Although Nancy Truitt has a special-needs son, she says that he never expects special treatment. All he asks is to be able to enjoy many of the same activities that other kids his age experience.

 

Now he can, thanks to the help of the Leawood Rotary Club. The club teamed up with the city, the Leawood Foundation, and Variety Kansas City to develop an innovative, all-inclusive playground at Leawood City Park.

 

“Rotary members embraced the idea of the park and got involved, both financially and with their time,” Truitt said. “This is a park where kids like my son can come and play in an environment where they can just be a kid.”

           

The park is just one of the latest ways that the club has given back to the community since it was founded in 1995. Nearly 50 members meet at the Hallbrook Country Club each Thursday morning to network, enjoy each other’s company and most importantly, look for ways to help.

 

“Our mission is service above self,” President Chuck Udell says. “This means we are there to make things better in our community, city and world. We give our time, talent and treasure.”

 

Rotary has been in his blood since about age 10, when he visited the club in Savannah, Ga., where his grandfather had been president. Udell believes in the club’s core values of service to others and integrity.

 

“Rotary has what it calls the Four-Way Test,” he says. “Of the things we think, say and do: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships?  Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”

 

Vice President Lisa May also found those values compelling: “One of my clients recommended me to the club, and I told her I would join when my kids got out of high school and I had the time,” she says. “I was looking for a way to give back. I went to a few meetings and loved it so I joined.”

 

Past President Roxann Kerr Lindsey visited the club because it was looking for a representative from her employer. “Once I got there, I really enjoyed the group and the opportunity to become involved in the community,” she says.

 

May and Kerr Lindsey are helping dispel a common misconception about Rotary. “It used to be open only to men, but women are now welcome as well,” Kerr Lindsey says. “Our Leawood club is pretty diverse with both men and women and a variety of age groups.”

 

This diverse group comes together for the common purpose of helping others. The many organizations and projects supported by the club include:

·       The Johnson County Christmas Bureau

·       The REACH program at Bishop Ward High School

·       Tomahawk Creek Trail clean-up

·       Shadow Buddies

·       Rotary Youth Camp

 

Personal development, networking and social activities also are important parts of

Rotary. “We serve others and have fun doing it,” Udell says.

 

Rotary is both an international organization and a local club. Some local members are involved in international missions, such as installing water filters in people’s homes in Guatemala and Panama, and all are involved in the Leawood community. They also hope to get involved with stopping human trafficking.

 

“We recently took time to step back and put together a three-year plan to focus on our mission,” Kerr Lindsey says. “More than half of our members sat down and asked where we are and where we want to go. Because of that, we refocused our efforts on helping Leawood.”

 

May believes she receives more from Rotary than she gives. “Rotary inspires me to do more, give more and make a difference in other people’s lives,” she says.

 

Kerr Lindsey agrees: “The people in our club are amazing in giving their time, talent and treasure,” she says. “It’s a great feel-good organization to network and get involved with the community. Rotary is a hidden treasure.”

 

The greatest satisfaction for members, however, comes from the smiles on the faces of people such as Nancy Truitt and her son.

 

“Rotary has been so special to us,” Truitt says. “We have gone out and had breakfast with them several times. The members are friendly and welcoming, and they have created a sense of family.”

 

Prospective members are welcome to visit a weekly meeting. For more information about the Leawood Rotary Club, visit https://leawoodrotary.org/ or email Chuck Udell at chuckudell@msn.com or Mary Reed, membership chair at reedmary44@yahoo.com.