April 21, 2008 Rotogram

THE 2008 DISTRICT CONFERENCE – APRIL 17-19, STARKVILLE, MS

The 2008 District Convention was enjoyable, enlightening, and well worth the investment of time and effort for those attending. Congratulations to Governor Jack, Conference Chair Larry Mullins, and all the members of our Club who pitched in to make it a success. Although we can’t do it justice, a brief summary and several photos of highlights are in order.

Attendance: The Friday noon luncheon took the place of our meeting of April 21. There were 77 of our 200 members present (57 actives and 20 exempt).

Guests included Pam Brock, Jeanna Edwards, and Terry Sholes of Jack Forbus; Ellen Boles of David; Jarod Reanea of Greg Stewart; Leah Livingston of Jeff Donald; and Sue Blackbourn of Joe Blackbourn.

Invocation was by ADG Barbara Travis (Rankin) and Pledge of Allegiance was led by DGN Chuck Jordan (Greenville).

Meeting Notes: President Ned Browning presided and Governor Jack welcomed Rotarians and guests and introduced the speakers.

Keynote Speaker Greg Yank, Regional Membership Coordinator for Zone 29 from O’Fallon, IL, focused his address on membership. He said that while Rotary membership in other parts of the world is growing, it is declining in North America. He congratulated District 6820 for being one of the few clubs “in the black” with just under 2 percent growth in the past year to total 2,499! He challenged all Clubs to work harder on membership recruitment, member education, and retention of members. His charge: “Make Rotary fun, keep members involved.”

A Surprise Guest: Third Circuit Court Judge Henry Lackey, who blew the whistle on Dickie Scruggs and others who tried to bribe him, was a surprise guest, thanks to Carey Hardin, who, like Judge Lackey, is a native of Calhoun City.

Carey makes Judge Lackey a Paul Harris Fellow

“It has been said that all that’s necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing,” Carey said in introducing Judge Lackey. “Our guest today proved the inverse of this saying true when, by taking action at considerable and professional risk and inconvenience, he ensured that an attempt to corrupt our system of justice was defeated.”

Carey recalled that young men in Calhoun City looked forward to two things when they turned 15, “getting their driver’s license and getting to spend a year in Judge Lackey’s Sunday School class. His talent for engaging, teaching, and mentoring young people is legendary and not limited to words. His best teaching has always been by example. When the term ‘your honor’ is used in his court, we can all be sure that the term is loaded with meaning.

“It’s fitting that Paul Harris the founder of Rotary, was also a member of the legal profession and was committed to Service Above Self. Today, it’s my pleasure to recognize Judge Lackey as a Paul Harris Fellow.”
Judge Lackey, in accepting the honor, spoke briefly to Rotarians and guests, shared several humorous stories, and pointed out that “public officials aren’t supposed to expect or accept honors for just doing the job for which they are elected.”

No mention was made of the bribery case that’s been making national headlines and those in the audience showed their appreciation and respect for Judge Lackey with a standing ovation.
A special thanks to Carey for his contribution to the Rotary Foundation to name Judge Henry Lackey the Club’s newest Paul Harris Fellow.

District Clubs Focus on Literacy: Much of the conference focused on current projects and new efforts to raise the level of literacy in this and future generations.
It was pointed out that if children aren’t able to read by third grade, they are likely to end up in our jails and prisons. Therefore, many clubs in District 6820 are already doing something about illiteracy and the state’s high drop out rate.

Several clubs (including Starkville) give dictionaries to all third graders in their local schools. Greenville’s Rotary Reads has members going regularly into classrooms to read to children.
Walt Starr, president of Columbus Rotary (and former member of our club), is a pediatric dentist. He writes a prescription for each child patient requiring the mother to read daily to her youngster. Dr. Starr has stocked his office with hundreds of books from which the child can choose. And once it’s read, the kids can bring the book back and swap it for another.

Our club is leading the way in a major project with pre-school children. Called “Between the Lions,” the project is in cooperation with Mississippi Public Radio and the MSU Extension Service. Materials have already been placed in the county’s three libraries. The goal is to train workers in child care centers to use the designed program of teaching children to read starting at age 3.
Philadelphia Rotary is attacking literacy still another way, working to help folks in local jails sharpen reading skills and hopefully get their GEDs.

In short, Rotarians in District 6820 have declared war on illiteracy.

R.I. President’s Representative Allen Smith proved an eloquent and convincing speaker on behalf of Rotary International President Wilfrid Wilkinson. A 34-year Rotarian from Harrisburg, PA, Smith spoke at several conference sessions.

He emphasized the worldwide impact of Rotary through the Rotary Foundation. “It’s your foundation,” he said, “because your dollars support it.”

Rotary, through the Foundation and its partners (World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, UNESCO, etc), has all but eliminated polio from the world in the 20 years since it launched the eradication initiative. Smith said that polio is still endemic in five areas of the world, but an all-out effort to finish the job has been launched with $100 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which Rotary has pledged to match over the next 3 years.

Smith said R.I. President Wilkinson has challenged each club to raise $1,000 annually over the next 3 years to achieve a polio-free world. “He’s doesn’t want clubs to merely write a check. Instead, clubs should hold fund raising projects to give everyone a chance to have a part in eradicating polio.”

In his remarks at the final conference session, Smith challenged District 6820 clubs to continue membership efforts to move well past the 2,500 mark. He urged other clubs to join Starkville in participating in Rotary Youth Exchange, and to continue to expand the district’s efforts in literacy and education.

The International Connection: The International side of Rotary was a major part of the 2008 District Conference with participants of three international programs.

Rotary Youth Exchange StudentsMaryna Melnik (Belarus) and Negrita Caicedo (Ecuador) addressed

Negrita and Maryna are congratulated by RIP Rep. Allen Smith and PDG Les Fletcher (Indianola).

Rotarians at the opening conference session Thursday afternoon. They did a fine job of telling about their countries, their experiences, and how youth exchange is changing their lives.

The Group Study Exchange Team from District 1790 in France, arrived a day earlier and stayed a day longer than they had been scheduled. But they proved to be such an enjoyable and interesting group, those who spent time with them were reluctant to send them on to Greenwood Sunday morning.

Jean-Paul Simet, a salty Rotarian with a keen sense of humor who has retired after an international career with Renault, both charmed and entertained Rotarians when he spoke at two of the conference sessions. The four young professionals were fun-loving and personable as they mingled with Rotarians, went on tours, and made the most of their Starkville experiences.

Sebastian Risser is a manager in the largest bank in France. Sandine Lascoux, the only young lady on the team, is a public bailiff (duties much different and more varied than here). Marc Bardinal, is an agricultural engineer who specializes in energy conservation and environmental quality. Olivier Nouzeelle is a maintenance engineer for the chemical industry.

Thanks to Linda Karen Smith for managing to keep things organized and running smoothly with a number of last-minute changes falling in her lap. Special thanks to David and Sherrie VanLandingham for hosting a welcoming party at their home when the team arrived from Columbus. The GSE team went from Starkville to the Delta where they were hosted by Greenwood and Greenville. They flew home Saturday from Jackson.

Ambassadorial Scholar Ben Hammond is a graduate of Ole Miss from Jackson who was an Ambassadorial Scholar at Rhodes University in South Africa. He shared his experiences with Rotarians the last morning of the conference. Ben is currently an aide to Sen. Thad Cochran (who was also an Ambassadorial Scholar). He said a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship is more valuable and flexible than a Rhodes Scholarship but doesn’t get as much press, probably because of the prestige associated with Rhodes. “The benefits are immeasurable in increasing good will and international understanding through personal intervention.”

District Awards. Governor Jack Forbus presented a number of awards at the conference banquet.
The Edley Jones Award for the club with the best attendance for the year went to Prentiss Rotary Club.

The Edley Jones Award for the club with the best attendance for the year went to Prentiss Rotary Club.

South Rankin won the Ottis Snipes Award for the club with the greatest percentage increase in membership during the Rotary year.

The W.A. Price Award for the best bulletin went to Philadelphia Rotary Club.

The Allison Brush Award for the highest per capita giving to the Rotary Foundation Fund during the Rotary year went to Flowood ($196.25) followed by South Hines ($179.35).

Jack initiated a new Literacy Award. To be eligible, the club had to complete at least five separate literacy projects. Eleven Clubs earned the new award: Columbus, Flowood, Hollandale, Jackson, Lexington, North Jackson, Philadelphia, Rankin County, Starkville, Winona, and Wayesboro.

Jack also presented his Inspiration for Service in Literacy Award to Doris B. Perry of Philadelphia, who initiated the program to help incarcerated individuals earn their GED, enabling them to get employment upon release. Doris, who is not a Rotarian but works with and through the Rotary Club, is the mother of Barbara McLaurin (the wife of Starkville Rotarian P.C. McLaurin).

Finally, the Governor’s Award for the best club was a tie – going to Greenville and Starkville.

District Business: In the closing session, Rotarians heard a financial report from Treasurer Nellah Taylor. Expenses from the 2006-2007 Rotary year had only recently been received, but it appears both that year and the current year will probably end up with a deficit. While the District has sufficient reserves to cover these deficits, Nellah pointed out that this should not continue. Future alternatives to increased revenue are adding more members or increasing district dues from the current $20 per member per year. No action was taken.

Larry Mullins reported that 130 Rotarians representing 23 of the District’s 44 clubs attended the conference.

Roscoe Green, Assistant DG from the Rankin County Rotary Club, was named DGN-elect to serve as Governor for the 2010-2011 Rotary year. This will be official after election at the upcoming R.I. Convention.

Bill Dawson (Jackson) and John Turner (Greenville) were elected to the District Nominating Committee replacing Ann Mitchell (Starkville) and Forest Persons (Natchez)

Past District Governor Jim Stanley (North Jackson) was named delegate to the 2010 R.I. Council on Legislation with PDG John Fair (Louisville) alternate.

Governor Jack Forbus with the Group Study Exchange Team from France

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