Rotary Club members with a check for local charities
Robert Semmer and Gillian Semmer are co-chairs of San Diego Downtown Breakfast Rotary’s coronavirus response committee.

I am honored to be the president of the San Diego Downtown Breakfast Rotary that meets every Wednesday morning at the University Club atop Symphony Towers. We are 102 members from all walks of life dedicated to serving our community under the motto of “In Service Above Self.”

When the coronavirus crisis and economic shutdown hit our nation and our community, our board could see we were heading for a tsunami of humanitarian needs. We quickly formed a coronavirus response committee and asked two long-standing members, father and daughter Robert Semmer and Gillian Semmer, to co-chair it. The new committee’s mission was to explore how our club could best aid our community in this time of crisis.

Our club is best known for our ongoing hands-on-projects to help our community. However, because of the stay-at-home and social distancing requirements, we determined our efforts in this crisis would need to be focused on providing financial aid.

Over the following weeks, Bob and Gillian and their committee went to work raising new money, as well as researching the local charities that would give us the biggest bang for our buck in helping those being hurt most — homeless, seniors, youth, newly unemployed, and food-deprived individuals and families.

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Through individual member donations, our club’s foundation, and two available matching grants, we have directed over $85,000 to the following seven local charities.  The committee selected these organizations because they have a long and respected history of serving those in special need.  Likewise, our club has partnered with most of these organizations in the past and knows first hand the good work they do.

 East County Transitional Living Center houses and feeds over 450 previously homeless people and families and helps them back to full employment. With our $12,500 donation, the center will be able to invite at least 10 additional families into their programs.

 Serving Seniors was given $12,500 to provide meals for disadvantaged senior citizens in downtown San Diego.

Episcopal Community Services’s Uptown Safe Haven was given $12,500 for their residential facility that provides transitional housing and supportive services to chronically homeless young adults with moderate to severe mental health issues.

 Feeding San Diego was given $10,800 (plus a partial match bringing the total to $19,100) for their programs to provide 40,000 meals for communities affected by the coronavirus.

Father Joe’s Villages was given $8,300 (plus a match doubling the total to $16,600) for their emergency relief fund to feed and house thousands of homeless persons.

 Salvation Army Downtown San Diego was given $8,300 for their work with economically vulnerable, low-wage men, women and children who are at risk of falling into homelessness.

 La Mision Children’s Fund Food Bank in Baja California received $4,000. La Mision previously served 55 families per month, but because of the coronavirus crisis, is now serving over 350 families per month.

The San Diego Downtown Breakfast Rotary was founded in 1990 and has since donated over $2 million to charities ranging from wounded veterans, USO, feeding and housing the homeless, assisting senior citizens in need, the USS Midway, Honor Flight, Junior Achievement, as well as humanitarian projects in Baja California, Latin America, Africa, and India. Our annual Holes For Heroes golf tournament is our feature fundraiser.

If you would like to learn more about our club, please visit us at

George Mullen has been in Rotary for 32 years and is the current President of the San Diego Downtown Breakfast Rotary.  He is spearheading Sunbreak Ranch in the effort to end America’s homeless crisis and is a principal of