April 7, 2008 Rotogram


Today, we welcome two guests.  Jay Miller is Head Coach of MSU’s Women’s Softball team that at this writing has a 30-11 record and a 21 national ranking.  Lacy Lee Baker is Executive Director of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.


Back by popular demand, Rotarian Chester McKee returns to the podium next Monday  to share more of his choice recollections of the community and campus of his youth. Chester is a great story-teller, who has shared many of his memories of growing up here in his delightful book, “Campus Brat.”


Attendance: There were 124 members (91 active and 33 exempt) present and 78 members  (47 active, 23 exempt, and all 8 honorary) missing.

Invocation and Pledge: Carey Hardin.

Guests: Guests of members included David Chandler of Bob Daniels, Rodney Lincoln of Matt Cox, and Ruth Remy of Keith Remy. Club guests were members of host families of our two exchange students: Bill and Carol Jones; Marco Nicovich; Vicki Burnett; and Melissa, Victoria, and Anna Catherine Follett. Shoshanna Brackett (Starkville Daily News) was our guest and wrote a fine front-page feature of Maryna’s presentation that appeared Tuesday, April 1.

Rotary Minute: Joe Fratesi said the old adage that “you’re known by the company you keep” reminded him that many famous and respected men have been Rotarians. Examples he listed were Raymond Firestone, the founder of J.C. Penney company, and Charles Walgreen (from business and industry); U.S. Presidents Warren Harding, Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, and Prime Ministers Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher (political leaders); baseball legend Connie Mack and mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary (athletes); and pioneers Orville Wright, Neal Armstrong, Thomas Edison, and Joe’s favorite – Walt Disney. Rotarians are in good company!

Father’s Child Ministry Founder Edward Yeates was presented a check for $2,000 to support the vital agency he founded and directs. The support was made possible by a $1,000 District 6820 Simplified Grant matched with $1,000 from our club.

District Conference, hosted by Starkville Rotary  Club, will kick off Thursday afternoon,  April 17, and adjourn at noon Saturday, April 19. Larry Mullins, chairing the Conference Committee, urged Rotarians to register and support the conference.  The District Conference Luncheon Friday noon at Hunter Henry Center will take the place of our Monday (April 21) meeting, so it won’t cost you extra! More details of the conference will be forthcoming.

A Group Study Exchange Team from France will be with us for the District Conference. Linda Karen Smith is chairing the committee arranging to host the French team before they move on to Greenwood. An interesting note: the team is from District 1790,  the same district that sent us Marie Baran, last year’s Rotary Exchange student.


Maryna Melnik hasn’t missed many Rotary meetings since her arrival last August to begin her year as a Rotary Exchange student. She finally got her chance last Monday to address her host Rotary Club. She spoke with nearly flawless English and illustrated her talk with an excellent PowerPoint presentation.

“Thank you so much for this opportunity to speak about my country and my great exchange experiences. I had been to Starkville three times before as part of the Children of Chernobyl Program through First United Methodist Church,”  she explained.

“I stayed with a great family, Bill and Carol Jones, and I made great friends. Now it is so wonderful that Bill and Carol wanted to make it possible for me to come back and learn my English.”  She hopes someday to be an English teacher in Belarus.

A  former USSR state, Belarus is now an independent country  in eastern Europe  bordered by Poland on the west, Lithuania and Latvia on the north, Russia on the east, and Ukraine on the south. It has a moderate climate, many lakes and rivers,  and about a third of the land area is forested.

The population is about 80 percent Belarussian with the rest comprised of Russians, Poles, Ukrainians, and and other Europeans. Belarussian and Russian are the official languages.

Maryna’s hometown is Oktyabrskiy, a small “beautiful and picturesque town,” with a rich history. “We celebrated its 500th anniversary in 2007.”

She introduced her family “who always support and understand me. This year away from them has made me really understand how important they are for me.” Her father  is 41, a very hard worker who delivers food and other products to small villages that don’t have grocery stores.  Her mother, also 41, is very kind, positive, and optimistic. “She has a great heart and takes good care of us. I can speak with her about everything,” Maryna said.

She has an older brother, whom she says “spoils me a lot. We are very close even though now he lives and works in a different city.”  Also part of her family is her grandmother, who is “a great adviser for me.”

Maryna showed pictures and told about her friends and activities. She described some of typical foods and several of the major holidays and festivals celebrated in Belarus.  She enjoys dancing and designing clothing fashions.

Turning to her experiences as an exchange student, Maryna said she is having a wonderful year. “I’m enjoying every day that I’m  spending here. People are so wonderful and kind. My host families are great. They have done so much for me.” She and her host siblings (Elizabeth, Tillery, and John Robert Tomlinson; and Victoria, Anna Catherine, and Ethan Follett) have become “great friends.”

She and Negrita, our other RYE student from Ecuador, have also become very close friends (almost inseparable), sharing many experiences over the past 8 months in Starkville.

Maryna is a junior at Starkville High School where she has studied English, history, and a variety of other subjects. She had nothing but praise for her teachers, especially those in Art, U.S. History, and Drama. She participated in cross country in the fall and several weeks ago in the beauty review. She and Negrita are working as part of the stage and makeup crew for the upcoming production of “South Pacific.”

Her host families have provided a number of travel opportunities. The Burnetts took her and Negrita to Gatlinburg last Fall. She went with the Tomlinsons to Memphis last Fall and spent Spring Break week with them on the beach. She and Negrita  enjoyed a weekend with 180 other exchange students from 34 countries in Tulsa, OK, in February. And  Marco Nicovich (her next host father) took both exchange students on a flying trip to Washington, DC, for an extended Easter weekend. “I never believed I would see your Capitol and be in The White House!”

She concluded by again thanking her host families and Rotarians for making her exchange year possible.

“Thank you! Thank you so much for letting me come to Starkville! It’s wonderful what you are doing.”

And  final proof that she’s mastered her southern English, “I love y’all so much!”


Rotarians having birthdays in April are  Michelle Amos, Billie Ball, Dave Boles, Rex Buffington, Bryce Griffis, Stan Grzybowski, Jim Henry, Briar Jones, Brian Lesley, Grady Michener, Ann Mitchell, Mo Netadj, Bill Parrish, Joe Thompson, Tommy Tomlinson, and J.B. VanLandingham.

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