Vembra Holnagel to head Encinitas Coastal Rotary Club

Holnagel is an experienced community service leader


Last year, a group from the Encinitas Coastal Rotary Club notified member Vembra Holnagel that they wanted to meet with her.

Vembra Holnagel
Vembra Holnagel
(Susan Magre Photography)

Holnagel figured it had something to do with fundraising since that is one of her specialties.

The Encinitas resident is a founding member of the Shades of Pink Foundation California. The nonprofit raises money for women in treatment for and recovery from breast cancer.

Holnagel was wrong. The Rotary members who summoned her revealed she had been selected as future president of the club. She accepted and her yearlong term begins in early July.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” Holnagel said of the appointment. “It was a complete surprise when they said we want you to be president. I am completely grateful that they wanted me for this job and I’m going to do the best I can.

“I feel honored to serve Rotary. People involved with Rotary are smart and successful. It’s an honor to be associated with them and the things they do in serving the community.”

A native of Indiana, Holnagel has lived most of her life in the San Diego region. She graduated from Cal-State San Marcos. She and her husband are fervent supporters of San Diego State University athletic teams.

After moving to Encinitas, Holnagel decided she wanted to get involved in Rotary as a networking opportunity. The organization dedicates itself to charitable causes both locally and internationally, while also holding social events.

While researching clubs in this region, she settled on the Encinitas Coastal club, which was founded in 1984.

“I just walked in and felt very much at home,” Holnagel said. “It was a really wonderful fit and I’ve been there for 12 years now.”

Current president Marti Rosenberg said Holnagel is a great fit for the club’s top post, a notion reinforced by efforts over the last year to prepare the president-elect for the job.

“She is teachable, which is amazing and fantastic,” Rosenberg said. “She’s transparent and real. I’m thrilled that they chose her. I incorporated some new, innovative things and she’s going to build from those innovations and make our club better and better.”

She described Holnagel’s personality as “sanguine,” which according to Webster’s dictionary means “marked by sturdiness, high color, and cheerfulness.”

“She is a leader and a people person,” Rosenberg said.

While being club president will be a new experience for Holnagel, she is no stranger to a leadership role.

She has been on the Shades of Pink board for nine years and served as its president, treasurer, grant committee chair and marketing director. She has overseen the distribution of $250,000 in support to local women in treatment for or recovery from breast cancer.

As Rotary president, Holnagel will oversee efforts to raise funds for as many as 15 different charities. Club activities include its two major annual fundraisers — Purse Bingo in winter and the Golf Ball Drop in spring.

Funds from those events support families of fallen Navy Seals, sex trafficking victims and domestic violence survivors among other causes.

“I’m very excited about what we’re going to be bringing to the table in the new year,” she said.

One of Holnagel’s goals is to increase membership, which currently stands at 47 and is nearly equally divided between women and men.

“We’re looking at ways of diversifying,” Holnagel said. “One of our tasks is to be more inclusive and expand our membership to different voices.”

She also said she will strive to set up a student scholarship program and assist the city of Encinitas in addressing the challenges of homelessness.

“We’re looking at ways in which we might fill in some of the gaps,” Holnagel said. “My goal for the club is to find out how it can be more active in what we can do with regard to homelessness.

“We have compassion for (homeless people’s) situation and want to find real solutions to help them move forward. ... I think the more educated we are about them and their problems, the more we can find solutions where we can make a difference.”

Holnagel will officially become president on July 5. The club usually meets every Tuesday at 12:15 p.m. at Cicciotti’s restaurant in Encinitas’ Cardiff-by-the-Sea community.

“I’m very excited about what we’re going to be bringing to the table in the new year,” she said. “I only have 12 months as president. I want to do as much as I can. Aside from that, we just have a lot of fun.”

For more information on Encinitas Coastal Rotary Club, go to