Lawrence Central Rotary | Lawrence, KS

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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

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 and the Imam Hazim’s book is available in hardback, paperback and Kindle edition on Amazon.

Shelter Inc.’s Gina Hummel Visits Lawrence Central

Gina Hummel - Shelter IncThe Shelter, Inc. Director, Gina Hummel, spoke to Lawrence Central Rotary about the unique role the organization plays in the care of children who are removed from their homes by law enforcement or court action.  Gina Is a Kansas University graduate with over 25 years of experience in health and human services.

The mission of The Shelter, Inc. is to improve the lives of children and families in Douglas and Northeast Kansas, with a focus on children at risk.  The organization was created in 1981 to address the needs of children who were in the temporary custody of law enforcement or due to court action.  There was simply no place to take those children.  Two residential homes were set up and staffed, one for boys and the other for girls, ages 10-18.   The residences can accommodate a total of 28 children, serving an average of 300 children a year.  These children have often suffered abuse and have significant behavior problems.  The staff work hard to create as much normalcy as possible and provide counseling, tutoring, and other support.  The Shelter, Inc. also provides foster care and adoption services.  Emergency funding is available to families in crisis as well as assessment and referral services.  Staff is available on call 24 hours a day.  Prevention and diversion support is also available to first-time juvenile offenders.  Gina Hummel noted that the State system is under severe stress and that early intervention and support is critical but greatly underfunded.  The organization is funded by a combination of sources including County, City, State pass through dollars and a Festival of Trees holiday fundraiser.  Shelter, Inc is moving in June to improved facilities at 1925 Delaware.

The organization is funded by a combination of sources including County, City, State pass through dollars and a Festival of Trees holiday fundraiser.  Shelter, Inc is moving in June to improved facilities at 1925 Delaware.

For more information about this local resource, their website is:

Dr. David Farber Speaks on the Rise of President Donald Trump

Distinguished Professor Dr. David Farber, History Department, University of Kansas

Dr. David Farber Talks to Lawrence Central Rotary on the rise of Trumpism

Donald Trump is like no other American President according to Distinguished Professor Dr. David Farber, History Department, University of Kansas.  Dr. Farber earned his advanced degrees from the University of Chicago and has written extensively on politics, social change and business in modern America.  He began with identifying the formula that propelled Donald Trump to a victory in the Republican Primary and electoral success in the Presidential election.  He noted that a primary has a smaller pool of voters, therefore, huge numbers are not necessary for success.  Donald Trump built his own unique brand that appealed to white ethnic nationalism.  He used Birtherism, the belief that President Barack Obama was not born in America and might not be a Christian, to appeal to people inclined to be angry ethnic nationalists.

Dr. Farber noted that polls indicated that 72% of Republican Primary voters believed the Birther arguments.  Donald Trump gambled that free trade and immigration would work with primary voters.  He used demagogue like techniques and arguments and won a surprising victory over the established leaders of the party.  He won approximately 50% of primary voters and once the choice came down to two Presidential candidates, the establishment Republicans “came home” and voted for Donald Trump. He also earned enough support from independent voters, primarily white males in key states, to win the Presidency.  Dr. Farber noted that the Clinton Campaign underestimated support from union members, Blacks and Hispanics and that contributed to her loss.  Regarding Donald Trump’s performance so far, Dr. Farber maintains that we have never had a President who knows so little about power and governing.

Warrington Tells History of Haskell Memorial Arch

Jancita Warrington, Director of the Cultural Center and Museum at Haskell University, told the story of the Memorial Arch at Haskell University football stadium. Dedicated in 1926, the Arch was erected by Native American contributions in memory of the Native American soldiers who volunteered to fight in the First World War. Secretary of the Interior Hubert Work, a Haskell graduate, spoke at the dedication.

In 1924, Haskell high school fielded an excellent football team that competed successfully against a number of college teams. In recognition of the football program, Haskell students promised funds to regrade the football field and install 2,000 seats around the field. When tribes from all over the United States also contributed funds, the project grew to include the building of the stadium as well as the Memorial Arch.

The dedication of the Haskell stadium and Memorial Arch became an occasion for Native American tribes to gather, something that they were not allowed to do on the reservations at that time. Over 5,000 Indian people from multiple tribes came to Lawrence for the event, building a native village on the prairie just outside of Lawrence. Since each tribe had its own language and customs, it was a truly multi-cultural event. The powwow held at that time was the largest ever and began a series of inter-tribal powwows that still continues annually.

The gathering also attracted 12,000 tourists to Lawrence. Besides attending the dedication itself, tourists watched Indians perform the play “Hiawatha,” attended the powwow, ate barbeque, and enjoyed a parade on Mass Street.

Warrington earned her B.A. at Haskell University and her M.A. at University of Kansas. A Potawatomi, Menominee, and Ho-Chunk descendent, she has taught in various Native American institutions and has worked served as a Tribal Council Member and the Tribal History Cultural Preservation Director for the Prairie Bank Potawatomi Nation. She has been recognized nationally for her knowledge, leadership, and commitment to serving Indian Country.

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.