Rise and Shine

Rise and Shine

Early-morning club achieves
President’s Distinguished 11 years in a row.

By Jill Whitmore, CC, CL

Caption: The Yawn Patrol Toastmasters, of Eugene, Oregon, has consistently earned President's Distinguished. Some of the club members are (standing, from left to right): Guy Avenell, Richard Blackstone, Anne Summers, John Fentress, Jhea-Whan Hong, MAx Fabry and Jaehyung Oh; seated is Jed Reay.

Every Friday morning, Curtis Short’s alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m., reminding him it’s time to get up. His first reaction that moment is bleary-eyed confusion. Then his mind begins to make sense of things. “Oh yeah, it’s Friday – Toastmasters. Maybe I can just skip it this time.... No, I signed up as an evaluator; I am committed.”

Indeed, it takes a strong sense of commitment to belong to the Yawn Patrol club in Eugene, Oregon. Our group meets at 6:15 a.m. every Friday. Though it may be a struggle when the alarm clock first blares, attending the meetings is always worth the effort.

“By 5:30 a.m. or so, I’m helping to set up the meeting room and the blood is by now pumping through my veins,” says Short. “I‘m alive and can hardly wait for the meeting to start.”

Such enthusiasm helps explain why our club inspires great loyalty and success among its members. Yawn Patrol has achieved the President’s Distinguished Club Award for the past 11 years in a row.

This is an accomplishment we are very proud of. According to Toastmasters International World Headquarters, only one percent of the organization’s more than 12,500 clubs around the world have achieved the President’s Distinguished award consecutively since 2003–2004.

Perhaps the greatest reason for Yawn Patrol’s success is the club culture, which celebrates discipline and goal-setting 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.”

Focusing on speeches and projects in the Toastmasters communication and leadership manuals gives members goals to achieve with each club meeting. Jon Davies, a staff psychologist at the University of Oregon, says he’s seen the benefits of Toastmasters in his work.

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

Yawn Patrol members push each other – but with encouragement and support.

“My fellow club members challenge me and they make me excel, even though I still have not achieved anywhere near perfection,” says Short, a former club president. “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.”

Yawn Patrol member Teo Wences, a real estate agent in Eugene, was once asked by a family member if she had to attend that Friday’s club meeting. “I don’t have to go,” Wences replied. “I love to go and feel loved there.” 

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. We grow as people because of it.

“In this day and age a lot of people are waking up to the understanding that personal growth is really what life is about,” says member Cristi Cubito.

Another positive aspect of Yawn Patrol is the diversity of the membership. Three of our most active members were born outside the United States – in Poland, Korea and Mexico. This gives our meetings an international flavor. There is also a diversity of experience. While there is a nucleus of Toastmasters veterans, new members start every month.

“It seems that club members invite new people who can easily benefit from Toastmasters,” says member Ruth Kuehl.

Yawn Patrol, which was founded in 1964, has 30 members. They range in age from people in their late 20s to those in their 70s. With such a diverse group, not everyone’s opinion is the same on every issue. 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.

Perhaps one reason the club has such a positive, nurturing environment, notes Jon Davies, is that its members include counselors, social workers, psychologists and doctors. 

Sharing the Stage
Members are quick to volunteer for the different meeting roles and are willing to fill in when last-minute changes affect the schedule. Additionally, Yawn Patrol makes sure there is no competition for speaking time: The stage is large enough for everyone. The club ensures that new members get plenty of opportunities to build their skills, receive valuable feedback and receive recognition for their commitment and contributions. The Bob Hunt Memorial Award, named for a former club leader, is an annual honor that acknowledges one member’s contributions to the club that exceeds expectations

Humor is also ingrained into the Yawn Patrol meetings. It’s shown in the banter among club members as well as the prepared humorous speeches. For example, Ken Harris recently delivered a side-splitting speech about boldly assuming all household duties after he was laid off from work. He took us through a day of washing clothes and fixing a spaghetti dinner. However, things became harried as Ken spilled spaghetti sauce – and slipped in it. Which was precisely when his wife returned home and said, “What’s for dinner, honey?”

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.”

Davies, the university psychologist, says being part of the club broadens his perspective and benefits him in many ways: “Most importantly, I feel a greater sense of purpose in my life. I feel a close bond with the other members, and I am personally touched and enriched by the stories I hear.”

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

Jill Whitmore, CC, CL, is a member of the Yawn Patrol Toastmasters and an operations manager for Pfizer Co. She can be reached at jill.whitmore@gmail.com

Why You Should Care About the Distinguished Club Program

By Joe McCleskey

If you’ve been a member for more than a few months, chances are you’ve heard of the Distinguished Club Program, or DCP. You may also know that each year, clubs that perform well in the DCP are recognized for their efforts and can proudly display a Distinguished, Select Distinguished or President’s Distinguished ribbon on their club banner. But what’s in it for you, the individual member?

Here’s why focusing on your club’s performance in the DCP should matter to every Toastmasters member: 

•  The DCP promotes club quality. Clubs that perform well in the DCP provide a higher-quality club experience for all of its members. Each aspect of the DCP, from membership to education awards to club officer training, is designed to enhance and reinforce the enjoyment and supportive atmosphere for each member, every time the club meets. 

•  The DCP ensures productive meetings. Focusing on the educational goals of the DCP will keep members moving through the education program. When people earn communication and leadership awards, they gain much more than just a certificate or points toward the DCP; they gain the satisfaction and confidence that comes from completing a goal. They also provide an inspirational example for other club members, who can see the transformation that has occurred as a direct result of Toastmasters training. Other aspects of the DCP help keep meetings productive, too. Keeping club membership at or above 20, for example, will fill club meeting roles and maintain the energy level needed for a successful meeting. 

•  The DCP provides structure and guidance. Clubs that perform well in the DCP always know who should be doing what and when they should be doing it. The club officer training requirements of the DCP, for example, help to ensure that club business is conducted fairly, efficiently and in accordance with Toastmasters policy. Similarly, the educational goals of the DCP provide direction and incentive for all members to achieve individually as well as collectively. 

•  The DCP increases the enthusiasm of the club. The goal is not for clubs to compete against one another; it’s for all clubs to strive to achieve the same standards of excellence. Nonetheless, striving for achievement in the DCP is a way to engage the spirit of friendly competition that can help motivate club members to perform their duties with gusto.

So remember: When you work hard to help your club achieve in the DCP, you’re not only helping your club – you’re helping yourself as well. 

Joe McCleskey is the Manager of Educational Development at Toastmasters World Headquarters in Rancho Santa Margarita, California.

Overcoming Adversity 

How a determined club attained President’s Distinguished status. 

By Stuart Gorin, DTM

It has not been easy for the Viera/Suntree Toastmasters club in Melbourne, Florida. Reduced to near-vagabond status since chartering, the club has moved its meeting site from one restaurant to a second one, then to a third, then to a Red Cross building, followed by a health center, a community center, a senior center, back to the community center, and then to its current location at a different health center.

The last two locations were during the past year alone.

To further frustrate matters, during the past year the club president was unavailable months at a time due to critical work assignments; the vice president education resigned after losing a job and having to work evenings at a second one; the replacement vice president education resigned for family reasons; the vice president membership was out of action for two months following a bike-auto accident; the vice president public relations resigned due to work travel commitments; and the treasurer was unable to attend numerous meetings. Several new club members also disappeared shortly after joining, for reasons of their own.

Yet despite all the tribulations, the 6-year-old club prevailed and prospered – earning President’s Distinguished status for a second year in a row. This is thanks to a small core group of dedicated members who conducted effective and fun meetings, held an Open House and other special events, and focused on completing Distinguished Club Plan requirements.

Other Toastmasters clubs can take heart. Despite the economy, rising unemployment, personal health issues and family needs, success is a real possibility through dedication to Toastmasters principles and programs. Just ask the Viera/Suntree club.

Stuart Gorin, DTM, is a member of the Viera/Suntree club in Melbourne, Florida, and the Montgomery Village/ Gaithersburg club in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He can be reached at stuartgorin@bellsouth.net.