Lawrence Central Rotary | Lawrence, KS

If you have any questions always feel free to contact us!

DG Adam Ehlert Is Committed to Making a Difference

During his year as District Governor, Adam Ehlert wants to encourage healthy clubs that are engaged and enthusiastic about “Making a Difference,” the Rotary International theme for 2017-2018. The motto “defines what we do day in and day out.” Such energy will attract additional members better than any membership drive, he believes.

Ehlert’s “Rotary moment” struck during a Group Study Exchange that he led to Finland during 2011. His team bonded after an evening of “ice swimming”—repeated trips between a steamy sauna and a icy river nearby.  The experience is the epitome of local culture. As the GSE team members huddled in comradery, wet and exhilarated, after several hours of the activity, the group spontaneously voiced heartfelt thanks to Rotary and to their hosts for the powerful impact of international exchange. The emotional situation committed Ehlert even more deeply to Rotary and its work and led him to his current leadership role.

Simply Smiles Helps Cheyenne River Sioux Children

Lawrence Central Rotarian Margaret Weisbrod Morris found that her experience as an arts educator in low-income urban settings helped her appreciate of the quality work done by Simply Smiles in the plains community of Le Plant on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation in west-central South Dakota.

In June, Weisbrod Morris accompanied her daughter Ruby and other high school students and adults from Plymouth Church, Lawrence, when they joined the staff and interns at Simply Smiles in welcoming about 30 children from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe to a week-long summer camp.  The project, the only such effort sanctioned by tribal leaders there, aims to alleviate the high suicide rate among young people.

Not only did volunteers help conduct the camp, they spent half the day doing construction work.  During those mornings, Margaret learned how to wield a power drill as the group raised roof trusses on a new bunkhouse.  Others painted and renovated existing homes in the community and dug a trench to connect electricity. After the work, the volunteers had time to have fun with the children, playing basketball, creating huge bubbles, and swimming in the Missouri River–their one bath during the week.

The experience was the epitome of the Simply Smiles approach: ask what is needed, listen to the answer with empathy, devise ways to solve the problems together, and during the process, develop lasting individual relationships. The formula has made Simply Smiles impactful, sustainable, scalable, holistic, and successful.

Simply Smiles is a not-for-profit organization that provides bright futures for impoverished children, their families, and their communities. Founded in 2007 by Bryan Nurnberger, its first projects were in Oaxac, Mexico. The Simply Smiles’ partnership with Rotary was recognized with a Paul Harris Rotary Award from a club in Naugatuck, CT in 2012.

N.E. Kansas Rotary Clubs Raise over $38,293 for Heart to Heart Disaster Relief Efforts

The 45 Rotary clubs of Rotary International’s District 5710 (Including Lawrence Central Rotary) have come together to support Heart to Heart International’s disaster relief efforts in Texas and Florida.

Immediately after Hurricane Harvey devastated the gulf coast of Texas with over 51 inches of rain, followed by the damage caused in Florida by Hurricane Irma, Rotarians opened their hearts and checkbooks to help. Rotary clubs have been involved with the Lenexa-based Heart to Heart International (HHI) since its inception in 1992. Many of their founders and some of their board members are Rotarians so there is a natural connection and interest in supporting their mission.

Initially, 5710’s District Governor Adam Ehlert asked that each of the 2400 Rotarians in the District give at least $5.00 which was matched with District funds. Ehlert said, “I am overwhelmed by the generosity of Rotarians in our District.” “To date, over $38,293 has been collected and an additional significant amount is given directly through the Heart to Heart’s website”. “Rotary International is the world’s most significant service organization, but we are not a relief agency. Heart to Heart is, and it’s our privilege to support them,” added Ehlert.

Rotarians have also been involved in assembling and packing hygiene kits for distribution to those involved in both disasters. Nearly 30,000 kits have been distributed in the affected areas and the need continues. In Houston, HHI plans on providing medical care for the next two to three months until regular providers are able to reopen their own clinics. Some of the HHI medical volunteers are on their second tour following a short break at home. These services are provided at no cost to patients.

Likewise, in Florida, HHI is the only organization providing emergency medical care to residents and responders in the area of Big Pine Key.

Rotarians and other volunteers collected donations at a recent T-Bones baseball game series at CommunityAmerica Ballpark. Baseball fans including comedian Bill Murry (co-owner of the visiting St. Paul Saints) contributed to the effort. Rotary’s motto, “Service Above Self”, is exemplified by HHI’s, Ex. Director of Disaster Response, Sue Mangicaro, whose own condo in Naples, Fla. was flooded while she had responded to the Texas disaster. According to Jim Mitchum, HHI CEO, “She has not yet taken time to go home and deal with her own loss; instead continuing to lead our medical response on the Florida Keys.”

The District 5710 has 45 Clubs throughout Northeast Kansas, with some 2400 members. Rotary brings together a global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. Rotary connects 1.2 million members of more than 34,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas. Their work impacts people at both the local and international levels, from helping families in need in their own communities to working toward a polio-free world. 

Vietnam POW/MIA Wives Challenge Traditional Silence

In the late 1960s, POW/MIA wives bucked government protocol and broke public silence to demand accounting for their husbands and to pursue their safe return after years of imprisonment and torture by the North Vietnamese. Audrey McKanna Coleman, Senior Curator at the Dole Institute of Politics and member of Lawrence Central Rotary, highlighted how these women worked with Congress and the Nixon administration to challenge the traditional role of “military wife.” Senator Robert Dole helped them to gather a coalition in Congress and to sponsor the 1970 May Day event when they stepped forward publically as advocates for their husbands.

The story of these courageous women is chronicled at the Dole Institute of Politics in “The League of Wives: Vietnam’s POW/MIA Allies and Advocates.”  The display is the most recent of a series of exhibits conceived by Coleman that highlight the people and events with whom Senator Robert Dole interacted during his career.  Past exhibits included one in 2015 on Dole’s leadership in enacting the Americans with Disabilities Act and one in 2017 commemorating Dole’s nomination in 1976 at Kemper Arena to run for the Vice Presidency on the Republican ticket with Gerald Ford.

Curated by 2017 Dole Archives Curatorial Fellow Heath Hardage Lee, the current exhibition features 200 items that tell the story:  documents, photos, oral histories and memorabilia from the Dole Archives, personal collections of POW/MIA families, and other institutions. Lee has written a book on the subject: The League of Wives: a True Story of Survival and Rescue from the Homefront (2019, St. Martin’s Press).


Midco Connects in Lawrence

The numbers are impressive!  Midco’s core network of fiber-optic line is 8,600 miles long, forming a web connecting 335 upper-Midwest communities in five states and delivering 99.9999% network availability. In January, 2017, Lawrence and six other Kansas towns joined the customer mix as Midco acquired the WOW! market in the area.

Debra Schmidt, Business Development Manager for Midco in Kansas, is an eighteen-year veteran of the company. Her perspective makes her an ideal spokesperson for Midco.

Schmidt explained that Midcontinent Communications, or Midco, is a regional Internet, cable TV and phone provider. Begun in 1931 to manage a collection of movie theaters, Midco has evolved and matured. It is known today for delivering some of the fastest Internet speeds in the country. It also offers services such as WiFi home management, Smart Home, and Whole-home DVR. Midco Lifeline subsidizes phone and Internet service to qualified low-income households. The company’s products can scale to fit very small businesses to large enterprise organizations.

The Midco Foundation has given away $4.5 million since 1987. The impact is already making a different here in Lawrence: Midco was a major sponsor for the Cottonwood Salute fundraiser; sponsored movie nights for Downtown Lawrence; and gave away water bottles to KU students as they returned to campus. Another major gift to the Lawrence community will be revealed in the coming weeks.

Another innovation sure to please Kansas customers is the launch of Midco Sport Network (MidcoSN).  Channel 32/232 will broadcast local sports events beginning in September with prep football.  Kevin Romary and producer Kyle Haas joined Debra to talk about this exciting new program.

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 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

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.