We’re a teenager! 2016 marks thirteen years that Lawrence Central Rotary has been in existence. Twenty members and fourteen guests gathered from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 2, at Marceli’s to celebrate.
Thanks and kudos to Shon Qualseth for making the arrangements. Marceli’s was a perfect venue and a great host. The choice of a buffet of appetizers instead of a sit-down meal made the whole evening feel more relaxed and certainly encouraged mingling and table-hopping. Obviously, the food selection was a hit, as most of the platters were empty at the end of the evening.
As President Kate Campbell said in her comments that night, our club at thirteen-years-old has many attributes of a stereotypical teenager. We are growing quickly—eight new members since this time last year. Sometimes we’re a bit gangly and awkward because of our growth spurts—as evidenced by the fact that our meeting space at the Eldridge is a bit tight these days.
Like a teen, we’re increasingly strong and mature and confident of our identity in the Lawrence community. Our budget is solid. Board members are active and talented. We never have trouble getting stimulating programs for our meetings or finding volunteers for our various community projects. We look outward to donate to international initiatives as well as supporting local ones. Our signature event in the Community Bike Rides will take place for the sixth time this season. Certainly we love our Rotary friends and like to hang out together. And we are full of exuberance, optimism and enthusiasm for what’s ahead.
It’s great to be a teenager! Here’s to many more years ahead.
Rebecca Buford executive director of Tenants to Homeowners, the Lawrence Community Housing Trust Program, believes people who own their own homes have a better life in almost every area. But NOT, she said, if they are housing burdened.
Paying more than 30% of one’s income for housing is called housing burdened and causes families to neglect other parts of their lives such as medical care, to deprive children, and just lower the general quality of life.
“According to the latest economic data,” Buford said “average Lawrence income is the lowest of any metro area in the state and the cost of living is the highest. This means that many hardworking families, especially young families, cannot afford to buy their own homes.
“Affordable housing sustains communities and Tenants to Homeowners is creating affordable homeownership opportunities for the Lawrence workforce.”
The group offers subsidies for first time buyers to create a starter market. For those who are income eligible and complete other requirements, they provide homes in trust. There are currently 75 such homes all over Lawrence.
“I work for the next generation,” Buford said. “If we had more affordable housing we wouldn’t need so many social services.”
Since 1992 Tenants to Homeowners has acquired, built or rehabbed over 400 units of affordable housing. in Lawrence.
They are also committed to senior housing. Cedarwood Senior Cottages will be 14 units and the first rental project designed to address the fastest growing adult population—seniors aged 62 or older—to be completed by the end of 2016.
“There are 20 million retirees in the nation today and the number will keep growing,” Buford said. “We need to help them too.
Trey Meyer , executive director of the Lawrence Community Shelter, says he believes in telling stories. He tells the story of his own battle with alcoholism to encourage others and he wants to tell the Community Shelter’s story to the local community.
“People hear the negatives about the shelter,” he told Central Rotarians on Feb. 17. “Our job is to tell them what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and the results. When they hear all about us, they’re happy to give us money.
“We’re solution oriented,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is to get people in here and then return them to society in better shape then they were.”
Meyer, started at the shelter as a driver, said changing mindsets is critical. People who are worried about surviving aren’t going to aspire to much else.
“At the end of the day everything we do is to give someone the reason to get up in the morning and go forward.”
Financial dislocations such as lost jobs bring people to the shelter. People come to because they’ve exhausted all other resources and they’re in crisis.
”We deal with mental health issues, occasional physical health issues. Alcohol is always a problem We work hard to make this a dry shelter for alcoholics. “
The shelter has 125 beds but houses many more in cold weather. “We have 35 or 40 in the family program and average 22 children, which is only about 25% of the homeless children in Douglas County.” In 2015 the shelter served 775 individuals with the help of local agencies such as Bert Nash, LMH.
In 2016 Meyer said he wants the shelter, which operates on a $900,000 budget, to do a better job with health resources and coaching to get people ready to leave, and to work to provide transitional housing for people ready to re enter society.
Drew vonEhrenkrook, director of employment and vocational rehabilitation at the shelter accompanied Meyer and talked to Rotarians after the meeting about his role in sharing skills and techniques that improve clients’ employability teaching life skills that are necessary to be successful in all aspects of independent living, finding employment opportunities, and helping clients who are employed maintain their jobs and morale.
Doug Bonney, Chief Council and Legislative Director of The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Kansas, spoke on the organization’s history, mission and current activities. The ACLU was founded in the early 1920’s in reaction to government repression of war dissenters who were often harassed and imprisoned. Through legal action, lobbying and education the ACLU set out to define the meaning of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution as it applied to all people. The ACLU has a history of taking on unpopular and precedent setting cases including the Scopes Monkey Trial, mandatory school prayer, the Skokie, Illinois Nazi march, and Roe vs. Wade.
The ACLU of Kansas is a local nonprofit, nonpartisan chapter with the goal of defending the rights and civil liberties of persons regardless of race, creed, color, gender or class. The organization has two full time and two part time staff and a 13 member board. The ACLU often advocates for the most marginalized members of society for voter rights, criminal justice reform, free speech, privacy, reproductive freedom, LGBT equality, women’s rights, racial justice, immigrant rights and religious freedom. The Kansas chapter has recently achieved some notable victories in court. Doug Bonney argued successfully for marriage equality, describing it as the “civil rights issue of our time.” Another victory was scored when the court struck down the “two tiered” portion of the Kansas voter registration law that was ruled to be an unlawful requirement. The speaker indicated that the current state legislative session would be particularly challenging for supporters of civil liberties. Learn more about the ACLU of Kansas and their program for 2016 by visiting ACLUKansas.org.
Two new members were inducted into Lawrence Central Rotary last Wednesday. Dan Schenkein and Megan Richardson. Later in the meeting Dan, Megan and Jason Walker, another recent addition to the club, shared a little about their backgrounds, past community service and something special they enjoy.
Dan has been associated with Rotary for 50 years. His father was a long time Rotarian and community service was a part of his life from childhood. As a student, he participated in a Rotary Exchange Study program. Dan has been a member of Rotary in several states and transferred to our club from the Dodge City Rotary Club. He recently retired from a long career in Chamber of Commerce management and has opened a consulting firm here in Lawrence. Dan is the youngest of four children and told us about an adventure with his oldest brother where they scaled the George Washington monument at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. This became the first of many items Dan has crossed off his bucket list. Dan has a collection of antique pencils dating from 1820 to 1900.
Megan has been involved in a number of community activities including Habitat for Humanity and support for educational initiatives in Lawrence. She was active in the push to keep and improve neighborhood schools in Lawrence, in volunteering at Liberty Memorial Central Middle School and is working on the CI3T program at usd497. CI3T is a school-wide program to foster a positive learning environment for all students aimed at supporting academic, behavioral, and social success. Megan met and married her husband in England were two of her four children were born. A family favorite activity is a drive through the scenic Peak District in Central England with its exciting views, challenging bends, steep climbs and heartbeat-raising descents.
Jason is a Trust Officer & Relationship Manager at The Trust Company here in Lawrence. His volunteer efforts have been focused on coaching youth sports leagues where he has had the opportunity to help prepare young people for the future. Spring ski trips to Colorado are family favorites. Jason is a passionate NASCAR fan. He has frequently driven all night with friends to attend NASCAR events like Bristol under the lights in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in northeast Tennessee. He cautioned we might not recognize him in his official NASCAR apparel.
We are pleased to welcome Dan, Megan, and Jason to Lawrence Central Rotary
But she said it was a “jaw dropping moment” when she realized that many in the community don’t realize that jail reorganization and expansion are part of the solutions to these gaps and that issues of mental health and jail improvement are interwoven.
Six thousand people pass through the jail every year and it is estimated that 25%, one fourth of them, have mental health problems. With female prisoners the percentage is 31%.
“While we can’t control decreasing state and federal funding for mental health issues, Douglas County does provide more and better services than many counties,” she said. “But because of the size of the jail we spend $90,000 a month to house prisoners elsewhere. And that’s in places where they don’t get Lawrence’s good services which include counseling and training.”
In Lawrence, she said, the jail design needs more natural light, more beds, and different living spaces because, occasionally, people arrested for lighter violations have to share space with murderers.
Thellman said the community also needs a Crisis Stabilization Center, where people in crisis can go, be safe, get evaluated and receive care. She said this is necessary by itself and should not be part of the jail. “We need to create a special court within the court system, overseen by a judge to deal with mental health issues.”
“Mental health seems to be a more popular issue in the county than jail expansion,” she said “but improvement cannot succeed for one without the other.”
One of the great things about Rotary is the ability to help people both locally and globally. One of the global causes that the members of our club very much rally behind is ShelterBox.
ShelterBox provides emergency shelter and vital supplies to support communities around the world overwhelmed by disaster and humanitarian crisis. When families are in need of emergency shelter, they will do everything we can to help them. Click Here earn more about shelterbox’s work.
Since ShelterBox was founded, they have responded to over 240 disasters and humanitarian crises in more than 90 different countries and provided emergency aid for well over one million people. The ShelterBox solution in disaster response is as simple as it is effective, delivering the essentials people need to survive and begin to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of a disaster.
ShelterBox aid is tailored to a disaster and typically includes a disaster relief tent for a family, thermal blankets and groundsheets, water storage and purification equipment, solar lamps, cooking utensils, a basic tool kit, mosquito nets and children’s activity pack.
To date Lawrence Central has been worked to donate 9 ShelterBoxes that have provided disaster relief in Korea, Myanmar, Haiti and Kurdistan.
If being a part of a service organization that helps people both locally and globally is interesting to you contact us or come to one of our weekly meetings on Wednesdays and noon in the Eldridge Hotel’s All American Room.
Christie Scanlin Dobson, the new Director of Ballard Center, spoke about the center and her new responsibilities. The Ballard Center has performed a mission of service in Douglas County since 1964 for individuals and families in need of emergency assistance.
The Ballard Center is a nonprofit located in North Lawrence in a 100 year old brick building. It is governed by a volunteer board of community members. The responsibility for Penn House and its programs was added in 2005. The combined program of services offered includes emergency assistance with food, clothing, rent, employment, diapers, senior commodities, school kits and income tax. Case managers work with individuals and families to become self-sufficient. An educational program is provided for some 58 lively 1-5 year-olds. This program also supports employment opportunities for parents and operates on a sliding fee scale. There is also a substantial waiting list. Over 8,000 people in need receive unduplicated Services from Ballard each year. Christie Scanlin Dobson explained that the actual need is twice the number they are able to serve.
Unfortunately, the center is facing a major funding crisis and it is not clear how their programs will be impacted. Ballard Center welcomes visitors and contact information is available on the web site at Ballardcenter.org.
The Pregnancy Care Center of Lawrence (PCC) is a 501C3 organization that has operated in Lawrence since 2003 offering nonjudgmental counseling and support for parents experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. Bridgit Smith spoke on behalf of PCC explaining the organization’s mission and range of services. Free pregnancy testing is offered, as well as sonograms, parenting classes, counseling and support. PCC maintains that women have a right to be informed about their choices regarding their pregnancy. Adoption referrals may be made, however, no referrals are made for abortions. The center offers the services of an attorney for consultation.
“Earn While You Learn” classes are available to teach parenting skills and class participants earn “Baby Bucks” that may be redeemed at the PCC Baby Boutique. PCC provides a Birth Mom Advocate and staff also work to encourage fathers to be a responsible parent. The largest demographic served is ages 19-25. Lawrence PCC averages 55 service contacts a month—some of that number are repeat visits. 22 births were celebrated in 2015. PCC is working to reach out to students, with some success—those contacts are up 40% over last year. The Organization is funded by donations from individuals, businesses and churches. Bridgit Smith expressed considerable satisfaction with her work at PCC and told of numerous parents and babies she has served through the years. More information is available at www.pcclawrence.org.
A new year and a new member for Lawrence Central Rotary. At the club’s first meeting of 2016 we were pleased to induct Jason Walker into our club. Jason is a Trust Officer & Relationship Manager at The Trust Company here in Lawrence.
New to Rotary, Jason is not new to community service, he also volunteer coaches several youth sports leagues and spends time at his kids school as a W.A.T.C.H. Dog Dad volunteer.
Dr. Ed Berger, retiring president of Hutchinson Community College and chair of Revitalization Initiatives at the Kansas Cosmosphere told Lawrence Central Rotarians about the work of revitalization at the Hutchinson Cosmosphere, already called one of the eight wonders of Kansas and on the White House’s list of the project to Save America’s Treasures.
“The Cosmosphere is reinventing itself to become a world class museum that inspires education and innovation, “ he said. “Our vision is that the Cosmosphere will be recognized internationally for excellence in inspiring learning and innovation.”
The Cosmosphere already hosts 105,000 visitors per year, one fourth of them from out of state. Fifteen hundred campers per year attend field events there and a goal is to make field trips more rigorous and inclusive, Berger said. “We want to be part of the effort to improve math and science education for U.S. students. We want to get students interested in these programs as early as elementary school.”
The Cosmosphere now has the largest collection of U.S. space artifacts outside of the Smithsonian and the largest collection of Russian space artifacts outside of Russia. Hollywood director and producer Ron Howard used the Cosmosphere to reconstruct interiors from Apollo 13 for his Apollo 13 film, saying the Hutchinson museum had more authentic information than NASA.
For the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 13 flight, astronauts Fred Haise and Jim Lovell came to the Cosmosphere to see the capsule and other astronauts have visited frequently.
“We’re going to need more and more highly skilled workers in technology,” Berger said “and through our work here we want to encourage students to get these skill sets.”
Justine Burton, the speaker at Lawrence Central Rotary on December 9, was homeless at 16. She faced a world where drug and alcohol addiction, prostitution and theft were everyday occurrences. But rather than give in to any of it, she completed an Associate’s Degree in Human Services from Kansas City Kansas Community College and a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services from Ft. Hays State.
And then she began to give back to older teen-agers who needed help.
Burton founded StopGap in 2008. Children in foster care “age out” at 18. At that age they are no longer in foster care or in a group home. They are on their own to survive as best they can. StopGap gives them tools for survival.
“Sometimes they don’t know the basics such as how to cook, clean, find a place to live, pay rent, use a computer. They don’t know what family is all about, they don’t bond with siblings,” ” Burton said. “StopGap assists at-risk youth’s safe transition from dependence on a system to independence.”
With its Youth Empowerment Outreach Program, StopGap offers classes in life skills in donated space at Victory Bible Church.
“We went to get their feet on solid ground,” said Chela Ingram, StopGap volunteer community coordinator, who accompanied Burton to the meeting, “so they will learn consequences of actions. We want to give them knowledge that will stick with them.”
They offer an eight-week program with interactive workshops to give youth a hands-on experience with real world issues, as well as supplying information on health and giving them contacts in the community through speakers who come in.
There are currently 60 youth enrolled.
“My future goal is to establish a transitional living program where youth from 16 to 21 who are aging out of foster care or at-risk can live in an 18-24 month supervised transitional living program,” Burton said. “I want them to achieve their full potential.”
While the first weekend in Lawrence may mean the annual Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade in Downtown Lawrence, it also means a day of service for the members of Lawrence area Rotary Clubs. All three local clubs staff Salvation Army Red Kettles around Lawrence that day. As in previous years Lawrence Central was stationed in front of Weaver’s department store.
The weather cooperated on all fronts, it was a beautiful day to greet everyone out for the parade or just to enjoy the beautiful early winter day on Mass Street.
This year marks the 125th year that the Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign that kicked-off Thanksgiving day. The Salvation Army has more than 25,000 red kettles being stationed in storefronts and on street corners nationwide. From its humble beginnings as a program started by a Salvation Army captain in San Francisco in 1891, the Red Kettle Campaign has grown into one of the most recognizable and important charitable campaigns in the United States. It provides toys for kids, coats for the homeless, food for the hungry and countless social service programs year-round. As part of the campaign, more than 25,000 Salvation Army volunteers throughout the country ring bells and solicit donations to the red kettles.
The kettles will be out for a while yet, but there are other ways to participate. You can use the Salvation Army’s Text-to-Give program for the mobile donor, it’s easy to give $10 by texting the word “KETTLE” to 80888 and replying “YES.”
You can also give online at http://redkettlereason.org
From nearly 40,000 emergency room admissions to over 1,000 babies delivered, regardless of your stage of life or place in our community, Lawrence Memorial Hospital is there to care for you and your loved ones. That was the central message conveyed by Lawrence Central Rotary guests Jean Shepherd, board member of the Lawrence Memorial Hospital (LMH) Endowment Association, Kathy Clausing-Willis, vice president and chief development officer, and Earl Reineman, foundation and corporate relations manager.
When Shepherd’s husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2002, she discovered the care provided by LMH to be “a true gift.” His cancer did not respond well to treatment, yet LMH was open minded and encouraged Shepherd and her husband to seek a second opinion. Other doctors confirmed what Shepherd suspected: they were receiving nearly the best care possible from their community hospital already.
LMH was gifted to the City of Lawrence in 1928 by Elizabeth Watkins. Today, it is technically considered a 501(c)(9) nonprofit instrumentality of the city. The endowment was formed in 1969.
The endowment exists to rally the community in support of LMH, and the primary way the public can help is through monetary donations. The endowment has two large fundraisers that the public should consider joining: the annual H.P. Penny Jones golf tournament and the biannual Hearts of Gold black-tie ball.
Funds raised by the endowment support new and upgraded equipment, hospital renovations to create a “caring environment,” charity care for the poor, and special needs of LMH.
Hospital leadership is particularly proud of LMH’s designation as a “Top 100” hospital in America, according to Truven Health Analytics. The hospital considers its core competencies cardiology, oncology, palliative care, women’s health, surgical services, and primary care. A current challenge facing the hospital is recruiting new, quality primary care physicians, due to attrition and increasing competition from concierge and direct primary care practices.
Vickie Randell, former Rotary District Governor, current district Rotary Foundation coordinator, (and now Assistant Regional Foundation Coordinator for Zone 27) is excited about what the Rotary Foundation has done and even more excited about what’s coming in the future.
“People tell me I’m a Rotary faucet,” the member of the Lawrence noon club said. “You ask me about the Rotary Foundation and you’ve turned the tap for a flood of information.”
The Rotary Foundation supports projects all over the globe as well as locally. “In our district we have clubs whose members have formed especially strong bonds with people in Panama and Guatemala.
“We’ve done global grants there that have helped educate people about clean water sources, worked on schools and provided medical supplies, “she said. She showed a slide of a rocky, road, filled in spots with water that children had to walk through to get to school. Rotarians cleaned it up and graded it.
The water supply for one community was a filthy, refuse filled stream. Through Rotary intervention there are now huge tanks supplying clean water.
“Teams of Kansas Rotarians have gone to Mexico to build houses,” she said. In India dump dwellers, who made their living scavenging in the dump, where they also lived, are being taught other ways to support themselves. In Uganda vocational training teams are teaching nurses in pediatric hospitals.
“Foundation money comes to local communities too,” she said. “A holiday shopping event is sponsored for children who otherwise couldn’t shop for gifts. The Lawrence Rotary arboretum is a sterling example of what clubs can do when they work together.”
Randal also talked about how in an unusual twist, Rotary clubs in Japan sent foundation money to the U.S. to help victims of hurricane Katrina proving the work of Rotary goes wherever it is needed.
There is always more to do. “We’re building the Rotary Peace Fellowship project, dedicated to eliminating conflict and helping the victims of conflict. And polio is not quite gone. There were still 54 cases in the world this year.
“Everything we do in Rotary builds peace, “ she said. “And peace helps people become their true selves.”