One of the yearly traditions of Lawrence Central Rotary is to invite family and guests to a December meeting and welcome one of the local high school chamber choirs join with perfectly pitched melodies of the season. This year Free State High School’s Chamber Singers which is an accelerated 20 member ensemble of students from the Chamber Choir, warmed the room with amazing harmonies both traditional and whimsical.
The tradition was started by club charter member, and long-time secretary Becky Castro who passed earlier this year. President Carolyn DeSalvo talked about how this was one of Becky’s favorite yearly events and took a moment to remember her.
Tim Laurent, of the Lawrence Parks and Rec Department and Chad Towen, facilities operation supervisor for Rock Chalk Park, said the new Rock Chalk Park “engenders pride.” And then they proceeded to show their pride by presenting an impressive array of facts and figures about the new facility to Central Rotarians on November 19.
“Lawrence has needed this for a long time,” Laurent said. The project began in 2006 with a study, surveys, committee meetings and public meetings that extended into 2009.
In 2011 the Lawrence City Commission conducted study sessions involving the City, Kansas University and private citizens.
Rock Chalk Park opened in October of this year and includes a 10,000 seat track and field venue, women’s softball and soccer areas, eight lighted tennis courts, five miles of trails, and an 18,000 square foot recreation center. There are full-size gyms, volley ball courts, half-court gyms, an indoor turf area, fitness, dance and meeting rooms, and a weight room, among other things. Hyvee runs a small grocery market there.
Laurent said in the first month 53,000 visits were logged in to Rock Chalk Park.
“We want to encourage tournament use but we can host everything from big crowds to small birthday parties,” Towen said. “There are no fees for local residents. We want to keep local activities local.”
Chad Lawhorn of the Lawrence Journal World specializes in keeping an eye on what’s going on in Lawrence. He told Lawrence Central Rotarians on Nov. 11 that one of the biggest issues currently with the Lawrence City Commission is the loss on the ballot of the police department consolidation and expansion.
When he was asked what contributed to the loss he said there were three reasons:
The first was the controversies over Rock Chalk Park, resulting in a loss of trust in the electorate. The second was the fact that people don’t want taxes raised and the third was the location of the proposed new facility.
“I think,” he said “that the issue could have survived one or even two of the questions in voters’ minds, but not all three.
“City commissioners still believe there’s a need and are going to continue to work on it. In the next election, three of the five commissioners are up for re-election and there may be some changes. Several people who have not served before are considering running. The Commission wants to rebuild trust with the voters, so it’s going to be an interesting time.”
In other issues he said the momentum of the city seems to be moving south. There is property for development along south Iowa street and the Southwest Traffic way is now a going concern. “There is a lot of vacant space there that realtors are looking at,” he said.
He discussed the pros and cons of online newspapers and ended with a question about his column. He was asked what his wife thinks of mention of her in his writing. “When she quits laughing, I quit writing,” he said.
Central Rotarian Jim Evers introduced local Salvation Army Lieutenants Marisa and Matthew McCluer by describing the Salvation Army as an “amazing organization.”
Jim, who was a volunteer on the Salvation Army board before becoming development director for the group in Lawrence, has high praise for the work the Army does.
The McCluers described the history of the Army which started in the 1800s in England and came to Lawrence in 1886.
“It started out,” Matthew McCluer said “as an evangelical part of the universal Christian church, preaching the gospel outside of churches in order to get people back into churches.”
But then, he said, it didn’t do much good to send people into churches when they were hungry with no place to live. So the Salvation Army began to focus on more than just preaching. “The credo became ‘soup, soap, and salvation.’ ”
Salvation Army help has always been individual as well as general. After the San Francisco earthquake in 1906, the then director of the Army (and daughter of the founder) gave the organization’s entire budget to help recovery. After the 9/11 disaster, Salvation Army members provided shelter and comfort to recovery workers, giving them places to rest and taking care of their feet, sore from walking through the burning rubble.
Marisa said the Salvation Army helped her family when she was a child and she was anxious to continue the work.
In Lawrence, the Salvation Army’s weekly food program serves about 12,000 meals a year. Special Services provides what people need when they need it. “But we don’t just serve as a band-aid,” Marisa said. “We want people to have a plan to break their cycle of poverty.
“We collaborate with other agencies. For instance we work with United Way to help get kids back into school and provide what they need.”
During the holidays they work with numerous community agencies to help the approximately 700 families who need assistance. Saying the Christmas donations provide 30 percent of their yearly budget, they thanked Rotarians for donating and for ringing bells during the holiday season.
The Mcluer’s passed out a flier that has all the upcoming Salvation Army events that volunteers are needed for. Take a look and help a great local organization.
Lawrence Central was visited by the founders of a growing grass-roots movement in the US to get people on bikes by creating spaces where old bikes can be rehabilitated, where people can rediscover bicycling, learn how to maintain their bikes and learn how to bicycle safely and legally.
Lawrence Unchained was founded in 2014 by Michele Berendsen, Lisa Hallberg, and Jessica Mortinger. All three are avid cyclists who were inspired by initiatives in Topeka – Topeka Community Cycle Project – and in Kansas City – Revolve KC and 816 Bicycle Collective, as well as other similar shops.
The founders make bicycling a part of daily life, both as regular bicycle commuters to jobs in and around Lawrence, Kansas, and also as social and sport cyclists.
Their mission is to share the enjoyment that bicycling brings to our lives to others in the area by advocating for cycling, by teaching safe bicycling techniques and, most importantly, bringing old bicycles out of sheds and basements and garages and getting them back to life and back on the street.
Lawrence Unchained first bicycle pop-up event with the Lawrence Community Shelter happened in September. Attendees, in exchange for committing time to learn bicycle basics and taking a safety ride received refurbished bikes complete with lights, locks and helmets.
Right now they have lots of bikes but are looking for a place to set up shop where people can come in, volunteer time, learn biking basics, and be able to eventually have dependable basic bicycling transportation and know how to be safe while doing it.
The three will happily discuss how to get anywhere around the region on a bike. Michele even explained to someone how to get back and forth from Lawrence to Johnson County and that The Joe will let people take their bikes on it and drops you off at the KU Edwards campus.
The group recently submitted their 501-C3 tax paperwork and were granted non-profit status so now any donations to the Co-Op are tax deductible.
For more information about Lawrence Unchained Bicycle Co-Op check out their website at http://www.lawrenceunchained.com/