Branch 8

Make Friends for Life

Messages from Big Sir

Big Sir Jim Sowell

November 2010 Hotline Article – Big Sir

Thanks to you who provided comments and questions at the October meeting, especially past Big Sirs and Honorary Life Members..  We heard from ten members, and many others indicated that they wanted to speak.  The comments concerned:  a rush to move, growth, membership cap, reliability of surveys, cost increase, applause for the committee reports, parking management, other options, consequences of violating SIR Inc rules, sharing activities, and the capacity of the Hilton lobby bar.

The Member Relations and Venue Search Committees have debated most of these issues.  In my opinion, their consensus is that moving to a larger meeting place or sponsoring a new branch are approved, acceptable, and healthy ways to deal with growth that is inherent in SIR, although very few members mentioned sponsoring a new branch in the telephone survey of our members.  On the other hand, restricting, capping, or “managing” the size of a branch, mentioned by some, is counter to the principles of SIR and has almost universally led to the demise of branches.  Even though Branch 8 had a cap for several years, we raised the cap twice before the restrictions could do any lasting harm.  An all too common life cycle is for a branch to obtain their charter, grow rapidly, place a cap on membership, remain at the capped level for a period of time, then begin a slide in energy, activities, and members.  This has led to about 30 branches becoming inactive or dissolved and a loss of over 10,000 members in a decade.

We will hear from more members on November 8 as we continue to work on these important issues.

Jim Sowell, Big Sir

October 2010 Hotline – Big Sir Report
August and September have been very eventful and exciting for the Venue Search and the Branch Executive Committees.  The Venue Search Committee completed its work and presented a report to the Branch Executive Committee, recommending that Branch 8 move their luncheons to the Hilton Concord Hotel by January 2011.  The Branch Executive Committee considered the report and voted to move Branch 8 lunches to the Hilton.  They also voted to reduce the requested annual donation of $45 to $23.

The move to the Hilton will provide plenty of parking and alleviate our crowded conditions with a spacious, modern, up-scale facility for an increased cost of only $34 per year for the average member. And beverage prices will stay the same as charged by the Elk’s Lodge as long as we have our lunches at the Hilton.   I am sending a letter to all active and inactive members, and current applicants.  The letter will explain the cost issues in more detail and transmit the Venue Search Committee report which explained their criteria for the search, the locations they evaluated, the analysis of three finalists and the reasons for recommending a move to the Hilton.  You should receive the letter by the time you get this issue of the Hotline.

We owe a special thanks to Sir Ed Benson, who chaired the Venue Search Committee, Little Sir Derek Southern, Sir Gene Bingham, and Sir Bill Peterson, who put together an excellent, thorough, and professional report.  Thanks also go out to Directors Sir Glenn Cheetham and Sir Fred Nelson who laid much of the groundwork for this move in prior years.

Keep on bringing guests for lunch and don’t forget to carpool.

Jim Sowell, Big Sir

September 2010 Hotline – Big Sir Report
There is nothing like the prospect of change to get people’s juices flowing. Many of our members are talking about the Member Relations Committee and the Venue Search Committee (VSC) which will respond to the main concern (overcrowding) uncovered in the MRC telephone survey. Sir Ed Benson has been moving the VSC work forward and reports on their progress in another article in this Hotline.
Both the Elk’s Lodge management and the Branch 8 BEC are keeping a close eye on the caterer’s performance and will give him our comments on food and service after each meal. Please give your comments to a BEC member.
At the annual SIR meeting in Vallejo , we learned that a large menu of activities is a rarity. Only two Branches have over 30 activities and it is much more likely that a Branch will have around a half dozen. We are fortunate to have all you leaders to propose new activities and get them started. Sir Dan Weller’s woodworking and Sir Roger Sperling’s paintings were great start up displays for the new SACHe activity. Yoga kicks off in September, chaired by Sir Mysore Gopal, and taught by his wife, Prabha. SIR Inc. has reestablished the Recreation Vehicle (RV) activity. They have asked that all Sir’s with RV’s provide their contact information and type of RV to Don Cummings or Jack Streckfus at the new State SIR RV Committee e-mail address Please provide a copy of the e-mail to Gary Plisco, Activity Chair at, and me at
Congratulations to Branch 8 members Sir Dean Steichen, who was elected the Director of SIR Region 6, and Sir Ron Smith, the new Governor of SIR Area 2, for 2011.
Jim Sowell, Big Sir
August 2010 Hotline – Big Sir Report
July has been exciting for Branch 8. We are accomplishing the Work Plan of the Member Relations Committee. See Sir Ed Benson’s report on the MRC telephone survey. Some of the MRC recommendations will require additional work from our leadership, notably a search for a larger venue that would relieve the crowding at lunch and have more parking. Of course we would want a modern facility near the center of our geographic area with plenty of seating, a well stocked, spacious bar, at least one additional meeting room, a kitchen to accommodate any caterer we might choose, and an auxiliary room that would hold all our pre-meeting set-ups. And, of course, comparable prices. Oh well, we can dream, can’t we? Sir Ed Benson will be leading a search team.
Quite a few members were not happy with the July meal. I discussed these items with the caterer. The chicken pieces were too big for some, and underdone, they ran out of some vegetables, and the brownies got stale by the end of the meal. A few didn’t want to have Barbeque all the time. Boneheads assured us they can cook other dishes besides BBQ, and I think they will have meatloaf for August. We will talk these same issues over with the Elk’s management, and will keep you posted.
We have received “cold calls” from several potential applicants recently. This may pose an additional burden on those who take on the sponsor’s role. The MRC will be recruiting sponsors for applicants who arrive without one, and we already have a sponsor’s checklist to help start the new guys out right. Keep on bringing guests for lunch and don’t forget to carpool.
Jim Sowell, Big Sir
July 2010 Hotline – Big Sir
The nominations for our 2011 slate of officers and directors from Sir Glenn Cheetham’s Nominating Committee are shown in the Hotline. Election of officers and directors will take place at the August monthly lunch. Additional nominees may be made from the floor, and those positions with more than one nominee will be voted on by secret ballot. If there is only one nominee for a position, voting will be by voice or show of hands.
Another important position in SIR has become vacant, that of Governor of Area 2. Dean Steichen, the incumbent, has been nominated for the position of Director of Region 6. So far the Branch Executive Committee (BEC) has received one nominee, Sir Ron Smith. Please notify me or one of the BEC before July 12 if you have any more nominees for Area 2 Governor, as the BEC will be selecting a nominee at their meeting.
Our Member Relation Committee (MRC) has completed the confidential telephone survey of members, and Chairman Sir Ed Benson expects to present the survey results to the BEC in July. Your BEC is looking to this and a follow-on survey for guidance on the main challenges facing Branch 8, which MAY include that members feel that the branch is too big. One possible solution to that challenge, which is generating a lot of discussion among the members, is to sponsor a new branch as Branch 171 did last year. If this turns out to be one of the top ranked challenges for Branch 8, your BEC will carefully consider the issues and keep you informed at each step along the way. It’s important to note that no decisions have been made about sponsoring a new branch.
Thanks again to Roger Miller and his Ladies Day Lunch Committee for a very successful June 14 LDL at Contra Costa Country Club.
Jim Sowell, Big Sir
June 2010 Hotline – Big Sir
Our first meal with Bonehead’s Texas BBQ seemed to be a success. From the plates I saw and the members I talked to after our May 10 lunch, there was very little food wasted and most people said they liked it. A few thought it was too spicy, but we won’t have BBQ entrees that often.
Sir Glenn Cheetham’s Nominating Committee recommended the following slate of officers and directors for 2011 to the Branch Executive Committee in May. Officers: Big Sir – Derek Southern; Little Sir – Gary Plisco; Secretary – Erland Persson; Membership Secretary – Bill Barnard; Attendance Secretary – Bill Peterson; Treasurer – Leo Barrella; Asst. Treasurer – Paul Laderer. Directors: Ed Benson, Bill Hunter, Wally Freeman, Mike Long, who will also serve as Activity Chairman, Jim Sowell, and Bon Wadors, Election of officers and directors will take place in August.
Our Member Relation Committee (MRC) has begun to implement its 2010 Work Plan with the telephone survey of almost 60 of our members. Chairman Sir Ed Benson has prepared a status report of the MRC activities on page __.
I’ll see many of you at the Ladies Day Lunch at Contra Costa Country Club on June 14. Carpool with your neighbors and bring a friend to lunch on July 12.
Jim Sowell, Big Sir
May 2010 Hotline – Big Sir
Our Lunch Committee is starting to feel like a YoYo, what with the Elk’s Lodge catering program. The latest from them is that the Lodge approved a contract with Bonehead’s Texas BBQ for meal service to start on May 1, 2010 . Their entrees will include Fettuccini Alfredo, Chili Verde, Pulled Pork, Roast Chicken, Beef Brisket, Turkey and Dressing, Pot Roast, and others. We will have our first meal with them on May 10.
In May the Branch Executive Committee will receive the final report from the Nominating Committee on the slate of officers and directors for 2011. Election of officers and directors will take place in August. Please contact Glenn Cheetham, Larry Lange or Romano Gnusti if you have an interest in serving in one of the open positions or wish to nominate another Sir.
In the near future, our Branch Executive Committee will be receiving a plan from the Member Relation Committee that we expect will improve the SIR experience for both new and present members and make sure our Branch stays healthy. Part of the plan will be hearing what you like and any suggestions for change you may have. Talk to your Branch officers and directors about this and be ready for questions. A good lunch and lots of activities will always be among the Branch attractions.
We don’t do worthy causes, but one worthy act that we can do is to share the story of the benefits of SIR with our friends, relatives and neighbors. Let them know you picked up a couple of great jokes from your golf foursome, played bridge or cribbage, shared a nice restaurant meal with “Lets Dine Out”, or hiked across that beautiful field of wildflowers last week.
Carpool with your neighbors and bring a friend to lunch.
Jim Sowell, Big Sir
April 2010 Hotline – Big Sir
Our opportunities to take part in additional activities are blooming just like spring flowers. In addition to more than 30 activities that SIR Area 2 or Branch 8 conducts, we have a list of activities in other Branches that have room for visitors. Watch for it in the Hotline. One example is Branch 146’s Garden Club, whose leader just e-mailed me to inquire if we had a Garden Club. I know that many of our members have beautiful landscaping that reflects their active interest in gardening, and hope that we will have a chance to join their Garden Club, or perhaps gain enough interest to start one of our own or expand to an Area 2 activity.
This synergy and cooperation between branches is another indication of the dedicated volunteers that we enjoy in Branch 8 and Area 2. It is no accident that SIR Region 6 Director Jim Stedman complimented Branch 8 so highly at our March meeting, by saying that Branch 8 is (one of ) the best in SIR.
Recent feedback from our Elk’s Lodge hosts indicates that they are not moving so fast to change caterers as we had originally thought. We will be enjoying the meals from Lonna and her staff at Mr. Lucky’s for the foreseeable future.
In April the Branch Executive Committee will be receiving another progress report from the Nominating Committee on their work to pick a slate of officers and directors for 2011. They have identified 37 qualified candidates, including 12 for Little Sir, as they continue their selection process. Please contact Glenn Cheetham, Larry Lange or Romano Gnusti if you have an interest in serving in one of the open positions or wish to nominate another Sir.
Carpool with your neighbors and bring a guest to lunch too!
Jim Sowell, Big Sir
March 2010 Hotline, Big Sir Article
The recent warmer weather makes us think about getting out and about with outdoor activities such as golf, fishing, hiking and walking. Bocce ball can’t be far behind. And don’t forget to sign up for the Mediterranean Enchantment cruise on the Holland-American Noordam. Of course the indoor games are still growing with yet another poker group, and I heard good things about a beginners bridge class on Feb 4.
In March the Branch Executive Committee (BEC) will receive the first interim report from the Nominating Committee of Glenn Cheetham, chair, Mike Long, and Larry Lange as to a slate of names of Branch 8 officers and directors for 2011. In August 2010 we will be electing a Big Sir, Little Sir, Secretary, Attendance Secretary, and two Directors. If you are interested in serving in one of these positions or have someone to nominate, let our Nominating Committee know. Also let BEC members know if you have any proposals to change the Branch Bylaws.
The Elks Club has notified Branch 8 of their intent to change caterers. We are in the process of negotiating with them about the details and retaining freedom of selection. So far things look good for continuing to get great meals at no increase in price.
Because of construction at the nearby Quail Court office buildings, we will probably have to stop using the lower level of our auxiliary parking area and move across Creekside Drive to another of Quail Court parking areas. Watch for signs on both sides of Creekside Drive and an e-mail message. Ridesharing continues to be very important.
Bring a friend to lunch!
Jim Sowell, Big Sir