I knew the moment I met Terri Oprean we were going to hit it off. She loves pink, adores dogs, and idolised her grandmother.
The former school teacher has been at the helm of the Daylesford Rotary Club for the past twelve months. She recently handed over the reins to new president, Andrew Littlejohn.
Reflecting on her tenure, she says whilst membership numbers are dwindling, Rotary is still doing exceptional work in the community.
Terri, what brought you to Daylesford?
My youngest son was living in Daylesford, and I was looking for a retirement plan. It was a 10 year plan that came to fruition within about four. Then I was walking down the street one Thursday morning and Rotary had a sign out the front of Frangos and said, ‘Open night – come along and find out what Rotary do.’
Fast forward, you ended up President. How would you describe the role?
Being President, challenging, frustrating at times, but very rewarding and enjoyable. One of the things that I said at the start of my Presidency year was for Rotary to try and make some more connections with different groups. Because we’re a small little group, we can’t do everything and we’re an ageing club and we don’t raise a fortune.
What are the challenges?
Rotary tends to be those that are semi-retired or retired and now they’re starting to age. We’re looking at how we get younger people on board and I think the mindset in Rotary has to change. It used to be very strict, well to start with, they never used to have females in Rotary.
Wow, no females. That needs to change.
Oh yeah, it’s very recent. It’s only been about the last 20 years, I think. And with Rotary you had to come to every meeting every week. If you didn’t attend a meeting, you had to do something else outside of Rotary. It’s not like that anymore. It’s more flexible.
How has your year at the helm been?
When I reflect back on our club, we’ve only got 17 members, and not everybody is always well enough to turn up and volunteer. They do when they can. But I look back and we raised over $27,000. So local community and our youth gets the bulk of our budget. We’ve done a lot of work out at the Dharma School. We helped build their garden out there. We’ve helped with the Cornish Hill Lookout. Rotary originally built it, and it was falling apart. We worked in partnership with the Men’s Shed to repair it.
And you’ve just recently sponsored a story dog. Tell us about Teddy Tuesday.
I do a bit of tutoring out at the Dharma school and I was out there one day and Teddy, the volunteer dog, came along. They call it the story dog. He’s gone through training, and he comes in on a Tuesday and listens to the children read. We’re going to sponsor Teddy and get him a Rotary coat to wear soon.
What else is on the agenda this year?
We have the Mad Hatters Party coming up at Vic Park. We’re going to have a Devonshire tea. There’ll be prizes for different hats. We’re going to have a fashion parade from the Salvation Army, and we’ll have a guest speaker talking about mental health.
It’s also Rotary’s 70th anniversary, that sounds like an event not to be missed.
It’ll be amazing. It’s a dinner at the town hall. We’ve got the town’s three leading ladies, the bastions of Daylesford speaking. Alla Wolf Tasker from Lake House, Tina Banitska from The Convent, and Carol White from Lavandula.
Away from Rotary, what are you streaming right now?
Just started Bay of Fires on ABC iview.
If you had a superpower, what would it be and why?
I would love to be a fly on the wall. I’d love to sit in…
I reckon people that I know. (laughs)
What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
I think to be bold and to trust in yourself a bit more.
If you were sent to Wombat State Forest for the rest of your eternal life, what three items would you take with you?
I would have to take my two dogs, Murphy and Mish, and they only count as one. I’d have to take my cookbooks. And the third one, I would take my iPad, so I could read.
Tell us about the new President, what advice do you have for him?
Andrew Littlejohn, he works in strategic planning for the council. He’s also a musician, an artist, and he’s a dog lover. I would say to him, ‘remember that we’re volunteers.’ You do as much as you can, and that’s all we can do.
What’s next for Terri?
Grandma duties are very, very important. I also still work with Days for Girls. It’s an international organisation and we sew reusable menstrual feminine hygiene products.
What’s a fun fact we don’t know about you?
I was texting one of my boys last night and he came up with, ‘you’ve got the handsomest son in town’. I said, ‘that’s not helpful Rhyce.’ Then he suggested that I’ve had miniature Schnauzers for 25 years, five of them, and they’ve all been named with the letter M.
If you were a hashtag?
Nothing beats the bond with a grandparent.
My grandma always drank tea, and I couldn’t stand the taste of tea, so I had to put about 20 spoons of sugar in so that I could drink the tea because I wanted to be like Grandma.
Keep enjoying your sweet tea, Terri, it’s been an absolute delight. I look forward to seeing you at the Mad Hatters Tea Party next month.
The Mad Hatters Tea Party will be held at the Victoria Park Pavilion on September 10.
Don’t miss the 70th Anniversary Dinner at the Town Hall on September 23rd. Tickets available. https://rotarydaylesford.org.au/event/rotary-club-of-daylesford-70th-birthday
The Annual Daylesford Rotary Art Show will also be held from November 2 to 7 over the Melbourne Cup long weekend.
Raquel Stevens is a former Network Ten News Journalist. She has been a part time local for more than 25 years, and one day hopes to be a full time local.