Lawrence Central Rotary | Lawrence, KS

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More Than a Parade!

Julie Belluci and Maren Ludwig, out-going chairs of the Lawrence St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, gave a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the year-round planning and fundraising that goes into this Lawrence tradition. The 2017 parade was the thirtieth one, once again bringing enthusiastic crowds to Mass Street and raising significant money for youth organizations in Douglas County.

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, a 501c(3) entity, raises money through a long list of special events over the course of many months. It counts between 40 and 70 voting members who meet between August and April to plan not only the parade but also a wide variety of fund-raising activities. The group interviews and selects non-profit entities to receive funds and manages distributions from “Sully’s Pot of Gold,” a pool of supplemental emergency funds that they have established.

Non-profit organizations in Douglas County involved with serving youth can apply to be sponsored by the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee. By applying, groups agree to provide volunteers to help raise funds and run events.

This year the Parade Committee distributed $75,000 to three non-profits.  They gave $25,000 to Big Brothers/Big Sisters Douglas County to help them establish matches of youth in their program with mentors who are law enforcement;  $25,000 to Douglas County CASA to fund training for more adult volunteers to assist children in foster care and the court system; and $25,000 to Sunrise Project to help them renovate space for their gardening/nutrition/cooking programs for preschool and elementary age children.


Greetings from Bangalore, India

“Namaskara!” Ranjith Madhana Gopal said hello to Rotarians in Kannada, his native language. He told club members about his home in Bangalore, India.

Bangalore, a city of 8 ½ million people, is the capital of India’s southern Karnataka state. It is considered the Silicon Valley of India, according to Ranjith, the location for many international technology firms. The city is also known for its parks and lakes. Ecological diversity and virgin forest can be found nearby. Multiple languages are spoken in the city. Ranjith commented that the city’s metros are notoriously and purposely slow, constructed to accommodate uneven terrain and sharp turns in established neighborhoods. Religious processions in the streets are colorful and common, stimulating a strong sense of community and history. Hindu temples are found throughout the city as they have served as economic centers as well as places of worship.

Ranjith first visited the United States in 2012 to participate in an Unmanned Air Vehicle Systems competition in Maryland. His experience there made him decide that he wanted to return to do his advanced degree. Now a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Kansas, Ranjith is pursuing his Masters’ degree in Mechanical Engineering. He says that the friendliness and the value that the Midwest places on extended family makes him feel very much at home. He aspires to be a technological entrepreneur in the field of medical devices. He enjoys swimming, playing cricket, and exploring cultures.

Southwest Middle School Students Envision the Future

Over two dozen eighth graders from Southwest Middle School told Lawrence Central Rotarians their ideas about how to make the world a better place. The students are all members of the Future City team that placed first in regional competition and then took home the fifth-place prize at the national Future City competition in Washington, D.C. In May, members of the team will give their presentation once again at the annual meeting of Underwriters Laboratories, a Future City sponsor. They are one of two teams who have been invited to attend the meeting.

The Future City competition encourages middle schoolers nationwide to “imagine, research, design and build cities of the future.” This year the challenge for the competition was “The Power of Public Space.” The Southwest team selected Jakarta, Indonesia, to re-imagine 150 years in the future. They called their new city “Teratai,” a word that means lotus in Indonesian, symbolizing “the peace and serenity that is part of the rebuilt city.”

In the process of their work, the students learned and followed engineering methods: identify the problem; learn the specifications; brainstorm solutions; design it; build it; then test, improve, and re-design. The program requires each team to develop a project plan, create the city virtually, compose a 300-word essay to describe their solution, build a working model out of recycled materials, and present their concept in a seven-minute talk.  Co-coaches Danielle Lotton-Barker and Jamie Shaw guided the team in their work.

When asked what they had learned from their experience, the students repeatedly exclaimed about the power of teamwork. They came together last fall as individuals with diverse talents, interests, and expertise, and they learned to work together to create not only a prize-winning product but also to develop respect for each other’s contributions and strong friendships. Several said that they intend to pursue careers in engineering and related professions because they enjoyed working on the project so much.


Mail Ballot Supports Student Centered Learning

USD 497 Superintendent Kyle Hayden brought a message to Lawrence Central Rotarians focusing on an upcoming mail-in ballot election.

Kyle Hayden grew up in Sabetha, Kansas, and attended college at Tabor, later earning an advanced degree at Emporia State University. He worked at several teaching assignments in the state before serving five years as Assistant Superintendent for USD 497. He has been on the job for one year, presiding over the seventh largest district in the state, including 1,850 employees and 11,700 students. The District is experiencing steady growth with a ½% to 1% growth increase a year. Kyle Hayden has three children, and his wife is a teacher at Free State High School.

The District strives to achieve a creative engagement of teachers, parents, and community in order to provide and excellent education. Toward that end the May 2, 2017 Mail Ballot Election is intended to address long standing building deficiencies, primarily for the middle schools and high schools. These schools are all in need of more flexible spaces, energy efficiencies and more secure entrances. Due to its age Lawrence High School is a particular focus of the plan.  The development of this proposal was the charge of a Facilities Planning Committee, focus groups, administrators, staff and students. The result is an 87 million dollar bond proposal with 58,000 dollars identified for Lawrence High School. A 2.4 mill tax on local property will be required to fund the plan.

The election time line provides for voter registration to be completed by April 11. Ballots will be mailed April 12 and must be marked and returned to the County Clerk’s Office by noon May 2. Work could start as soon as next summer if the Bond is approved. More information on the Facilities Master Plan and the Mail Ballot measure may be viewed at the District web site.

Maximizing Independence for People with Disabilities

Independence, Inc. in Lawrence serves both people with disabilities and the communities where they live. Organized in 1978, the agency was the first Center for Independent Living (CIL) in the area, according to Bob Mikesic, co-director for the agency. Currently, it is one of about 400 CILs across the nation. Douglas, Franklin, and Jefferson counties benefit from its programs and services.

Cooking is one of the most popular classes that the agency offers among its training programs. In addition to teaching such independent living skills, classes create friendships and good times among peers who use the agency. In addition, Independence, Inc. provides advocacy, peer counseling, information and referral, and transition services of various types. It can also help to locate assistive technology, telecommunications access, and medical equipment for the disabled. Disabled people can find a ride to a medical appointment, learn to manage their finances, and get a document transcribed into Braille at Independence, Inc. The youth employment program provides jobs for young people with disabilities aged 15 to 21. The Haskell Avenue location houses a computer learning center and accessible meeting rooms as well as agency offices.

By promoting self-reliance and advocating personal rights and choices, Centers for Independence work to make individuals productive and to stay interconnected with their communities. There were no laws requiring accessibility or reasonable accommodation when CIL initiatives began in the 1960s, and employment options for the disabled were limited. After years of advocacy, CILs saw Congress pass the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, a law that provided rules and regulations to open the door for disabled people to manage a job and their own lives. More recently, one-third of the people who benefited from the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid were the disabled.

Van Go: An Artistic Path to Success

Van-Go Development Director Eliza Darmon

Van Go is a unique and creative non-profit program that has provided employment, guidance, and success for disadvantaged youth in the Lawrence community.  Development Director Eliza Darmon presented the story of this award -winning program started 20 years ago by Lynn Green with a modest Arts Commission grant.

Van Go has grown into an arts based social service and jobs program serving at-risk teens aged 14-24.  Van Go operates a year-round after school and summer job training experience utilizing local businesses, nonprofits, and community members who provide over 100 youth employment opportunities annually.  Young people are usually referred to Van Go through school social workers and have an IEP, a mental health diagnosis or have been in the court system.  Some 70 percent of these young people live in poverty.  Accordingly, the program is committed to providing a support system which includes academics and tutoring, counseling, encouraging a healthy lifestyle and other life skills.  Clients participate in Bench Mark, an eight weeks employment program in which a bench is constructed and placed in the community.  The Adornment program employs 22 clients to produce art and decorations for the yearly Van Go recognition ceremony.  Young people also plan and paint a mural each spring.  A tile recognition wall also provides employment with colorful fused tiles representing over 700 donors.

Van Go has a budget of $743,000 with almost half coming from Federal, City and County funding.  The rest comes from donations, fundraisers, art sales, two well-attended annual dinners, and an on-site gallery that is open 9:00 am through 5:00 pm.  The Van Go website is

Williamson Tells Story of Revitalized Senior Resource Center

Marvel Williamson

The Senior Resource Center of Douglas County (SRC) has recently redefined its mission and rebranded itself as an information clearinghouse. The organization is now focused on helping people navigate the complexity of resources in the Lawrence area that are available to seniors, according to Marvel Williamson, director of the agency.

Nowadays it is commonly understood that there are three stages of aging:       (1) active seniors who need limited assistance to participate in a community;     (2) seniors who are facing a life event that limits them in some way and who need a particular set of support services in order to remain self-sufficient and connected to the community; and (3) individuals who are heavily dependent on support services for their daily routines.

When it was established in the 1970s, Douglas County Senior Services (DCSS) was a centerpiece of activity for all seniors in downtown Lawrence, a role it continued to play through the 1990s. During a recent strategic planning process, however, DSSC staff realized that the agency was serving a small population of the most vulnerable and that they interacted with active seniors only infrequently. The need was clear: re-invent DSSC in order to meet the needs of all three constituencies.

Senior Resource Center is doing just that. 2017 is a year of “building capacity” for its new mission. The agency has adopted its new name, designed a logo, and developed a website at that identifies it as a resource and referral point. At the same time, it has taken care to maintain support services to seniors: meal delivery, rides for those who need them, a calendar of social and educational activities, and technical and legal assistance, among many others. The agency has catalogued the multiple non-profit and business resources in the community, including identifying seniors who can help each other in various ways. Professionals in the field can also use the Center as a place to network in periodic “summits,” Williamson envisions.

Funding for Senior Resource Center comes from Douglas County. The balance of the $1 million annual budget is met through grants and gifts. The City of Lawrence provides space for the agency and its programs. Because the longtime physical office and gathering spaces in downtown Lawrence are currently under renovation, the agency staff is working at Peasley Technical Center for the year. Currently, there are nine full time employees and 20 who work part time.

Lawrence Fair Housing Ordinance of 1967 Commemorated by Oral History and Documents

Tom Arnold | Lawrence KS

Lawrence Historian Tom Arnold (Photo Credit LJWorld)

The City of Lawrence was one of the first communities in the nation to establish a Fair Housing Ordinance, said local historian Tom Arnold. This important event took place in Lawrence in July 1967, well before the federal Fair Housing Act was enacted in 1968.

Tom Arnold has spent the past months doing research and developing an oral history to commemorate the passage of Lawrence’s Fair Housing Ordinance fifty years ago. After thirty years in the U.S. Navy, Tom came to Lawrence to teach Naval Science at KU for three years as an adjunct professor. He retired from the University six years ago and began volunteering at the Watkins Museum. As the anniversary of the Fair Housing Ordinance approached, Arnold took the archival work that began in the City Attorney’s office by LCR member Scott Wagner, Management Analyst, and accepted the task of developing an oral history to complement the historical documents. Those interviews were conducted in October and November 2016. The goal was to get the personal perspectives and motives of individuals who participated in this important set of decisions in Lawrence during the 1960s.  Arnold conducted nine interviews with eleven people, generating twelve hours of recordings.  The recordings have now been transcribed so that they are searchable for future research needs.

The milestone anniversary of the Fair Housing Ordinance will be celebrated with a variety of events and displays during the coming months. There will be a visual display at the Watkins Museum and a traveling exhibit as well. Documents will be archived at the KU Spencer Museum.

The Lawrence Human Rights Commission (HRC) was established in 1961. Before that time, none of the public swimming pools were open to non-whites. Businesses routinely segregated Afro-Americans and even refused services.  The Fair Housing initiative began as a grassroots movement among Lawrence citizens in 1964 when the Lawrence Fair Housing Committee formed. Attempts to pass state legislation on Fair Housing failed, so the group transferred their focus to the local level. The Lawrence Ordinance was the result of effort and risk-taking by many to address the housing discrimination and inequities that existed in the Lawrence community. The Committee sent a resolution to the Human Relations Commission of the City of Lawrence in 1967. By that time, there was broad support. Many community groups and churches collaborated to bring this significant milestone to reality.


Dr. Roger Dreiling Urges A Questioning Attitude for Good Heart Health

“Question everything!” says Dr. Roger Dreiling, head of Cardiology Services at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. It was advice that he received from a mentor early in his medical career. Questioning led Dreiling to solve emergency situations in innovative ways and to avoid recommending procedures that had not been through rigorous medical trials. He believes that doctors who ask questions are more likely to use the correct medical tool or procedure and to refer patients to the most appropriate area of expertise to address their health problems.

Dr. Dreiling described the evolution of treatments used to help patients suffering from heart disease. It was a questioning approach that led to innovations. Years ago, for example, doctors knew that the drugs prescribed to help with some of the symptoms of heart disease caused dangerous side effects. Some physicians experimented with treatment using angioplasty, even though that course of action was not approved by the profession at the time. By 1993, the use of angioplasty emerged as the safest and best alternative for many patients. Dreiling prefers to use this procedure at LMH to avoid the side effects of drugs and the dangers of surgical options whenever possible.

From thirty to fifty people present with symptoms of a heart attack (acute myocardial infraction) at the Cardiac Cath Lab at Lawrence Memorial Hospital each year. Dreiling and his team of doctors, surgeons, and technicians respond to those situations 24/7, frequently using angioplasty. The department has  very low mortality rate—only 5%. They have saved hundreds of lives during the past nine years.

Trained in pharmacology before he pursued a medical degree at University of Kansas School of Medical, Dr. Dreiling is board certified in Internal Medicine, Cardiology, Cardiovascular Disease, and Interventional Cardiology.

District Governor Chris Ford Stresses Vitality and Membership

DG Chris Ford, District 5710

In introducing District Governor Chris Ford, Lawrence Central President Jim Peters listed the club’s activities, both local and international.  He named community bike rides, wreath sales, and fireside dinners as well as support for LiveWell Lawrence, Willow Domestic Violence Center, Salvation Army bell ringing, the Rotary Arboretum, and internationally, support for Shelter Boxes, the Open World Program, and Sister Cities, among many others.

“We’re a ‘DO IT’ club,” Peters said.

This attitude emphasized Ford’s theme of creating an active, vital group. Ford is passionate about Rotary, both its future and its past. He began his talk with a quote from founder Paul Harris that illustrates that enthusiasm. “Be passionate about Rotary. Embrace change,” Harris wrote in 1907 when the social club he had started in 1905 became a service club. “Paul Harris had real foresight,” Ford said. “He said for Rotary to achieve its proper destiny, it must be evolutionary and, at times, revolutionary.”

Ford said his goal for 2017 is 3,000 Rotarians in District 5710. “We’re a small district with 45 clubs. I want a growth rate of 20% for our clubs.“ He outlined three goals for Rotary clubs: new members, retention of current members, and improved attendance. He said we must inspire members to stay in Rotary and have the quality of programs that will keep attendance high. Rotary projects are important. Polio has been conquered but other worldwide concerns include literacy and education, maternal and child health, clean water, and a host of others.

Ford closed his talk with an invitation to the District Conference, May 5-6, in Overland Park. His goal for the conference is to make it inspirational with more Rotarians attending. “The conference,“ he said “is to celebrate Rotary.”

Feeding the Hungry in Douglas County – Just Food’s Mission

Brandon DeinesBrandon Deines, President of the Board of Directors of Just Food, presented a program on the activities of the Douglas County Food Bank.

Brandon grew up in Hoxie, Kansas where he spent many hours working in the family grocery store.  That early experience and a desire to serve the community made his commitment to Just Food a good match.

Just Food supplies more than 40 partner agencies with fresh produce, frozen meat, bread and other food.  Client services also include instruction on growing vegetables and healthy cooking classes.  The organization believes that access to nutritious food is a fundamental human right and they also teach self- sufficiency.

Just Food collaborates with numerous community partners and over 400 annual food drives.  Gifts of cash are particularly welcome as currency provides the most efficient way feed people.  An annual dance and a fundraising dinner both receive considerable community support.  The Just Food Pantry is open five days a week and clients may fill a bag or box with food once a month.  However, fresh vegetables and bread are available daily.  A mobile food pantry and several other pantry sites also serve clients.

Client eligibility is capped at 185 % of the Federal Poverty Index, that translates into some 19,000 people in Douglas County who are identified at risk or in need of food.  The need is great, as Just Food served 13,000 clients in 2016, all by 3.75 employees and gracious volunteers clocked in over 18,000 hours.

Brandon concluded that there still is a great need and the community response has been gratifying.  For more information about Just Food visit their website at

The Spencer Museum’s Margaret Perkins McGuiness Visits Lawrence Central

The Spence Museum’s Director of External Affairs Margaret Perkins McGuiness brought Lawrence Central Rotarians up to date on renovations at the museum as well as filling them in on museum history at the Rotary meeting on January 11. Using slides and a video, she detailed the museum story beginning with gifts of art from Mrs. Thayer of the Emery Bird Thayer Company in Kansas City and contributions from Helen Forsman Spencer .

The museum has gone from being housed in Spooner Hall in 1895 to its own building which is now being enlarged and modernized to make exhibits even more accessible, especially for art classes. “The museum will be brighter, more welcoming,” McGuiness said “with smaller, flexible exhibits that can be moved more quickly. And there will be more art outside around the museum,” she said.

Begun with Mrs. Thayer’s collection, expanded by Mrs. Spencer, the museum began an internship program in the 1980s, and is part of the Mellon Foundation Academic Programs.
“We are adding staff members to work with this, “McGuiness said. “The Spencer is one of the leading art education museums in the country, counting the curator of the Manhattan Museum of Modern Art as an alumnus.”

The collections range from works by Thomas Hart Benton to Andy Warhol, and include a western collection, very contemporary types of art in a room recently built especially for them, and “cabinets of curiosities” –smaller items in collection.

“Our goal in this renovation,” McGuiness said “ is to make the museum a part of the campus transformation. We want to make it more inviting, with more space for teaching, more open, more functional.

“We want visitors to the museum to look at art, look around and look inward.”

LCR Member Bob Swan Reminisces About His Rotary Foundation Fellow Year in South America

Bob Swan reminisced about his time in South America as a Rotary Foundation Fellow in 1966 when he spoke to Lawrence Central Rotarians in December.

Swan, a past president of Lawrence Central, was chosen for a year-long fellowship to travel in Latin America and to attend the University of Bueno Aires. Arriving there, he began to hear rumors of a coup and decided to attend Catholic University of Salvador in Buenos Aires instead, fortunately as the University of Buenos Aires was closed.

During his 10 months in Argentina, he conducted research on the Peronista movement, culminating in interviews with associates of Juan Peron’s second wife, Isabelita, and a five-page letter from Peron himself answering Swan’s questions.

He traveled widely while he was in Latin America, being hosted by Rotarians and, at one point was joined by his parents from Topeka. In both Buenos Aires and Cordoba he presented programs on American folk music. He also interviewed three other Argentinian former presidents, Gen. Pedro Aramburu, Dr. Arthur Frondizi and Arturo Illia.

He said that what impressed him most during his fellowship were the remarkable world natural and cultural sites of the southern hemisphere and a strong lasting impression of the prestige and position of Rotary and its highly successful members in South America.

One of 50 fellows chosen world wide that year he said “thinking back 50 years now on all the experiences of 1966 and early 1967 I feel very positive about the 11 months I spent representing Rotary International and the United States in Latin America.”

Happy Holidays from Lawrence Central Rotary

Many families gather to take pictures and tell stories during the holiday season and on December 14 Lawrence Central Rotary followed that trend. Instead of having a speaker or a program, each member told stories about holiday gatherings in the past and plans for this year. Past holidays included everything from big family reunions to small dinners with friends and the occasional holiday upset. Grandchildren figured prominently. Sometimes the Rotarian had been the grandchild, relating fond memories. Christmases had been celebrated in other countries, on family farms and college campuses.  Christmas 2016 plans range from hosting dinner at home to traveling abroad to be with relatives.

At the close of the meeting, President Jim Peters assembled everyone for a family picture.