Sharona R. Nazarian on Becoming Rotary Club President
Q&A Regal Rotarian
How did you first get involved with the Beverly Hills Rotary Club?
Rotary is one of the first service organizations in the world. As Rotarians, we support local and international projects to promote peace, fight disease, home-lessness and hunger. We thrive to pro-mote education and provide clean water wells. That’s just a fraction of what we do.
So all of that really resonated with me, since I’m involved in so many different philanthropic causes. I felt that this was a great way to help and support my com-munity, as well as international causes.
How has the pandemic affected the Rotary Club’s meetings and other operations?
The Pandemic has altered the plans for many people, we’re all embarking on unchartered territory and unusual times that have been challenging for all of us. I love a good challenge so I’m very confident that we’ll get through these difficult times together. I find that this is an opportunity to be creative and think outside of the box.
Our club has met at the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel for almost an entire century now. We’re coming close to celebrating our centennial. While we miss meeting at the hotel, we’ve had to be really creative and innovative and move our meeting to Zoom. So we meet virtually now every Monday from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., just as we have for the past 98 years.
What are some projects the club has been working on?
I have tried to be creative in ways that I can engage with my members and so I’ve created a lot of new programs, commit-tees and various roundtables to keep our members informed, alert and involved. The Long Range Planning Committee, because we want to stay connected, current, relevant and strong for future years to come. We were working on our new website and I noticed that the history of our club is so rich. Like I mentioned, our meetings [have been at the] iconic Beverly Hills Hotel at noon for lunch every Monday since 1944. We have so much to be proud of.
I also created a COVID-19 Task Force that’s headed up by several doctors in our club to keep us abreast of the latest developments regarding the pandemic. [Also] to keep us updated and informed on new developments to ensure our health and safety.
We’ve been working very hard to in-crease our visibility, so we have a brand new, beautiful website – that I invite everyone to go visit, as well as our social media platforms on Instagram and Face-book. They’re all BHRotary, you can go find us at #BHRotary as well.
We have a Good and Welfare Commit-tee now, that tries to celebrate all of our members and the wonderful things that are happening in their lives. We have a Rotary Women’s Roundtable Commit-tee – the platform to get together and discuss issues most relevant to women in the fields of health, politics and social issues. They will identify ways that they can make the most positive change … We also have a [donation] for sanitary napkins for women who live internationally, because they normally don’t have access to those types of items.
We also have the Real Estate Round-table. As a result of the pandemic many property owners, brokers, agents and tenants were affected. For that reason, I thought it would be important to create a Real Estate Roundtable Committee where discussions would be had regarding the latest trends and ways to navigate these challenging times. As well as the Commerce and Business Networking Group, because my motto for this year is to be united as one.
Speaking of your motto for this year – what are your goals as president?
My goal for the new year is to care and support our local community. Basically, community caring for the community as we unite as one. I’d like to set goals to focus on both programs for youth, veteran, the elderly and those displaced from their homes. The most at risk and vulnerable members of our society.
Do you have any events happening soon?
Our Charitable Foundation gave about $150,000 away and that’s money that’s raised through Rotarians and the generosity of Rotarians. We try to support pro-grams, not only that we supported in the past, but also the programs that are immediately affected as a result of COVID. Just recently, we’ve given 10s of thou-sands of dollars away to the Westside YMCA, the Midnight Mission, Hope Street, LA Regional Food Bank, Project Angel Food and Feeding the Soul, just to name a few. We also have our own local charities that we’ve been giving to and continue to give to over the years.
We have about 40 mobile carriers that we support annually. We’re very proud to be able to continue that grant program that we provide. This year, I’m excited to share that through the generosity of one of our members, on the first day of my presidency a $50,000 gift was shared. [This is] one of the largest gifts in the history of our club to be given by one member in one year. And it’s just the be-ginning of the year for us.
I’m very confident that our members are generous and we’re going to continue to support this great work. We’re considered one of the largest clubs in the district and for this reason, during this financially challenging year, we have done everything to maintain all of our members. No membership will be terminated due to financial issues on my watch. This year, my goal is not only to maintain but also to increase our membership by inviting individuals to our club who continue to be leaders in their industry. This year, we have already had three new members join and we have several others that are in the process.
We recently completed a blood drive with Cedars-Sinai in the City of Beverly Hills – right here at City Hall, which made it very convenient for individuals to be able to come and donate blood. We also did free COVID testing for anyone who donated blood. We did reusable masks that were hospital grade fabric for a low-income senior living facility on Crescent Drive, our members and many residents in Beverly Hills. We not only supported the local projects to support first responders, police and fire, but we also created our own new program called Feed the Soul. This was for families who live in Beverly Hills, who live under the poverty line and receive lunch from the school district.
We wanted to purchase a hot meal for these families to enjoy for dinners and we partnered with local restaurants … to be able to provide those meals. We’ve provided almost 1,500 meals to families in Beverly Hills through our local restaurants and we’re very proud of that. That’s something we purchased, we sup-ported and we distributed to the families in need. The 30th, we’re going to have a big celebration and we’re very proud of the work that we did with this project. Additionally, we just purchased hand sanitizers that we’re going to be passing out to our members, homeless shelters and various organizations that are in need of our assistance. We’re just trying to be available where we can be of ser-vice the most.
In Issue #1017 of the Weekly, you said “philanthropy has always been some-thing you’ve been involved in” – even back in high school. Why do you think you’ve been passionate about philanthropy for as long as you have been?
Philanthropy is something that’s very deeply rooted in my upbringing. My dear mother, of blessed memory, would have been so proud to see all the great work that her children have done in the fields of philanthropic arenas. It is because of her that I carry a legacy and the values that she instilled in me. I feel very bless-ed and fortunate to be a part of our wonderful Beverly Hills community. I feel that it’s my duty to give back where I can and I feel very fortunate to have that privilege.
In Issue #1020 of the Weekly, when Michael Lushing had become Rotary Club president, he said he felt it was import-ant for him as a new president to have his own project. He started a partner-ship with Brand-ed Arts, which is a group that creates murals throughout the country and empowers communities through art. Do you also feel it’s import-ant to begin a new project as president?
I think that all presidents have their own initiatives and areas where they want to serve and focus on. I have big shoes to fill with all the wonderful presidents that we’ve had. In my mind, success is best when it’s shared. I’m confident that over the next year, with my amazing Board of Directors [and] the club members by my side, we will be able to share and celebrate many successes together united as one. A lot of the initiatives, roundtables and programs that we have will help facilitate that.
It’s obviously been a hectic time for everyone right now. What’s something that has helped you keep positive?
I try to look at the silver lining in all situations. My family has been a particular source of strength for me. It’s been great to have our children around us. Right now, it’s extremely important to be mindful of your mental health and to stay positive. With their support, that’s what we’ve tried to focus on.
Did you want to add anything?
This is a club for Rotary members. My job is to facilitate the experience and make it as interesting and meaningful as possible. Our call to action is our need for action and compassion as a united one.