Lawrence Central Rotary | Lawrence, KS

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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.

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: https://www.theshelterinc.org/

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.

 

Mail Ballot Supports Student Centered Learning

USD 497 Superintendent Kyle Hayden brought a message to Lawrence Central Rotarians focusing on an upcoming mail-in ballot election.

Kyle Hayden grew up in Sabetha, Kansas, and attended college at Tabor, later earning an advanced degree at Emporia State University. He worked at several teaching assignments in the state before serving five years as Assistant Superintendent for USD 497. He has been on the job for one year, presiding over the seventh largest district in the state, including 1,850 employees and 11,700 students. The District is experiencing steady growth with a ½% to 1% growth increase a year. Kyle Hayden has three children, and his wife is a teacher at Free State High School.

The District strives to achieve a creative engagement of teachers, parents, and community in order to provide and excellent education. Toward that end the May 2, 2017 Mail Ballot Election is intended to address long standing building deficiencies, primarily for the middle schools and high schools. These schools are all in need of more flexible spaces, energy efficiencies and more secure entrances. Due to its age Lawrence High School is a particular focus of the plan.  The development of this proposal was the charge of a Facilities Planning Committee, focus groups, administrators, staff and students. The result is an 87 million dollar bond proposal with 58,000 dollars identified for Lawrence High School. A 2.4 mill tax on local property will be required to fund the plan.

The election time line provides for voter registration to be completed by April 11. Ballots will be mailed April 12 and must be marked and returned to the County Clerk’s Office by noon May 2. Work could start as soon as next summer if the Bond is approved. More information on the Facilities Master Plan and the Mail Ballot measure may be viewed at the District web site.

Maximizing Independence for People with Disabilities

Independence, Inc. in Lawrence serves both people with disabilities and the communities where they live. Organized in 1978, the agency was the first Center for Independent Living (CIL) in the area, according to Bob Mikesic, co-director for the agency. Currently, it is one of about 400 CILs across the nation. Douglas, Franklin, and Jefferson counties benefit from its programs and services.

Cooking is one of the most popular classes that the agency offers among its training programs. In addition to teaching such independent living skills, classes create friendships and good times among peers who use the agency. In addition, Independence, Inc. provides advocacy, peer counseling, information and referral, and transition services of various types. It can also help to locate assistive technology, telecommunications access, and medical equipment for the disabled. Disabled people can find a ride to a medical appointment, learn to manage their finances, and get a document transcribed into Braille at Independence, Inc. The youth employment program provides jobs for young people with disabilities aged 15 to 21. The Haskell Avenue location houses a computer learning center and accessible meeting rooms as well as agency offices.

By promoting self-reliance and advocating personal rights and choices, Centers for Independence work to make individuals productive and to stay interconnected with their communities. There were no laws requiring accessibility or reasonable accommodation when CIL initiatives began in the 1960s, and employment options for the disabled were limited. After years of advocacy, CILs saw Congress pass the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, a law that provided rules and regulations to open the door for disabled people to manage a job and their own lives. More recently, one-third of the people who benefited from the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid were the disabled.

Van Go: An Artistic Path to Success

Van-Go Development Director Eliza Darmon

Van Go is a unique and creative non-profit program that has provided employment, guidance, and success for disadvantaged youth in the Lawrence community.  Development Director Eliza Darmon presented the story of this award -winning program started 20 years ago by Lynn Green with a modest Arts Commission grant.

Van Go has grown into an arts based social service and jobs program serving at-risk teens aged 14-24.  Van Go operates a year-round after school and summer job training experience utilizing local businesses, nonprofits, and community members who provide over 100 youth employment opportunities annually.  Young people are usually referred to Van Go through school social workers and have an IEP, a mental health diagnosis or have been in the court system.  Some 70 percent of these young people live in poverty.  Accordingly, the program is committed to providing a support system which includes academics and tutoring, counseling, encouraging a healthy lifestyle and other life skills.  Clients participate in Bench Mark, an eight weeks employment program in which a bench is constructed and placed in the community.  The Adornment program employs 22 clients to produce art and decorations for the yearly Van Go recognition ceremony.  Young people also plan and paint a mural each spring.  A tile recognition wall also provides employment with colorful fused tiles representing over 700 donors.

Van Go has a budget of $743,000 with almost half coming from Federal, City and County funding.  The rest comes from donations, fundraisers, art sales, two well-attended annual dinners, and an on-site gallery that is open 9:00 am through 5:00 pm.  The Van Go website is http://www.van-go.org/.

Williamson Tells Story of Revitalized Senior Resource Center

Marvel Williamson

The Senior Resource Center of Douglas County (SRC) has recently redefined its mission and rebranded itself as an information clearinghouse. The organization is now focused on helping people navigate the complexity of resources in the Lawrence area that are available to seniors, according to Marvel Williamson, director of the agency.

Nowadays it is commonly understood that there are three stages of aging:       (1) active seniors who need limited assistance to participate in a community;     (2) seniors who are facing a life event that limits them in some way and who need a particular set of support services in order to remain self-sufficient and connected to the community; and (3) individuals who are heavily dependent on support services for their daily routines.

When it was established in the 1970s, Douglas County Senior Services (DCSS) was a centerpiece of activity for all seniors in downtown Lawrence, a role it continued to play through the 1990s. During a recent strategic planning process, however, DSSC staff realized that the agency was serving a small population of the most vulnerable and that they interacted with active seniors only infrequently. The need was clear: re-invent DSSC in order to meet the needs of all three constituencies.

Senior Resource Center is doing just that. 2017 is a year of “building capacity” for its new mission. The agency has adopted its new name, designed a logo, and developed a website at www.yourSRC.org that identifies it as a resource and referral point. At the same time, it has taken care to maintain support services to seniors: meal delivery, rides for those who need them, a calendar of social and educational activities, and technical and legal assistance, among many others. The agency has catalogued the multiple non-profit and business resources in the community, including identifying seniors who can help each other in various ways. Professionals in the field can also use the Center as a place to network in periodic “summits,” Williamson envisions.

Funding for Senior Resource Center comes from Douglas County. The balance of the $1 million annual budget is met through grants and gifts. The City of Lawrence provides space for the agency and its programs. Because the longtime physical office and gathering spaces in downtown Lawrence are currently under renovation, the agency staff is working at Peasley Technical Center for the year. Currently, there are nine full time employees and 20 who work part time.

Lawrence Fair Housing Ordinance of 1967 Commemorated by Oral History and Documents

Tom Arnold | Lawrence KS

Lawrence Historian Tom Arnold (Photo Credit LJWorld)

The City of Lawrence was one of the first communities in the nation to establish a Fair Housing Ordinance, said local historian Tom Arnold. This important event took place in Lawrence in July 1967, well before the federal Fair Housing Act was enacted in 1968.

Tom Arnold has spent the past months doing research and developing an oral history to commemorate the passage of Lawrence’s Fair Housing Ordinance fifty years ago. After thirty years in the U.S. Navy, Tom came to Lawrence to teach Naval Science at KU for three years as an adjunct professor. He retired from the University six years ago and began volunteering at the Watkins Museum. As the anniversary of the Fair Housing Ordinance approached, Arnold took the archival work that began in the City Attorney’s office by LCR member Scott Wagner, Management Analyst, and accepted the task of developing an oral history to complement the historical documents. Those interviews were conducted in October and November 2016. The goal was to get the personal perspectives and motives of individuals who participated in this important set of decisions in Lawrence during the 1960s.  Arnold conducted nine interviews with eleven people, generating twelve hours of recordings.  The recordings have now been transcribed so that they are searchable for future research needs.

The milestone anniversary of the Fair Housing Ordinance will be celebrated with a variety of events and displays during the coming months. There will be a visual display at the Watkins Museum and a traveling exhibit as well. Documents will be archived at the KU Spencer Museum.

The Lawrence Human Rights Commission (HRC) was established in 1961. Before that time, none of the public swimming pools were open to non-whites. Businesses routinely segregated Afro-Americans and even refused services.  The Fair Housing initiative began as a grassroots movement among Lawrence citizens in 1964 when the Lawrence Fair Housing Committee formed. Attempts to pass state legislation on Fair Housing failed, so the group transferred their focus to the local level. The Lawrence Ordinance was the result of effort and risk-taking by many to address the housing discrimination and inequities that existed in the Lawrence community. The Committee sent a resolution to the Human Relations Commission of the City of Lawrence in 1967. By that time, there was broad support. Many community groups and churches collaborated to bring this significant milestone to reality.

 

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