Rotary Meeting: April 27, 2021



PRESIDENT KEVIN SMITH-FAGAN (Executive Director of Fairytale Town) gaveled us in after some lovely fellowship and a hair-raising tale of ART BREUER’s recent experience pruning some extremely tall trees. ALLISON CAGLEY (Sergeant in Arms) (Executive Director of Friends of Sacramento Arts) was all smiles – she just got her 2nd dose of her COVID vaccine – when she greeted our weekly guests, including MARSHA SPELL (Executive Director of Family Promise of Sacramento). RIVKAH SASS (CEO of Sacramento Public Library) introduced her guest CATHY CROSTHWAITE (Deputy Director at Sacramento Public Library). JUDITH KJELSTROM (Director Emerita of the Biotech Program at UC Davis) led us in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Thought for the Day

LEO MCFARLAND (President and CEO of Volunteers of America) provided our Thought for the Day, encouraging us to look on the arrival of Spring – a time of renewal, rebirth and bounty – as a time to support those less fortunate in our community. As we tend to our gardens, we must also tend to folks who are struggling. The faces of homelessness can be anyone’s – including parents of small children; veterans; and elderly folks. Homeless people are regular people, and even just a dash of empathy can go a long way.



Meeting Sponsor

Meeting Sponsor KERRY WOOD (Chief Marketing & Donor Engagement Officer at Sacramento Region Community Foundation) shared the 4 key areas of emphasis for the Foundation as:

  • Combating food insecurity
  • Provide equitable education opportunities
  • Supporting the arts & culture
  • Inspiring Philanthropy in our region

The Foundation’s signature initiative, the Big Day of Giving, is only one week away – on Thursday May 6th, this 24-hour online giving challenge will once again bring together the Sacramento region’s nonprofit community. This initiative revolves around helping to raise much needed funds and shining a spotlight on the work these organizations do to keep Sacramento robust and well-rounded. Since 2013, donors have contributed $52 million during this one-day event. Advance charitable giving is open now through May 5th at With over 700 nonprofits participating this year, you are bound to find a cause that matters to you. You can become a philanthropist by making a donation as low as just $15 – making event participation accessible to anyone that is interested. We hope to see you there!

Club Announcements

  • PRESIDENT KEVIN reminded us that our Rotary Foundation makes annual installments to the Club to increase our philanthropic impact in the community. KATHY HERRFELDT (President of Home Care Assistance Sacramento) and SHIRLEE TULLY (Chief Brand & Development Officer at CapRadio) explained that our philanthropic mission this year focused on minimizing the devastating financial impacts of COVID in economically-disadvantaged communities. Furthermore, it was determined that our call to action was utilizing preventive measures to avoid seeing an increase in our homeless population. Funds from our Foundation were donated to Salvation Army, Next Move, Volunteers of America and Family Promise, which all provide rental assistance and support to ensure that individuals secure housing and remain independent once housed. We got to hear directly from one of our beneficiaries, as MARSHA SPELL explained that program participants work with her staff on setting budgets, building new skills and making plans to be self-sufficient. Family Promise has provided shelter, meals, case management, and stabilization services to over 850 family members. Our donation to Family Promise has helped 9 families stay in their homes.


  • PRESIDENT KEVIN updated us on Golf 4 Kids coming up on May 21. We are still seeking golfers, tee sponsors and auction items through May 5.


  • BOBBY REED (CEO at Capitol Tech Solutions) encouraged us to participate in the Young Professionals’ Mother’s Day fundraiser on Saturday, May 8th. The event will take place at Sweet Mabel’s Urban Flower Farm in West Sacramento. The Rotary Rockers will provide live acoustic entertainment, Starbucks will provide caffeine and pastries, and a professional photographer will be onsite to take photos of the whole family!

Chair of the Day

MARLENE VON FRIEDRICHS FITZWATER (Founder & CEO of The Health Communication Research Institute) welcomed our guest speaker, DR. MARGOT KUSHEL is a 20-year veteran healthcare provider and a national expert on the causes of homelessness. She’s a Professor of Medicine at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center and Director of The UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations. Her research focuses on reducing the burden of homelessness on health by examining efforts to prevent and end homelessness, but also the ways to mitigate the effects of housing instability on healthcare outcomes.




Guest Speaker, Dr. Margot Kushel

  1. KUSHEL kickstarted her speech by bolding stating the takeaways she hoped to leave us all with by the end of our meeting:
  • Homelessness is a solvable issue
  • Homelessness arose from a set of bad policies, but those practices that are reversible.
  • We already know how to resolve homelessness; however, at the national and local levels, we lack the political will to put an end to this crisis.

She then went on to share the three main causes of homelessness:

1) lack of affordable housing (especially extremely low-income housing)

2) the growth of income inequality since the 1980s; and

3) structural racism

On a given day, 160,000 Californians are homeless – and unlike in many other states, 70% of these individuals are unhoused or living outdoors. The highest rates of homelessness are found in the highest-income areas, demonstrating the dire need for low-income housing options in our richest cities.

While mental health and substance abuse are often pointed to in discussions of homelessness, DR. KUSHEL believes that while they can be contributing factors, they are not root causes. She shared a case study of 300 chronically homeless folks in Santa Clara County with serious behavioral challenges. When these people were offered subsidized housing with voluntary behavioral health support, 86% became housed and nearly all remained housed five years later.

COVID had a marked impact on the homeless population, who are far more likely to need hospitalization with even a mild case of the virus, because they can’t recover at home. Half of homeless individuals are age 50 and up and often have pre-existing conditions that make COVID even more dangerous. DR. KUSHEL was an advisor on the state’s Project Roomkey initiative, which utilized 16,000 statewide empty hotel rooms to house high-risk homeless individuals and/or to isolate folks who contracted COVID, keeping more hospital beds available in the community. The federal government has promised to fully reimburse California for all costs associated with Project Roomkey through at least Sept. 30. Now, 6,000 of these units are being converted to permanent extremely low-income housing, including some in Sacramento.

CLICK HERE to view DR. KUSHEL’s presentation.

CLICK HERE to view DR. KUSHEL’s entire Q&A.

Next Week

ALLISON CAGLEY said next week we will hear from CHET HEWITT (President & CEO of the Sierra Health Foundation) who will talk about how his Foundation is helping to solve some of the health problems in our local community. Until then, enjoy the rest of your week and find a way to give back in our community!