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Celebrating a Rotary Centennial

Lawrence Rotary Club is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year!  Longtime member Andrea Norris outlined the distinguished history of the organization for Lawrence Central members.

The Lawrence Rotary Club began in April 1917, just twelve years after Paul Harris and his business colleagues in Chicago began to meet to network and share business opportunities. Sponsored by the Topeka Rotary Club, there were 23 charter members. W.C. Simons was the first president. Numerous leaders of the Lawrence community have been members. In 1987, the club was among the first to invite women to join. Lawrence Rotary launched the two other Rotary clubs in the community: Jayhawk Rotary Club in 1994 and Lawrence Central Rotary in 2003. In 2015, they initiated Rotary Prime, an organization aimed at involving young professionals with Rotary.

From the start, the organization eagerly promoted the aims of Rotary International, raising money and conducting service projects and fundraisers in addition to enjoying social activities.  Lawrence Rotary has contributed signiticant time and money to support the work of numerous non-profit organizations in Lawrence over the years. In honor of Rotary International’s 100th anniversary in 2005, Lawrence Rotary Club partnered with the other Rotary clubs in Lawrence and with the City to create the Rotary Arboretum.  In addition to local commitments, they have been actively involved with international projects and with raising money for polio eradication.

Primed for Service

“My values are Rotary values,” declared Lauren Byrne.  These values explain why she and other young Lawrence professionals have joined “Rotary Prime.”  Initiated, sponsored, and subsidized by Lawrence Rotary Club, Rotary Prime offers flexibility and lower cost to young adults who share Rotary’s dedication to “Service Above Self’ but who are less interested in the formalities of the traditional Rotary meeting format.

Lauren Byrne, Mathew Petersen, Emily Hail, and Christina Ostmeyer visited Lawrence Central Rotary to outline the program of service projects, monthly meetings, and social mixers that their organization has adopted.  Rotary Prime appeals to these four because of its focus on networking as well as service.  The club’s casual meetings occur every second Thursday in the evening at rotating locations in Lawrence.  Membership dues are set at $200 per year.

Since organizing in 2015, Rotary Prime members have volunteered at Confabularryum; a Chili Ho-Down supporting United Way; a “Day of Creativity” at KU museums; Lawrence Public Library Foundation’s “After Hours” fundraiser; Back2School supply drive; Salvation Army bell-ringing; and the fall clean up at the Rotary Arboretum.

If you are interested in visiting a Rotary Prime meeting, Lauren Byrne is the “go to” person.  Contact her at lawrencerotaryprime@gmail.com to find out more.

Dialogue that Builds Bridges at ECM

Ecumenical Campus Ministries “offers welcoming and neutral spaces where the KU and Lawrence communities can open their hearts, minds, and spirits to one another,” according to Kim Brooks, Executive Director. ECM is well-located for this purpose at 1204 Oread Avenue, just across the street from the KU campus.  Supported by various Lawrence churches as well as individual contributors, the organization seeks to establish “dialogue that builds bridges” and focuses on providing answers to questions regarding vocation and career, sexuality, global and environmental justice, faith dynamics, cross-cultural awareness, and hospitality.

A variety of gatherings encourage the dialogue, in particular the Interfaith Café, an informal discussion about life issues, and the long-standing University/Community Forum, a free talk on various topics that takes place every Wednesday at noon. ECM also maintains the Solidarity Library on its main floor, a collection of progressive books, journals, films, and magazines.

ECM serves the body as well as well as the mind by hosting a food pantry and a Thrifty Closet of clothing and household items. Veggie Lunch, Soup and Song, Tai Chi and Chai Tea, and Yoga–Pure and Simple are all on the calendar this fall.  In addition, the facility will soon open its hostel, a dormitory-type space with bunk beds that can be rented by the day for a low cost.

“Keep Calm and Hope It’s Not Cloudy”

The solar eclipse that will occur on August 21, 2017, is rare.  It is the first eclipse to even touch the United States since 1979.  The last eclipse to cross the United States occured in 1918.  The United States is the only country that will be touched by this eclipse. It is the first eclipse that is exclusive to the United States.  A total eclipse of the sun will occur in Lawrence every 400 years or so, according to Dr. Dave Besson, KU Physics professor and astronomy enthusiast.

Besson explained that the view of the eclipse in Lawrence will be only 98% “totality” as the lunar shadow slides across the sun.  Many people are expected to travel to locations where they can see “totality,” a point where the sun is completely eclipsed by the moon.  The path of totality will be about 70 miles wide, arcing across the United States from the Northwest to the Southeast.  The eclipse will sail across Oregon, Wyoming, and Nebraska, cut across a corner of Kansas, go over Missouri, and parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia, and then pass over South Carolina.  Moving at 1,000 miles per hour, the eclipse totality will last about two-and-a-half minutes at any particular point on the path of totality.

The phenomenon of total eclipse is rare because the earth and the moon are on different planes relative to the sun, Besson explained.  Eclipses occur when the moon is closest to earth.  Since the moon is receding from the earth by .8 cm/year and the earth’s spin is slowing down, eclipses will happen less often in the future.  Besson’s advice?  “Keep calm and hope it’s not cloudy.”

Sunrise Project Grows More than Gardens

Gardens. Orchards. Cooking. Worms. All are ingredients to connecting people to good food, community and the environment, according to Emily Hampton, Executive Director, and Melissa Freiburger, Director of Programs, at Sunrise Project.

Sunrise Project is an effort to “empower people to live healthy, self-determined lives through engagement with food and the environment to build a socially just community.” It’s a significant challenge, as some people in Lawrence do not know much about where food comes from or how to prepare it to eat.

The non-profit organization is developing a center that includes workshop space, a community kitchen, and gardens. The group has also planted a small orchard. Community members are invited to enjoy the harvest by picking what they need to bring home.

Healthy Sprouts provides programming to child care centers and in-home daycares that includes gardens, food-based curriculum, family engagement and farm connections. For older children, Sunrise facilitates a cooking and gardening club at Cordley Elementary and a cooking club at New York Elementary. Sunrise is also building a worm bin to demonstrate vermicomposting, the process of composting using worms.

In addition to its outreach to young people, Sunrise Project has partnered with Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department to develop a health equity model. Eight Community Coordinators were hired and trained in food systems, local policy and civic engagement. They then went out to gather everyday stories and experiences with food in Douglas County. Those stories were incorporated in the Food Plan that will inform future decisions in the county for years to come.

Ray, son of Lawrence Central Rotarian Audrey Coleman, stands with his sister Zea after the club meeting they attended with their mom. Ray was so inspired that he drew apples, cherries, and a tree while listening to the presentation.  The Sunrise Project hit its mark!

Inspired to Action at 2017 RI Convention and Peace Conference

No one can do it alone.

This theme inspired 40,000 Rotarians to action at the Rotary International Convention and the Presidential Peace Conference in Atlanta, GA, in June.  Lawrence Central Rotarians Janis Bunker and Kate Campbell described their experiences at the event.

  • Dr. Bernice A. King, CEO of The King Center, declared: We are interconnected, inter-related, and “caught in a network of mutuality.” For one to win, all must win.
  • Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, spoke of the moral imperative: Serve humanity and make a difference through direct action for results in people’s lives. To achieve prosperity and peace, no one can be left behind.
  • Philanthropist Bill Gates celebrated the successes of Rotary’s efforts to eradicate polio.
  • James Quincey, CEO of Coca-Cola, described partnerships between corporations and organizations like Rotary aimed at bettering the world.
  • Andrew Young, civil rights leader, congressman, and former mayor of Atlanta, described Rotary’s role: The glue to hold society together and the grease to help the world grow and change.
  • Jack Nicklaus, champion golfer and Polio Ambassador for Rotary, believes that success comes from focus and concentration; knowing yourself; and taking personal responsibility.

In addition to the keynote presentations, numerous breakout sessions provided project ideas and resources to all who attended.

City of Lawrence Mapping Guru Micah Seybold Digs Maps

Micah Seybold loved maps from an early age.  In university geography class he got serious about his interest and abandoned his plan to be a computer programmer.  However, his tech background did come in handy and lead to a GIS mapping job with the city of Lawrence.  Micah Seybold presides over a varied collection of digital maps, all of which are accessible by computer and even by smart phone.  The goals of his department include simplifying public access to city maps, eliminating the need for paper maps, and integrating GIS resources with business processes.  Each day he handles map and data information requests, catalogs related materials, performs spatial analysis, and strives to optimize workflow.  The use of digitalized maps and data saves time by creating efficiencies.  For example, digital maps may be used to design efficient service routes for transit or delivery of other services.  The city makes available a number of downloadable and interactive maps, including census tracts, bikeways, flood plains, crime, cemetery, tax districts, transit routes and more.  Users may customize maps by employing measurements, drawing on maps and even layering different maps.  Maps may be printed to PDF, JPG or other file formats.  All of these resources and assistance in using them are available at Lawrenceks.org/maps.

Striving for Sustainability in Lawrence & Douglas County

Eileen HornMaking decisions that balance the needs of the environment, economy and society for both present and future generations is the goal of a cooperative sustainability program between the City of Lawrence and Douglas County.  Sustainability Coordinator Eileen Horn spoke to Lawrence Central Rotary about that task and the recent Four Star Rating Award for the Lawrence community.  The County and the City work together to achieve sustainability in operations, programs, and policies.  Presently, the areas of cooperation include emergency services, conservation, local food systems, renewable energy, alternative transportation, green building, waste reduction, recycling and economic development. The Lawrence community is very supportive of sustainability.  Eileen Horn works for the City and the County, both of which have advisory boards and sustainability plans.  (LCR’s Michael Steinle serves on both boards.)

There are only a few local government sustainability programs in Kansas and Lawrence is the first community in the state to achieve a Four Star Rating.  The award requires extensive documentation of achievements in numerous categories.  Lawrence received over 95% the available points in the categories of greenhouse gas mitigation, education, emergency services, safety, air quality, public infrastructure, public spaces, business retention and development, efficient buildings and community water systems.  The process also identifies areas that need more work, like climate adaptation, environmental justice, invasive species, quality jobs and living wages.  The Lawrence community is a great place to live and an award winning sustainability program is a strong investment in the future.  More information on the Star Award may be found at lawrenceks.org/star.

Members Help with Rotary Arboretum Work Day

Out-going LCR President Jim Peters and in-coming President Fred Atchison pose during the semi-annual Rotary work day at the Arboretum on Saturday, June 24.  Don Johnston, member of the Lawrence Rotary Club, helps them wield the wheelbarrow.

Fred Atchison Takes the Gavel as 2017-2018 LCR President

Fred Atchison (right) accepted the gavel from Jim Peters to become 2017-2018 LCR President on July 5.  Fred, a Paul Harris Fellow, has been a Rotarian since 1998 and a member of Lawrence Central Rotary since 2011.

In his remarks, Jim commended the club for its continuing transition in membership commitment and comradery.  He sees that the club’s mission continues to mature and to become more focused. During the past year, the club decided on a primary fundraiser—a goal that Jim had set as a challenge—and he declared that the success of that effort has far exceeded what he had envisioned. “We have such a great club—a great group of people with whom it is a joy to be associated.”

Members of the board for the coming year include Audrey Coleman, President Elect; Steve Mason, Vice President; and Peters as Past President.  Megan Richardson continues as Treasurer and Shelly McColm as Club Administrator.  Jim Evers, Membership Chair, and Michael Steinle, Foundation Chair, also continue in their roles.


Scott Wagner Honored with “Becky Castro Award”

Scott Wagner received the “Becky Castro Award” at the July 5, 2017, club meeting from outgoing president Jim Peters.  Scott has been a member of Lawrence Central Rotary for thirteen years (since December 2004), is a Paul Harris Fellow, and served as club president in 2008-2009. In recent years, Scott has managed the roster of programs for the club, arranging a variety of stimulating speakers and communicating the program topics to the club weekly. Recently, Scott accepted the role of President Elect on the board of the newly-formed Lawrence Central Rotary Club Foundation.

Congratulations, Scott, on receiving the second Becky Castro Award. Thank you for all you have done for Lawrence Central Rotary and the Lawrence community.

Rebecca “Becky” Lizabeth Castro was a founding member of our club who died after a long illness in June 2014 at the age of 68. A lifelong resident of Lawrence, Becky was active not only in Rotary, but also numerous other community organizations. Her warm welcome greeted everyone who came to a Lawrence Central Rotary meeting. In spring 2015, Past-Presidents Tobin Neis and Carolyn DeSalvo conceived of the Becky Castro Award as a way to honor the memory of this tireless founding member. The criteria state that the award be given to a member who exemplifies the dedication to community service and the love of Rotary that Becky displayed.

In March 2016, Past President Steve Lane recieved the first Becky Castro Award in recognition for his leadership of the Community Bike Ride initiative.

Kelton Challenges Economic Assumptions

Stephanie Kelton, Ph.D., challenges conventional thinking about the economy.  In Kelton’s mind, the national debt is not a problem. Instead, the challenge to American leaders is “slowth”–slow growth and low inflation. For a remedy, she recommends a change in fiscal policy: spend more and lower taxes to encourage growth. These strategies will tap the “spare capacity” in the United States and restore Gross Domestic Product to its higher potential growth rate.

Kelton’s ideas have proven correct in the past, as her website explains.  Among her impressive track record of economic foresight, she “predicted the debt crisis in the Eurozone” and “that: (1) Quantitative Easing (QE) wouldn’t lead to high inflation; (2) government deficits wouldn’t cause a spike in U.S. interest rates; (3) the S&P downgrade wouldn’t cause investors to flee Treasuries; (4) the U.S. would not experience a European-style debt crisis.”

Kelton served as Chief Economist on the U.S. Senate Budget Committee (minority staff) in 2015 and then became an Economic Advisor to the Bernie 2016 presidential campaign. In 2016, POLITICO recognized her as one of the 50 people across the country who is most influencing the political debate. She is a regular commentator on national radio and broadcast television.  Kelton has been Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City for the past 17 years. This fall, she will begin teaching at Stony Brook University in New York.

Food System Plan Provides Vision for County and City

Helen Schnoes, Food Systems Coordinator for Douglas County, explained the proposed Douglas County Food System Plan. The draft proposal was released in January 2017 for public comment and was presented to the Douglas County Commissions on June 14.  It was heard by the City of Lawrence in March. The policy is the result of extensive input and research including 13 focus groups, listening surveys with feedback from over 450 people, several experimental projects, and 13 public forums.  Although it is a document separate from the Comprehensive Plan and does not change code nor commit funds, it will serve as a valuable statement of vision and a guide for future decisions regarding “Farm to Fork” initiatives.

Established by the County Commission in 2010, by the Douglas County Food Policy Council (FPC) seeks to identify the benefits, challenges, and opportunities for a successful, sustainable local food system in Douglas County. Their goals are Wellness, Equity, Economy, and Environment. The FPC advises the Douglas County and City of Lawrence Commissioners on food-related policy issues and provides a forum for the community. As a joint county and city-appointed group, the group includes 23 diverse stakeholders–from agricultural producers to extension agents, retail food partners and more–all collaborating to improve the local food system. Schnoes serves as the liaison between the County and the Food Policy Council.


Community Bike Ride Is Ready to Roll for Seventh Year

On Saturday morning, July 15, Lawrence Central Rotary will welcome bicyclists to the seventh annual Community Bike Ride at the Rotary Arboretum in west Lawrence.  This event is the first of two rides that the club provides each year.  The other 2017 ride will take place on Saturday, September 16, beginning and ending in the stadium parking lot at Haskell University.  Watch for additional details in the coming weeks.

Steve Lane is the instigator, inspiration, and organizer of Lawrence Central Rotary’s signature even.  Now rolling into his seventh season leading the project, Steve continues to manage the effort with skill and enthusiasm.  The club held the first Community Bike Rides in 2010, funded by grant money from LiveWell Lawrence.

The club has collected over $4,000 in sponsorships from multiple donors for the 2017 rides.  The financial support allows them to give away bike helmets and safety vests to riders.  In addition to providing a safe and friendly ride, the event features a training wheel take-off clinic, bike maintenance checks, healthy snacks, and inflatable fun.  This season, there will be a special seventh-anniversary t-shirt available as well.

Topeka Imam Works To Dispel Misconceptions About Islam

Imam Omar Jaleel HazimOmar Jaleel Hazim, the Iman of the Islamic Center of Topeka, visited Lawrence Central Rotary Club to talk about his faith and the activities of the Center.  The Iman accepted Islam in 1962 and studied under the guidance of Elijah Muhammad.

This branch of Islam had a strong Black Nationalism component that appealed to a young Black man growing up in an unjust society.  In the 1970’sOmar Jaleel Hazim accepted a mainstream belief in the faith.  He is a builder by trade and has helped to establish many Mosques and Islamic Community Centers in the Kansas City area.  The Iman spoke of the belief that the Torah, the Bible, and the Koran are linked and represent a divine message from the creator.  He believes that all three faiths share many ideas and values.  He noted that many of the perceived negative elements of Islam, like the repression of women, are cultural expressions and not part of the true faith.  The Iman has dedicated his time and energy to teaching and dispelling misconceptions about Islam.

Hazim was the first Muslim to give the invocation in the Kansas House of Representatives.  He has served on the Board of Directors of Interfaith Topeka, Inc. and as the Islamic Advisor to the Kansas Department of Corrections.  He is an active speaker and has numerous publications, including the book “Islam in the Heartland of America.”  The Iman was asked if his community has been targeted for abuse, and he said the Islamic Center and people in the Topeka Islamic community have largely escaped that kind if attention.

For more information about the Islamic Center of Topeka – visit their website at http://wp.topekamosque.org/ and the Imam Hazim’s book is available in hardback, paperback and Kindle edition on Amazon.