Financial advisor advises clients, Rotary 21 on giving
Paul Viren, a financial planner, finds involvement with Spokane's Rotary Club 21 is a way to express his belief in giving philanthropically to invest in improving lives locally and globally.
"We raise about $125,000 each year from members and use about $100,000 from our foundation," said Paul, who is currently the president. "With those funds, we hope to move the needle a bit for the community and world."
Invited by a friend to a Rotary 21 meeting 18 years ago, Paul became a Rotarian, drawn by the group's civic mindedness and desire to give back to the community.
"It's important to be involved, to learn about local programs, to be better citizens and to raise funds to share with nonprofits," he said. "We are altruistic, which means we think outside ourselves and put service above self. We see disadvantaged people and help."
There are 250 in our club, and 21 clubs within 100 miles of Spokane. Rotary 21 is one of 100 large clubs among the 35,000 clubs around the world.
"We help nonprofits provide social services, which can be hard in this polarized world," he said, explaining Rotary 21 is diverse on the liberal-conservative spectrum, but members set that aside to focus on local projects.
In collaboration with Rotary International, the club's mission is to champion "health, education and peace through fellowship and services, using our resources to make our community and world a better place," according to its annual report.
"We have programs to help support people with disabilities, veterans, vaccines and scholarships," he said.
Rotary's international scope makes it possible to send and receive exchange students for summer and year-long experiences living with host families. Recently they received a student from Japan, and sponsored students to go to Chile, Brazil and Germany.
They partner with Rotary Seattle Club 4 on water and sanitation projects to eradicate malaria in Kenya and with the Castlegar, B.C., Rotary on an education project. Spokane members have visited projects in Central America, Kenya and Ecuador.
"We find a Rotary in another country that announces a project. Their members host members who visit to help out," he said.
Paul, who owns Viren and Associates, an independent financial planning firm, with his wife, Beth, advises clients both on making investments to earn more income and on giving philanthropic gifts.
Paul grew up in Spokane and graduated in 1978 from Whitworth University in religion and psychology, thinking he would go into ministry.
He and Beth moved to Seattle where he was in youth ministry a few years, but he returned to Spokane to work with the development staff at Whitworth University helping raise funds.
"I loved talking with people about the mission of the University," he said of his six years at Whitworth. "In the process of helping people manage funds so they could give some away, I became aware of the importance of financial services and helping people plan for charitable giving."
Many in financial services, he said, know how to help people make more money, but do not understand philanthropy to be part of their services.
"Giving people information on charitable causes and faithful ministry helps them give back to the community, so as they are blessed, they bless others," Paul said. "If a client realizes they have social capital, they can make an impact on the world."
While a few clients seek to do socially responsible investment, it's a matter of how deep that filter is—such as whether a company uses cheap foreign labor or how green they want their investments to be, he said.
Only a small percentage of his 500 clients try to be green. Some are sensitive about women's rights, ownership and leadership, said Paul, who is active in Covenant United Methodist Church, where the pastor "loves the earth and promotes social responsibility."
Paul appreciates Rotary's focus on networking and building friendships, organizing individuals around common interests to build synergy. He also appreciates that members avoid promoting partisan or religious stands.
Rotary members become friends and may refer people to their businesses because they know and trust them, but members are not there to "hand out business cards or pitch products."
Paul told of some of the many ways the Rotary Club gives back to the community. He is on the Civic Affairs Committee, which gave out $48,000 in 2017-18 in grants in response to 18 requests.
• In November 2019, that committee granted $2,500 to The Fig Tree to purchase a new computer.
• At the same meeting, they funded 66 cell phones for The Bail Project, a nonprofit challenging mass incarceration, and the economic and racial disparities in the bail system. The project pays bail for people in need, keeping families together and keeping people in their jobs. Bail is returned at the end of a case and can be reused for others.
• In 2018, the volunteer-run Souls to Soles received $3,000 for 150 pairs of shoes and socks for four-to-five-year-olds in low-income families. In Spokane, shoes go to children in Head Start and ECEAP (Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program) centers.
• Previously, they funded a coffee maker for Shalom Ministries, which serves Dining with Dignity meals to poor and homeless people in downtown Spokane. It serves breakfasts Mondays through Thursdays, and dinners Mondays and Tuesdays, at New Community Center, 518 W. Third.
Paul listed some other projects.
• Each year, Rotary 21 hosts an annual Partners for Work Interview Event in April for 12 businesses hiring people from Artisans, The Arc of Spokane, Goodwill, PACE and Skils'kin.
• The club's Vaccinations Committee supports six four-hour Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) vaccination clinics, giving vaccinations to about 100 each time. Rotary 21 members volunteer to provide activities for children with music and snacks.
"Faced with the challenges from the anti-vaccine movement, we help the SRHD provide a spectrum of vaccinations for measles to polio," said Paul, noting that Salk Middle School is named for the developer of the polio vaccination.
• The Disability Service Committee used $30,000 to fund 21 requests, partnering with Embrace Washington, Inland Northwest Adaptive and Shriners Hospital for Children in Spokane.
• The Support Our Veterans Committee contributed $8,000 to organizations that assist veterans in Eastern Washington and North Idaho, including purchasing guitars for veterans suffering Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and funding guitar lessons at Holy Names Music Center. Members also support a Veterans Day meal, an ice cream social, a picnic and a holiday meal for veterans who might be overlooked.
• The Youth Services Committee gave $53,500 to organizations serving youth in the community, including Action for Youth, Generation Alive, Ryan's Case for Smiles, Spokane Jazz Orchestra and Union Gospel Mission. It spent $3,500 to host two Foster Kid Fest parties with fun activities with Rotary volunteers at the Mobius Science Center and Salvation Army.
• The club also distributes some of its annual endowment income as scholarships to high school students.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, January, 2020