Service projects, motorcycles, and Rotary

Karena Beirman

Karena Bierman races vintage motorcycles for a hobby.

By Karena Bierman, a member of the Rotary Club of Evanston Lighthouse, Illinois, USA, and manager of Gift Planning for The Rotary Foundation.

In 2005, a year after I started working at the Rotary Foundation, I worked on a tsunami relief project with a very active Rotarian – Chuck Remen, from the Rotary Club of Evanston Lighthouse.

He convinced me that I ought to be a Rotarian. (Actually, it didn’t take much convincing, because I liked the organization.) Since, I’ve been on the club’s board of directors every year. It’s not something I do because of my job. It’s something I do because my club is awesome.

I’ve come to believe that to gain new members and ensure participation and get Annual Fund contributions, every club needs to be doing some type of project – and not just a local one – through the Foundation. My club has been involved in some great projects, including a Health, Hunger and Humanity Grant to build 20-plus water wells in Nigeria. Bigger projects enable Rotarians to engage with the larger organization.

As a Rotarian and as a staff member at Rotary International, I also welcome the movement to broaden our public image. I think we should be doing more fun stuff, like T-shirts that say “Rotarian at Work.” If you were to see 35- and 45-year-olds wearing one, that would help debunk the myth that we’re an old man’s institution. I think we can take the PR up a notch and have fun with it.

People are often surprised when I tell them my hobby: vintage motorcycle racing. I blame my father for my getting involved in that. He’s a pilot, and I was flying in his airplane from the time I was an infant. When you start that early, you get an itch for adventure and speed, you learn aerodynamics, and it all becomes part of who you are.

My first time on the track was in May 2010, and my first race was a few months later, at the Barber Vintage Festival in Birmingham, Alabama. This past year, I won the national championship in the Historic Production Lightweight division, and was the first woman in the history of the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association to do so. That felt pretty good, especially because the final race that put me over the top was at Daytona International Speedway – yes, that Daytona.

What does Rotary do really well? We adhere to our values. We have a fantastic reputation for fiscal management. We have good transparency and accountability. I work with donors who want Rotary to manage their money after they’re gone. That is a tremendous statement of confidence. It means, “I trust Rotary like a family member.”

Our dedication to polio eradication until the end says a lot about us. It speaks to our commitment to building a better world by serving those who were, quite frankly, born in the wrong place. Whether from the perspective of a club member or a staffer, I always find it amazing that we are able to stay true to our core objectives. It makes me proud to be a Rotarian and to work for Rotary.

Adapted from The Rotarian.  Sign up for the digital edition to see the full story. What do you think Rotary does really well? Tell us below.

2 thoughts on “Service projects, motorcycles, and Rotary

  1. Greetings fellow Rotarian.First,I would like to congratulate you on your noble undertakings. I was a rider before and is so much interested in your project.I am a service director in Rotary Club Makati Poblacion and at present is working on medical ,dental missions for our club. I am a dentist by profession.I read your wonderful write up on motorcycle and is so impressed ..we share the same interest . I’d like to join you in your project..please allow me. Thank you so much . Dr Doremi Sarmiento.


  2. I read your post and was happy in your efforts to eradicated polio and improve /provide water and sanitation to the people in need of it. I will be happy if you could please extend your water and sani
    tation project to Agbiyi Umuede Nkpa, in Bende local Govt, Abia state, Nigeria. They are in need of good water and Road. I can give details on how reach the community.


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