Rotary Charities Announces Change in Leadership

Becky Ewing to retire May 16th, Sakura Takano will take over as Executive Director.

A Northern Michigan charity organization is making a change at the top with the retirement of its executive director.

Becky Ewing Rotary

Photo Courtesy Rotary Charities

Rotary Charities has been around in the Grand Traverse region since the 1970’s. The group distributes oil and gas revenue from property in the Boardman River Valley, to community causes throughout the five-county area. Over the years that’s included things like the State Theater, the City Opera House, and the Park Place Hotel. It also means grants and investments for everything from infrastructure and transportation to arts and culture.

Now, Rotary Charities Executive Director Becky Ewing is getting ready for her retirement later this month. “I’m just delighted that it’s time. And we have a beautiful hand-off planned.”

Ewing explains, “We were blessed with having natural gas and oil wells discovered on a piece of property we owned in the Boardman River Valley back in 1976. The foundation was formed as a separate entity from the (Rotary) club.”

And Ewing says the mission of Rotary Charities is broad-reaching. “We’re really looking to help the community solve its most complex problems. So we have this really great grant opportunity called the Systems Change Accelerator Grants. Where people get really upstream on wicked problems and work together in a really deep way.  We also have our Assets for Thriving Communities grants, which are capital grants and program grants really embedded in the community.”

“It goes far beyond the money, right? The money is what we’re known for. But there’s so much more that we provide in the form of wrap-around services and capacity building and investing. This staff is so ready to carry on,” Ewing says. She adds that’s she’s proud of the team she works with. “There are these external resources that everybody sees. But the internal resources that they may not really see are some of things I’m really proud of. The staff and our board, and having a really far-sighted board.”

Sakura Takano Rotary

Photo Courtesy Rotary Charities

Rotary Charities is also naming its next Executive Director. They’ve announced that Sakura Takano will fill the role – she’s been with the organization over a year as the Director of Community Assets and Impact Investing. She has a background in nonprofit work – prior to working with Rotary Charities she worked with Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan, both as Director of Housing and Director of Workforce Development.

Takano says she has been in Traverse City for nine years and is always looking for ways to serve the community. “This is a community that cares. You see it all around us. Whether it’s arts and culture or helping those who might not have everything they need. It’s such a great place to be able to plug in and bring service to the forefront.”

“I’ve been able to work with Rotary Charities as a grantee. So, I’ve written many grants, I’ve been in the process of wondering if we were going to get a grant. It was an incredible learning opportunity…. I think that’s something I brought to the organization. I’ve been on the other side of the table and I know how difficult this can be. Let’s do everything we can to build trust with our grantees and to have a process that is a two-way learning experience,” Takano says.

For Takano, the chance to lead Rotary Charities was a welcome opportunity. “Rotary Charities is an incredibly unique organization. When I look to the future I think about how our world has changed so much in the last year. What we understand as the things that keep us moving and keeps us motivated is having a great, safe place to live. Vibrancy. I think more and more these days, a place where we’re not just thinking about ourselves but our greater community.”

Takano says she’s most excited about upcoming projects that Rotary Charities supports – including the Kalkaska’s “Railroad Square” and the new “Rotary Square” planned for Union Street in Traverse City.