Branch 8 History Report – 2015

Our Branch celebrated its 50th anniversary in March 2015 with an extremely enjoyable luncheon that included local city officials, many SIR State officers, Region Directors, Area Governors, Big Sirs from other branches, and of course, our own members. All in all, we had 320 guests in attendance including 275 of our own Branch 8 members. Maybe it was the free wine and the Branch 8 commemorative coffee mug that brought them out?

It was truly a memorable occasion, and certainly one of the highlights of the year. Kudos to the Anniversary Committee who organized and pulled the whole day off without a hiccup. We were even recognized by Walnut Creek and Concord by proclaiming March 9 as Sir Branch 8 Day. In conjunction with the anniversary, the BEC approved the branch’s first mission and vision statement. I am using those statements to organize my thoughts for this annual report. Our branch mission statement is:

To provide a Sons in Retirement Branch for retired and semi-retired men with the purpose of enriching their lives and consequently, the lives of their spouses/partners.”

I think all members will agree that we achieved superior results. In 2015 we clearly enriched the lives of our members and their spouses/partners. More specifically, our Branch 8 vision states: “We measure our successes through focusing on the following achievements” They are five in number, and include:

Provide mental and physical stimulation that meets the needs of our members and prospective members through a wide variety of activities – a large number of which are to be coed.”

In 2015 we ended the year with 49 activities and two events (Ladies’ Day and BBQ) Activities were four above our goal of 45. We maintained our leadership as the branch with the most activities in all of SIR. We added seven new activities and cut four. Of the seven activities we started, five were founded by members with one year or less membership in the branch. The credit for our robust activity program is shared among many members – from our Activity Coordinator Phil Trapp, his Activity Coordination Committee and all of our activity chairmen, co-chairmen and assistant chairmen.

We continue to lead all branches in having coed activities as 28 of our activities welcome our members’ spouses and partners. Coed activities are one of the key strengths of our branch, and our July and December Ladies’ Days and our BBQ continue to draw large numbers of our Sir couples.

During 2015 we continued to work to ensure our activity program would remain robust. The Activity Coordination Team worked with activity chairmen to make sure each activity had at least one assistant chairman capable of continuing the activity in case the chairman wanted/needed to be replaced. The team also categorized all activities from high risk to low risk of cession, and worked with the chairmen of the higher risk activities to develop actions to reduce the risk. This effort was successful in improving the risk profile of several activities.

Our activities run the gamut from those that require physical effort, mental effort and many that are just plain fun. Our Activity Chairman Recognition Breakfast held in December will have record turnout from an engaged group of Branch 8 volunteers. One major theme of the event will be how to use to recruit more members.

Provide monthly branch luncheons where members can mingle with each other with a spirit of familiarity, friendship and collegiality in a suitable venue accompanied by a dynamic speaker on a subject of wide member interest.”

Our venue, the Hilton Concord, continues to provide good food, excellent service and an atmosphere conducive to fellowship (and inexpensive beverages too). We ended the year with average luncheon attendance of over 78%. This is one of the highest attendance figures in SIR, and I believe it also speaks to the quality of our speakers (headed by Little Sir Darryl Sweetland and his Speakers’ Committee) and luncheon program in general. Early in the year we streamlined the way we introduced new members and made activity announcements; both changes were appreciated by the membership.

We are blessed with many volunteers that make our luncheons a success. From our Attendance Secretary, Bill Peterson, our Treasurer and Assistant Treasurer, Larry Yarberry and Ron Cassano, and to our greeters and the guys manning the sign up, cashier, badge, activity, book exchange and guest tables.

One of my favorite programs was our member Ed Cohn’s presentation on bull fighting. I don’t think I’ll ever forget Ed swinging his sword and cape around and Rob Laaback trying to dodge it while holding the microphone. I thought if he kills Rob, Gay will never forgive us. Rob is a pretty agile guy, so I guess we would have had to give Ed at least one ear.

Conduct multi-faceted recruiting and member relations programs to ensure member satisfaction and the long term survival of our Branch

On the recruiting front, 2015 was a terrific year in terms of first time guests (75), guest conversion rate to members (64%, a significant improvement) and new members (48). However, this was somewhat offset by a slight uptick in membership losses (35) almost all of which were due to involuntary causes. We ended the year with total active membership of 336 for a net gain of 13; we continue our streak of not having lost net membership for 13 years. That is a record unsurpassed in SIR, and it’s due to our leaders and members who take active recruiting to heart. January led the pack with the induction of 11 new members.

A key project this year was the development of our video, “CeleBR8 – Join Branch 8.” We have received numerous compliments for it, but the best news is that new applicants are mentioning it as a part of their decision process when they decide to apply to our branch. Many of us helped in the production, but nothing could have been done without our video editor, Chuck Joyce.

We formed an alliance with the Walnut Creek Senior Center and began advertising our Branch luncheon and a few other activities in We believe that both of these efforts will significantly aid our recruiting efforts in 2016 while working to form an alliance with the Walnut Creek Villages project.

Our Member Relations effort remained very active under the leadership of Stan Johnson who was followed by Tony de Losada. We continued our comment card program (led by Jim Sowell) at our monthly luncheons, our new member orientation program (HLM Dave Perkins and Mike Anderson) and the four to six month follow up workshop with newer members (Richard Bal and HLM Ron Smith). Our branch has a good history of volunteerism, and approximately half our members take on some task to make Branch 8 the branch that it is. The key volunteer this year was Mike Long who accepted the role of Little Sir for 2016; thanks Mike.

In January, we had the honor of bestowing the highest level of recognition a branch can offer to a member, the Honorary Life Member award. Our recipient, Derek Southern, has been a vital part of our branch and at the SIR State level. He was instrumental in presenting the reasons we needed to move from the Elk’s Club to the branch membership, and his professional approach to that task served our branch well. Branch duties he’s taken on include Big Sir, Little Sir, Membership Chairman, and Webmaster. His State roles include Training Director and now State Secretary.

Provide support to other Sir Branches to assist them in any way we possibly can.”

It is doubtful that there is another Branch in SIR whose members contribute more to SIR outside of the Branch. Derek Southern is the State Secretary, Dean Steichen heads the State InfoSys Committee, Walt Schick (whose death we mourn) was a member of the State Training Committee, he and I were on the State Growth and Membership Committee and Walt was the Chairman of the RAMP (recruitment, activities, member relations and publicity) Sub-Committee. I also served as Area 2 Governor. Several of us participated in developing RAMP State training which included the production of five video segments – once again Chuck Joyce was a major contributor.

Bill Peterson led the facilities and meal effort for the SIR Annual Meeting which was held at the Hilton Concord, our Membership Secretary, Bob Barnes assisted in training Membership Chairmen outside of the Branch and our Secretary, Erland Persson facilitated a well received discussion at the Region 6 State training. I am the Team Leader of Project 2016, whose goal is to develop recommendation for improving SIR membership loss and branch performance in the future. In 2016 I will also be Region Director and Chairman of the State Growth and Membership Committee.

Dedicate our leadership, assets, expenditures and energy to achieving our Mission.”

Financially, the branch is on excellent footing, and it looks as if we will end the year with reserves in the $12,000 neighborhood. We have taken on a number of projects in 2016, and managed to stay overall within $200 of our budget. Our leadership is motivated, enthusiastic and energized. Lastly, I would be remiss without recognizing the efforts and leadership of our retiring BEC members – Leo Barrilla, Big Sir in 2014, Larry Lange and Jack Waddell, our terrific Ladies’ Day Chairman.

I’m sure I’ve missed some members’ names who helped make 2015 the year that it was. For that omission, I apologize. And, a special thank you to 336 of the best guys I’ve ever had the privilege of working with and serving. Darn, I’m really going to miss this job.

Respectively submitted,
Ed Benson, Big Sir 2015


Little SIR 2015 Year End Report

2015 was an exciting year highlighted by the celebration of Branch 8’s 50th Anniversary in March and what a great celebration it was.  Orchestrated by Big SIR Ed Benson and assisted by many everything ran very smoothly.

2015 Speakers:  One of the highlights was our speaker, Michael Finney, ABC News “7 On Your Side”.  Michael was our keynote speaker for our 50th Anniversary Luncheon and spoke on consumer affairs and current scams prevalent in today’s environment.  Other speakers for our 2015 luncheons were:  January – Ed Cohn on his personal experience fighting bulls, February – Jon Dwyer on Fracking, April – Thomas Lindemuth on desalination, May – Tom Barnidge on CCC affairs, July – Nan Su on Chinese cultural changes, August – Rex Meredith, standup comic, September – Amonjot Sethi MD on new procedures for treating prostate cancer, October – Michael Barrington on his experiences as a Catholic Missionary in Africa, November – Judge Barry Goode on the need for more financing for the local court system.

Audio/Visual:  Our Sound and Video team led by Dick Brooks and assisted by Hans Pable, through trial and error eliminated all past sound and microphone problems.

Award and Achievement Certificates:  Barry Brown once again printed and provided the award and achievement certificates.

Darryl Sweetland, 2015 Little Sir