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Yearly Success Is No Yawner

Early-morning club makes President’s Distinguished its annual prize.

By Jill Whitmore


Every Friday morning, Curtis Short’s alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m. His first thought at that moment: “What the heck am I doing?” Then he remembers. He’s rising to attend his weekly Toastmasters meeting.

It takes a strong sense of commitment to belong to the Yawn Patrol Toastmasters in Eugene, Oregon. Our group meets at 6:15 a.m. every Friday. But waking early is worth the effort.

“My fellow club members challenge me and they make me excel, even though I still have not achieved anywhere near perfection,” says Short. “By the time 7:45 a.m. comes and the meeting ends, I am like a lion ready to take on any adversity that life can throw at me.”

Such enthusiasm helps explain the club’s consistent success. Yawn Patrol has achieved the President’s Distinguished award the past 11 years in a row. The club culture celebrates self-improvement while also fostering a caring, tight-knit atmosphere.

“I believe the time that the meetings are held – 6:15 a.m. – defines the membership,” says Richard Blackstone, a member since 2004. “People who attend meetings at 6 a.m. are serious about their growth; they are goal-oriented and they know how to seek out positive support for what they are doing. No one is here by coincidence.”

Goals are consistently created by focusing on speeches and projects in the communication and leadership manuals. Jon Davies, a staff psychologist at the University of Oregon, says Toastmasters training has benefited him at work.

“My presentation skills have greatly improved and I no longer sit in terror when I present at conferences,” he says. “I’m more effective in getting my point across to others at work. Additionally, not a week goes by where I don’t share an important point I learned at Yawn Patrol with my clients, trainees or colleagues.” 

Learning From Life Experiences
The speeches given by our fellow club members teach and inspire us. Whether we are hearing about a member embarking on a new career venture, learning how a man found the path to recovery from alcoholism, or listening to the reflections of a middle-aged person who lost his spouse, we are being touched by the life experiences of others.

Yawn Patrol members range in age from the 20s to the 70s. With such a diverse group, opinions differ on many issues – but all members are listened to and every viewpoint is respected.

“I feel our group is enriched by the diversity and the differences between us, and how we treat those differences with respect,” says member Brooks Morse.

While new members are attracted to Yawn Patrol to improve their public speaking, they stay because of the emotional connections and relationships they form. Members are warm, inviting and accepting.

“I keep returning for the people,” says Morse. “Yawn Patrol feels like a healthy, functional family.”

Regardless of the reason for Yawn Patrol’s success, it’s clear that the members are just thankful for the opportunity to laugh, learn and grow together. We all look forward to another 11 years of being a President’s Distinguished Club.

This is a condensed version of an article that will appear in the October issue of the Toastmaster magazine. 

Jill Whitmore is a member of the Yawn Patrol Toastmasters and an operations manager for Pfizer Co. She can be reached at For more information about the Yawn Patrol Toastmasters, visit their website at:

Helpful Hints
Here are some tips to help your club become a Distinguished Club in the coming year:

  1. Club members in line to earn a Competent Communicator award should be given enough speaking opportunities to complete the Competent Communication manual before June 2011.
  2. Identify which club members could earn the CL, ALB, ALS or DTM award in 2010-2011 and work with them to complete award requirements by June 2011.
  3. In order to attract new club members, current members should invite friends, relatives and co-workers to club meetings, and publicize the club whenever possible.
  4. Encourage officers to attend club officer training, which all districts hold twice a year. (The next training session in the 2010-2011 year will be held between December 1 and February 28.)
  5. For a club to achieve recognition, planning and goal-setting are crucial. To help with this, use the Toastmasters Club Success Plan. Learn more about the plan, and how to become a Distinguished Club, by downloading the Distinguished Club Program Manual.

There are also several products on the Toastmasters online store that can help clubs become Distinguished, including:
  • How to Be a Distinguished Club (Item 299)
  • Distinguished Club Program and Club Success Plan (Item 1111)
  • DCP Goals Wall Chart (Item 1111C)