By Jerry Venters, a member of the Rotary Club of Kansas City Plaza
I’ve been a member of Rotary since 1989, and I have never heard of or participated in a changing of the guard ceremony like the one held in District 6040, Missouri, USA, this year. It had more energy and enthusiasm, participation, and fun than any I’ve attended!
The district governor for 2014-15, Cassy Venters (full disclosure here: my wife) began thinking two years earlier about how she could make the event different and uphold the Rotary ideal of Service Above Self. She chose to make it a service project with our local food bank, Harvesters – The Community Food Network.
As is usually the case, the event doubled as the installation ceremony for the governor’s home club, in this case the Kansas City Plaza Rotary Club, led by 2014-15 President Bob Merrigan. Most of these events are long, drawn-out affairs held in a hotel or banquet facility. Cassy dared to be different.
After months of promotion, we had 140 Rotarians, Rotaractors, and family members pack 4,600 lunches in 90 mintues for the children served by Harvesters. Four of our granddaughters, ages 8 to 19, along with our daughter and son-in-law, came from Des Moines, Iowa, to take part in the event. We had Rotarians from almost a dozen clubs around the district participate, and some brought their children, too. Nine Rotaractors were there, and I’ve never seen Rotaractors take part in a district installation ceremony!
Everyone contributed $20 which allowed us to buy $8,000 worth of food. The day began with a picnic-style lunch in the Harvesters meeting room (cost: $10 a person), and after the packing we installed our officers. Harvesters had everything set up for us. People were laughing, having a great time, and meeting new friends. Rich Linden, a local DJ, who is also a member of the Plaza club, kept it lively with music for all ages and a little friendly trash talk between tables. “Table six says it’s the best table in the building; the rest of you better get to work.”
I’ve never seen people have such a good time at a changeover ceremony. If you are willing to try something different for your next installation dinner, why not consider a service project that exemplifies Rotary’s dedication to serving others.