Last week I was invited to be the guest speaker at a Lansing Rotary Club meeting to talk a little about Lansing history and about my writing career.
I always enjoy talking to local groups and organizations. In the past couple of years, I’ve appeared at several historical societies in the area and have been invited to talk to members of the Lansing Golden K’s, Lansing Lions and Lansing Women’s Club. Because I love history so much, I always find it interesting meeting longtime residents who share stories of their families or of what Lansing was like years ago. I never leave one of these meetings without learning something new.
Besides learning some historical facts and hearing stories of Lansing in the past, I also learned a bit about the Lansing Rotary Club, which was chartered in the 1950s, and some of the wonderful things its members do for the community. I was welcomed by Ed Lugowski who is completing one of several consecutive terms as president. As with many service organizations these days, membership isn’t what it once was. However, with a roster of 17, the club is able to accomplish quite a bit.
I mentioned to the club members that I’d been at an awards assembly at my son’s school last month and had seen that a fifth-grade student was honored with an award from Rotary Club and Rotary member Peter Boonstra was there to present it. I was really impressed by that gesture and saw how excited the recipient was.
Lugowski explained that the award, the Rotary’s Citizenship Award, goes to one student at each of the 13 schools in the village. “It emulates what Rotary is all about, which is service to others,” Lugowski said. The award goes to a student in his or her last year at the school (fifth-graders, eighth-graders and high school seniors.)
This year’s recipients were Kelli Farlow, T.F. South High School; Carlos Barajas, Memorial Junior High School; Rachel Hodge, Nathan Hale School; Joe Ferguson, Luther East High School; Luke Hillegonds, Lansing Christian School; Claire Bailey, St. Ann School; Jennifer Krgysheld, Illiana Christian High School; Kevin Nawrocki, Reavis School; David Denard, Oak Glen School; Joel Herrera, Coolidge School; Nathan Edquivel, St. John School; Emmanuel Ogulana, Trinity Lutheran School; and Robyn Green, Heritage Middle School.
The club also recognized four Lansing teachers this year with Educator of the Year Awards: Marilyn Stafford from Coolidge School, Carol Joza from St. John Lutheran, Cecily Groenwold from Heritage Middle School and Roger Wiers from Illiana Christian High School
Rotary Club also honors students of the month throughout the school year, with two T.F. South or Illiana High School students honored each month. In addition to the Student of the Month awards, the Rotary Club gives out thousands of dollars in scholarships to local students.
Two separate luncheons are held by Rotary at the end of the school year, one recognizing students (and their parents) in the top 10 percent of their class and another honoring scholarship winners. The $1,000 scholarship awardees were Megan Deckinga and Joseph Kelley from Illiana Christian High School, Sean Lane from Luther East High School and Austin Berryhill, Asia Slaughter, Courtney Stone and Shannon Pollard from T.F. South High School. There were also two additional $500 Klebs Vocational Scholarships awarded to Lilla Lascola and Jennae Hall from T.F. South High School.
Another project they are working toward is helping to have an orphanage built in Uganda. The club also is a supporter of fresh water projects throughout the world.
One of the first to greet me at the meeting was a gentleman named James Nettles Sr. In fact, he didn’t just introduce himself, he offered a hearty handshake, a huge warm smile and a hug. Nettles is a member of the Park Forest Rotary Club and an assistant governor for Rotary. “This is one of the smallest clubs around, but one of the strongest as far as service,” he said.
I was honored to spend an afternoon with such a wonderful bunch and I commend them on all their efforts in making a difference in our community and recognizing students and teachers for their commitment to education. If you’re interested in joining Rotary Club, please call (708) 895-4716.