ratio of females and males. The age range of the group is from ages 35 to 64, with 37 percent ranging from 50 to 60 years old, 37 percent ranging from 65 to 79 years old, and 11 percent ranging from 35 to 49. The club is made up of mostly whites and 11 percent minorities.

To help break out of the “white men’s club” mold, she said she’s looking for someone to help with social media. “We’re not good at publicizing this stuff,” Rack said.

Brookline’s population has 59 percent of residents who are between the ages 20 to 29 years old, according the Brookline Economic Development Division, citing from a 2010 Census in its Vibrancy Study.

The service club fundraises for local charities and organizations such as the Brookline Community Foundation, Brookline Hub Teen Awards, and schools. Members have facilitated conversations in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes for the Friends of the Brookline Public Library. They have flipped burgers at Freshman BBQ events for the Brookline High School. They’ve helped the Brookline food pantry, supported teen centers, provided backpacks for high schoolers, placed sitting benches in high school quads, and volunteered at the Brookline Health Center – just to name a few. Along with the Boston University Rotaract, the club partakes in several exchange programs as part of its global peace mission, housing foreign working professionals so they can explore the western lifestyle up close.

“There’s less of a chance that someone is going to go into war with someone they know,” Rack said.

Members not only help with the clubs ongoing work, but they can choose their projects as long as it’s within the club’s broad mission. For example, Bo Winiker, 63, is a 38 year-long Brookline Rotary member, and is working on his biggest project with the Rotary club and the Brookline Community Foundation. He’s raising scholarship money for Brookline High School students who can’t pay for higher education.

Ever since he started fundraising in January, he’s raised $25,000 by March 5 and hopes to reach $100,000 by May 15.

Each day he spends six hours calling people for donations; that’s time aside from being with his family and working as a full-time musician for 53 years now. He performs with his band playing the trumpet about five nights a week. He’s played at the White House for two presidential inaugurations, been a soloist with New York Philharmonic Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra, and recorded a sound track with Billy Joel. In the past he’s conducted the Baker School Jazz band for ten years.

“I was giving back to the community and the school that taught my children. I was so grateful to the school and the community that I wanted to show my appreciation,” he said.

Although he notes that he’s fortunate to live his dream of being a professional musician, he said that “doing good deeds is the way to a much happier life.” It’s what his mom instilled in him and his brother since he was a child.

Heavily involved in the Brookline community, he has helped with the Brookline Rotary Club with fundraisers, and like every year, he will be performing at the Brookline Rotary Club’s Annual Pancake Breakfast for all those pancake lovers. He could be playing anything from ragtime, to swing, to classic rock and roll, and to today’s top 40 hits.

Before her presidential term ends this year, Rack said she hopes to make the club more diverse because to efficiently service the Brookline community, it depends on the ongoing service projects, like the club’s fundraiser Chocolate Extravaganza and Brookline Dance Stars events, and the members chosen projects. It’s reassuring that Brookline is in good hands with all that the Rotary club does, especially when Rack sees why members care to help.

“They don’t do it because of the publicity, they do it because it’s the right thing to do,” Rack said.

By Vekonda Luangaphay

Event info:

The Brookline Rotary Club’s annual Pancake Breakfast

Time: 8AM To Noon

Date: Saturday, April 2, 2016

Where: Brookline High School, 115 Greenough St

Ticket info: $7 per person. Children ages 5 and under have free admission.

Purchase online or at door.

To help Bo Winiker raise $100,000 scholarship money for BHS:

Make checks out to “BCF,” with “Rotary Club/Bo Winiker” in the memo line, and mail to BCF/ 40 Webster Place/ Brookline, MA 02445, or go online at and note “Rotary Club/Bo Winiker” in the comment/special instruction box.