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    Emergency Services Day: Honoring our Heroes

    By Bob Hermann–

    “So, what’s up with all the time you spend in Rotary, Bob? This is kind of a straight organization and not for our community, right?” 

    Me: Wow! This question is so off base, but it’s just education that changes the perspective. The assumptions made are like the assumption that every LGBTQ person is a butch and flannel wearing uber-sexual, or their opposite.

    Personally, I cherish the diversity of the LGBTQ community, and, in like manner, I love the diversity of my Rotary Club. We are ~10% gay identified, multi-racial, and represent a range of generations. My husband Dan and I have always felt welcomed to participate in the life of the Club at whatever level we choose. By the way, this article is mine alone and not a message put forward by the Rotary Club of San Francisco. Thank you to the San Francisco Bay Times for inviting me to tell this story.   

    Rotary is all about Service—Service Above Self; helping others comes before our own needs. As a youth in New Jersey, the idea of service was all around me. My family had a rich background in the cause of public safety: my grandfather served in the army in World War I, my great uncle in the navy at Pearl Harbor, my father as a marine in the Korean War, my second cousin in the army in the Kuwaiti war, and my little brother in the police force. This service background comes to the fore on Emergency Services Day (ESD). And it’s one of the reasons I have chosen to lead this event.

    Before I get to ESD, let me frame for you what our Club is. 

    The Rotary Club of San Francisco #2, founded just after the Great Earthquake, is the second oldest in the world out of 46,000 clubs. We helped to create many other Clubs, such as the Rotary Club of San Francisco Castro; played an instrumental role in founding the United Nations; and to this day have representation on this counsel. We have been the driving force in the world to eradicate polio and we are almost there! 

    Our members are comprised of diverse backgrounds encompassing business professionals and civic leaders. All of these folks come together with a common mission, “to do good in our local communities and the world,” and in doing this work, have fun and fellowship, and find friends along the way. We have a portfolio of about 20 projects a year that members work together on to help in many areas of San Francisco and the world beyond. One of my favorites is the Bike Build, where we build and give away scores of bicycles to underserved children.   

    There’s much more to say about the Rotary Club of San Francisco, but you can learn about it by going to our website  ( Even better, come and attend an in-person meeting on Tuesdays at the Hotel Nikko. At the end of the day, we are about building peace in the world through good works.

    A meaningful aspect of working on ESD has been to get the inside story of the work performed by our emergency service workers. I know a lot from my brother about his police work in Franklin Township, NJ, but it was surprising to look at what duty is required by the Coast Guard, for example. From environmental problems like chemical spills in our waterways, drunken pleasure boaters, and harrowing moments saving a human life, these men and women face changing and complicated challenges.  And so, it is with all of the emergency service personnel. It was also great to hear about the cooperation among our different service groups. In times of emergency, what could be more imperative than cooperation between departments? Impressive!

    At our Annual ESD held since 1987, the Rotary Club of San Francisco will honor outstanding representatives of the public safety departments we depend on every day: Police, Fire, Sheriff, Coast Guard, and for 2022, our Department of Public Health with leaders who were on the battle lines fighting a global pandemic.

    Rotarians and guests will meet the honorees and their loved ones and hear their amazing stories of heroism and dedication told by leadership of each department. This is quite the stirring event showcasing the dedication of our guardians and their actions. ESD provides a public forum where Rotary and department leaders can thank and congratulate the award winners, cheered on by audience members.

    The recognition luncheon honoring first responders for their heroic acts focuses on how our “defenders” have transformed the quality of services provided to the community through innovation and dedication during organizational challenges. The honorees will each receive several special acknowledgement and thanks.

    You can join in this wonderful program by registering here ( ) prior to March 2. Because of the demand for tickets, there are no “walk-ins” available and, of course, vaccinations are required. 

    I had participated in the last annual Emergency Services Luncheon as an attendee in the spring of 2019. I understood it to be a day of honoring folks for their work and service to the City and County of San Francisco. The program has become so much more for me, now that I am leading the event and conducting many of the interviews. I have reflected on the many generations of heroes we have honored, and my pride in our public servants has grown. The team of 14 members putting together this day of celebration has been a pleasure to work with as well. Our videographer Lawrence “Bud” Dillon deserves a special shout out for the quality of his work. 

    One of my main activities was to gather the honorees’ biographies and to listen to their work as told by their colleagues and leaders who provided the nomination. These positive and heartwarming stories are often not heard—not newsworthy! Instead, we typically are inundated with negative news. It was a refreshing experience for me to hear a different story and be moved by the focus on dedication to duty. I won’t give away the stories of harrowing rescues or the demonstration of compassion; you will have to come to our ESD event on March 8 for that. But I guarantee that it will provide a new perspective for you.

    For me, when I think of my family members who served in their respective service areas, I am left in awe and appreciation for what they gave to their city and country just as our honorees today have given so generously of themselves. 

    I’m honored to be a part of this event and to celebrate our emergency workers and this great city of San Francisco—a city of hope, of cable cars, of great culture, and industry, parks, and joy. Let’s all aim to work with each other in support of our men and women on the front lines to make our great city of San Francisco shine.

    Bob Hermann is the Vice President of Community Service for the Rotary Club of San Francisco, which is the second oldest of over 34,000 Rotary Clubs in more than 200 countries around the globe. He is a Co-Chair, with Matt Madsen, of the 2022 Annual Emergency Services Day Luncheon.

    Published on February 24, 2022