By LAUREL BUSBY
Special to Circling the News
Trish Bowe has stepped up to become president of the Pacific Palisades Rotary Club at an unprecedented time.
Instead of their weekly breakfast meetings at Aldersgate, the club now has dinnertime Zoom meetings. Charitable donations must be handed out while wearing masks and respecting social distancing. Fundraising has moved online, including a May event that raised $3,700 and included dinner, cupcakes, bingo, and a Memphis entertainer.
“It has meant a very different way of doing things, but it’s worked out,” Bowe told Circling the News. “You have to be very creative during this time. This is the new normal.”
Bowe, a State Farm insurance agent for 39 years (with an office on Via de la Paz), served as the club’s president-elect until July 1, when past president Kevin Niles stepped down. She noted that the traditional installation event of the club’s new officers on July 18 also had to be handled in a new manner.
The officer pins were dropped off at each person’s home so the board member or a loved one could pin it to their clothing at the appropriate moment in the online ceremony.
“It was nice,” said Bowe, who is entering her third year of Rotary membership. “You still have to have that human touch. It can’t be so institutionalized that no one has fun.”
The club’s mission includes fun, but most importantly service. The Rotary’s motto is “Service Above Self,” and both social fun and service are incorporated in all of their activities. Each week, the club has a meeting with a speaker. For example, last month, Palisadian Bruce Rosen of the Westside Food Bank spoke one week, while Deputy Fire Chief Armando Hogan shared his knowledge at another of the regular 5:30 p.m. Tuesday Zoom meetings, which are open to anyone interested in attending.
This combination of service and social connection is an ideal fit for Bowe, who chose to become an insurance agent because she wanted to help people. A former elementary school teacher in Lakewood and Signal Hill, Bowe also sought to become an attorney by taking night classes at the University of West LA, where she met her future husband, Vincent Guarino.
After graduation in 1981, Guarino joined a law firm, but while Bowe passed the bar and worked as a law clerk in the summer, she decided law was not her calling. Instead, she switched to insurance, accepting a job at State Farm, where Guarino had worked as a senior claims adjuster while earning his law degree.
State Farm had recently been found guilty of sex discrimination in its hiring practices and was mandated to change, according to the Los Angeles Times. In 1981, only 65 out of its 1,847 California agents were female.
Bowe became the first female State Farm agent in her district, she said.
“It was quite interesting; you felt like you were from outer space,” Bowe said. “I remember going to corporate and they didn’t have any women…. Now they have the right amount of women, and it’s all good.”
Bowe wouldn’t have been able to join the local Rotary Club at the time either, because until a 1989 Supreme Court ruling required Rotary clubs to admit women, the clubs restricted themselves to men only. “I figure State Farm was way ahead,” Bowe joked.
State Farm has been a perfect fit for her, and her location at 860 Via has become the family business. Guarino left the practice of law after 25 years and returned to the insurance business 15 years ago, while their son, Patrick, 29, also now works as an agent in the office. Even the family dog, Pepper, a rescue shih tzu, comes to work as “a little mascot.” Only their cat, Elle, doesn’t hang out at the office.
For Bowe, helping people has been her favorite part of providing insurance, and she has found over the years that their ideal customer “appreciates life’s risks in regard to their current and future assets—and how they can protect their family against life vulnerabilities.”
The work has also allowed her to keep learning. She has become a certified life underwriter and mortgage life originator. In addition, she earned a securities license and is currently studying to become a charter financial consultant.
“I’m never bored and I’m always challenging myself,” said Bowe, who also enjoys traveling, including ventures throughout Europe. “When you’re a perennial learner, this job is attractive.”
The Rotary Club’s members are also always evolving, learning and giving. For example, already this year, the club has donated more than $17,000 to charities, including $1,800 to the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness, $3,800 to PaliHi students who needed internet access, $1,000 to Meals on Wheels, $1,000 to the Palisades YMCA, and $5,000 to Camp Pendleton families for clothes, food and supplies.
The club also provides scholarships to Paul Revere and Palisades High students, plus books for Weigand Avenue Elementary School children. A new fundraiser is planned for Oct. 10 at the VA Heroes Golf Course to benefit the Boy Scouts and YMCA.
The club is also international in its focus, and annually clubs across the globe participate in a global project and humanitarian trip. Assuming coronavirus doesn’t alter current plans, Bowe will be traveling to Costa Rica next spring for the humanitarian trip.
Locally, Bowe is focused on acting now to improve the community and world in part through increasing club membership. The Rotary encourages members from all age groups and backgrounds.
“We really put out the welcome mat; we want new members,” Bowe said. “There’s so many things to do. It’s exciting. During this Covid-19 time, we’re doing as much as we can right now…. There are a lot of holes, and we have to be there to fill them. There’s such a need out there that we have never seen in our lifetime.”
Those interested in the club can visit its website at rotary5280.org/clubinfo/pacific-palisades or Facebook page—Pacific Palisades Rotary Club. Also, feel free to reach out to Bowe at firstname.lastname@example.org.