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Oh, What A Year

01 June 2017 Written by  By Olga Vidriales
Published in June 2017 Articles

For the 2016-2017 year, I’ve been serving as president of the Rotary Club of Brentwood.

It’s been a challenging year but wonderful. The experience was intense and I sometimes felt like I was performing an organization and public relations internship. When you do the job as I did it, the position becomes like full-time work. It was sometimes tough performing my role with Rotary while moving forward with my business as an Intero Real Estate agent.

One advantage I had was the support I received from my husband Vincent. Vince has been with me each step of the way, including going with me to the 2015 International Rotary Convention in Brazil and last May’s convention in Seoul, Korea. We’re already scheduled to attend the Atlanta, Georgia convention this month. Beyond that, we plan to go to the convention in Canada next year, to Germany in 2018, and to Hawaii in 2019.

One of my goals during my term in office was to involve more millennials in our club. Vince reminded me that our founder Paul Harris had been born in 1868. So in February 23, 1905, he was only 37 years old and a near millennial when he founded the Club.

I joined Rotary July 10, 2008. My sponsor was Jim Spann from the Grapevine. I joined the club because my corporate relations officer at the credit union where I worked at the time told us to join some local club in order to network in the community. The fact is, a lot of networking goes on in the club and we say that “Rotarians do business with other Rotarians.” However, what they didn’t know (or perhaps care) is that Rotary is about service; it is not a networking organization. After resigning from the company that had sent me, I was prepared to depart Rotary but realized that the sense of fellowship had become so strong that I couldn’t tear myself away from this group of people who had become like family. These were my brothers and sisters.

Before long, the attraction moved beyond fellowship when, for the first time, I engaged from my heart in Rotary’s “Service Above Self” tagline and my eyes were opened to the possibilities and rewards of serving our community, nation, and the world.

The initial experience that confronted me with the beauty of service was my participa­tion in the club’s annual Kohl’s Shopping Trip during which we provide back-to-school clothes and school supplies for underserved children from the community. Vince and I had so much fun walking with the sweet little girl through the aisles and watching her face light up as we selected a jacket, pair of pants, a couple shirts, a pair of shoes, etcetera. I think Vince and I got more out of the experience than she did. My heart was running over with love.

Another heart-opening experience was participating in the annual Dictionary Drive. Every year the club (and many other Rotary Clubs) give each third grader a dictionary. The goal of this program is to assist all students in becoming good writers, active readers, creative thinkers, and resourceful learners by providing them with their own personal dictionary. The diction­aries are a gift to each student to use at school and at home for years to come. We give out over 1,500 dictionaries every year.

Seeing the pleasure that the children took from receiving their new dictionaries moved me. I realized that we might be changing some young lives and through them perhaps move the future in a more positive direction.

I continued to do that every year and this year, when past president David Roche introduced me to the students as the president of the Rotary Club, two little girls in the back were astonished. “She’s the president!” one of them said. That was heart-warming.

Rotary clubs remain focused on essential core values by our allegiance to the Four Way Test.

Of the things we think, say, or do:

  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is it fair to all concerned?
  3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
  4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

We often recite this like it is some kind of secular creed. The truth is that the Four Way Test is fundamentally important to all true Rotarians and provides the moral and ethical underpinnings that we imagine should govern all of our transactions.

My accomplishments during my year as Rotary president included increasing membership. One method was to encourage club members to bring possible candidates to a monthly Bonus Night gathering that we set up at Vic Stewarts. An evening meeting provides an opportu­nity to expose the club to people who are commuting to work during our regular Monday noon meetings. We also instituted a one-page monthly bulletin with announcements, information, and short articles of general interest. We upgraded our fundraisers. In particular, we renamed our major annual fall fundraiser from “Trade Club” to “Autumn Gala.” We greatly increased the quality of the event and succeeded in raising nearly $45,000. Past president Roger Strauss implemented our Home Team project in which 20 or so Rotarians divide into teams and provide whatever services they can to elderly and shut-ins in the community. Each quarter we recognize Students of the Quarter from the five high schools and hand out annual one thousand dollar scholarships to 20 deserving high school graduates.


I was raised in Hayward, graduated in the Tennyson High Class of ’78, and became the first member of my extended family that included innumerable cousins to attend college. My mother was initially convinced that I should attend a junior college and might not have changed her mind except my high school counselor came to the house and succeeded in opening Mom’s eyes to see the potential expanded life that her daughter might live if she earned a baccalaureate degree.

I earned a bachelor’s degree in Adminis­tration and Legal Processes from Mills College in Oakland. However, I didn’t use my learning because I was drawn into helping my mother operate her two restaurants — Mi Rancho in Union City and Casa Leticia in San Ramon.

I eventually went on to spend 27 years in bank management. After my mother grew ill, I needed more flexible working hours so I went back to school, got my real estate license, and in 2011 began selling real estate. I applied such qualities to the new job as attention to detail, organizational skills, and a sense of urgency that I had learned from my experience in banking.

The most important thing in my real estate profession is my concern for customer service. I will hold a client’s hand from the beginning to the end of each transaction. I listen carefully to their comments, complaints, and questions. I coddle them. They come to realize that there is nothing I wouldn’t do to make the transaction a success. I make myself available even if it is after 6:00 or the weekend. I’m glad to answer the ringing phone at 9:30 at night because I realize they really need help with a problem or at least reassurance to help them make it through whatever craziness they are involved in at the time.

Changes in rules and procedures for purchasing and selling property have increased the difficulty of the process, which only makes my role more essential for a wannabe homeowner. As far as I’m concerned, being a real estate agent is the best job in the world because I enjoy making people happy and there is almost no time in life when people are happier than that day when they get the key to their new house. I’m glad to work at this job from my heart because I realize that might be the most important financial transaction of their lives.

My Intero Real Estate organization has been a perfect fit for a professional with my concerns and intentions. The brokers at Intero are intent on providing the same levels of customer service to me as an agent that I intend to give to my customers. They will seemingly do anything to make us successful and will provide whatever tools and resources we need to help us excel. Intero has created a corporate environment with amazing levels of comradery. We take care of each other; we like each other. We cover each other’s backs.

I take more pleasure out of conducting my real estate business than some people take from going on vacation. In fact, I have a better time working with clients than I’ve had on some vacations myself. There are no retirement plans in my future. Shuffleboard and daytime TV would be too great a letdown. Until stopped by death or dementia I plan to continue interviewing customers, helping them find the perfect property, and rejoicing with them when they are ready to move in.

I’m a woman of faith. Things changed in my life when I was working in Oregon and away from my family. 9/11 happened and the falling trade center towers gave me a new perspective on life. The turmoil of those days required me to put my confidence in God. I had to do some travel and the long security lines at the airport were scary. In spite of the anxiety and sense of apprehension that surrounded all travelers at that time, my heart was filled with peace and purpose. “Do not be anxious about anything,” the Bible says. So I obeyed.

I’m carrying my passion for service beyond Rotary. Vince and I have adopted two third world children, one in Mexico and the other in Haiti. I’ve been a director, a chamber vice president, and am currently an ambassador in the Brentwood Chamber of Commerce. Vince and I went on a mission trip to Haiti. After finishing my term as Rotary president I intend to tutor at Village Community Resource Center and plan to become more involved with our Fellowship Church.

I’m a strong person because of the influence of my mother. She followed her American Dream. Mom came here from Mexico when she was 12 years old. She never finished high school but became a successful entrepreneur, and a U.S. citizen, giving up her citizenship in Mexico.

Mom was extremely ill on our Rotary election day; it was two months before she passed. “I have to go for election day, Mom,” I said. She patted my hand and told me to go. “You’ll make it!” she said. “You’ll make it.”

Those were wonderful words for my mom to leave with me. Now whenever I am facing some challenge, I can just shut my eyes, be quiet for a few moments, and hear Mom’s voice echoing in my heart, “You’ll make it! You’ll make it!”

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