Creating Lasting Change
Our 2020 Coeur de Cuisine Honorees
Keith and Charito Richenbacher
The highlight of Coeur de Cuisine™ is honoring members of our community who best exemplify the Rotary ideal of Service Above Self. Keith and Charito’s lives are filled with service, making them the perfect choice for honorees of Coeur de Cuisine 2020 and of this year’s theme, “Celebration of Service.” Coeur means heart and you will see that Rotary and service to others have a very special place in theirs.
Charito began life as a child in San Carlos City, a province in the Philippines. Her impoverished childhood gave her an inner drive to help others in need. One of her favorite projects is to support young children – in particular helping children in the Philippines without shoes and clothing and in need of the basics of life. She is also a regular Volunteer in Residential Aged Care and loves assisting and socializing with the elderly during her weekends.
After moving to Australia as a young woman, she encountered Rotary and found it an ideal environment to expand her service with community involvement. One example is her work with the organization World Vision Australia. Her child sponsorship helps build a lasting change for the world’s children.
Keith was born in Akron, Ohio but grew up in Melbourne, Australia. He is a long time Escondido businessman with an ongoing 30 year partnership with John Page. They have several companies including a national collection agency, a finance company, a car dealership, and a school. A friend invited him to The Rotary Club of Escondido in 2008 where he immediately felt at home and enjoyed meeting many key people in the community. He was impressed that many people in Rotary remained engaged in service practices year after year, actively making a difference in their communities and beyond. Becoming president of the Club in 2014 was a natural extension of this passion for being engaged in service. After his year as Past President, he served Rotary District 5340 as an Assistant Governor for over three years.
While Keith is a loyal volunteer in many Club projects, his passion is his leadership with The San Pasqual Academy, a residential middle and high school for foster children and young adults. Some of the projects at SPA include Shop ‘til You Drop (equipping students with back to school supplies and clothing), the Serenity Garden, the Christmas Gift program, end of the year awards and scholarships, and the annual “Ag Day” or Rotarians at Work Day.
Keith feels that one of his worst “business decisions” he made, but with the absolute best outcome was to purchase a Florida school for special needs children, which at one point was destined for liquidation. He fell in love with the students and the school mission and began investing time and money. Since aquisition, the school has expanded from 160 to nearly 500 students and has an active Foundation to support further expansion. He now views it as “an institution of hope” for many children who need a second chance.