Second Chances

Written by Andrew Eddmenson

“I’m trying to remember what came next…”

Leo looked up from his sheet of paper.  “I just have these little memories.  I guess that’s all life really is when it comes down to it.”

“You know,” I replied, “I think the best stories are told out of order.”

When I first arrived at Evergreen Retirement Community, the room was full of other residents and teenagers sitting at tables across from one another just as Leo and I were. All of us were part of a wonderful project called Write Your Life, which pairs high school students and young professionals with senior citizens to help them write their life stories. The room was full, but after just a few moments of small talk, I forgot anyone else was there.

At 82, Leo Karner is “just a young punk around this place.” Originally from California, he moved to Wisconsin after suffering a stroke to be closer to his grandchildren.  Clearly a skilled socialite, Leo carries the conversation. His sly smile leads you to believe he knows some marvelous secret no one else knows. He writes incredibly well despite his dyslexia and gnarled arthritic hands, but lets me do most of the writing to make me feel useful, I suspect.

At this point, we’re only brainstorming significant events, people, and accomplishments – a lifelong highlight reel that previews the rich stories to come. Leo takes small detours along the way, but I don’t mind: Begging his mom for a bicycle and getting a used one for three dollars with tires that only lasted a block and a half before going flat (school was about five blocks away); finding out his favorite hobby store was closing due to a burglary shortly before the neighbor kid offered to sell him some “discounted” model airplane engines; getting a flat tire during a cross-country road trip with three of his best friends and the devious events that followed. It doesn’t take long for me to realize what a tremendous opportunity I’ve been given—and that Leo has incredibly bad luck with tires.

My own grandfather passed away in 1996 from lung cancer. In all of the memorable moments we shared, I never took the opportunity to ask him about his life and write down his stories. To be fair, I was far too young and expectedly self-absorbed to recognize this prospect before it was too late. As I sat across from Leo and learned about his early life today, I came to realize how precious these stories are and how important it is that they not be lost forever due to the indifference of a younger generation.

I may never be able to capture all of my grandfather’s stories, but I now have a chance to capture Leo’s stories for his grandchildren who will undoubtedly cherish them one day.  Life has a funny way of giving us second chances, and they aren’t without their irony. As it happens, my grandfather was also named Leo.

Writing with Grace

Written by Yessra Sankari

As a 20 year old, young, full of passion and constantly running around, I never thought of spending two hours of my crazy, busy day with an 89-year old Grace at Evergreen Retirement Community. I never thought of just sitting down with Grace and embracing her meaningful life story. I never thought about taking the time to experience someone else’s life of struggle and happiness.

I always catch myself lost in thought, struggling with my life experiences. What Grace taught me through the program, Write your Life, Oshkosh, run by Palestinian-American author Ibtisam Barakat, was that your experiences define who you are. Your experiences shape you to be the person you are today.

One thing that I learned was that everyone has her own story to share, her own struggles riding underneath her shadow, and her own happiness sparkling in her eyes. Her phrase of “Never worry about anything that will never happen” still rings in my ear. I think I will cherish that forever.

Working Waterfest

Working Waterfest

Written by Jerry Medina

Waterfest Oshkosh | Rotaract Oshkosh

On Thursday, August 15, Rotaract Oshkosh and Downtown Rotary joined forces at Waterfest to sell food, drinks, and cheers (you could buy a cheer with your tips) to the crowd who came to watch “The Tubes” and raise funds for our respective organizations.  Usually, two groups volunteer to handle the concession duties at Waterfest, but this year the other service group had a scheduling error, and didn’t show up. Luckily, the Rotarians who were there were able to tough it out and cover both the east and west concession and beer islands.

Working Waterfest | Rotaract Oshkosh

Some of our responsibilities that night included taking tickets at the entrance, taking money in the parking lots, selling beer and selling food. (Brandon even got his hands dirty and mopped a couple floors.) Perhaps the highlight of the evening – besides the music and the lead singers costume changes between every song – were the loud cheers that everyone in the concession stands would give whenever we received a tip. It was nice to indulge in glass nickel pizza and soda, too.

We don’t have a final count as yet, but it doesn’t really matter: With as much fun as we had that night, and the goodwill we spread in the community, the event was a success!

First Annual Elections

First Annual Elections

Written by Dan Snyder, Treasurer

Below are the seven positions that will be filled at elections that will take place at our September meeting. The description of the duties of each position is listed, but it is important to know that while each has a specified role, it has been our experience that everyone collaborates and takes on different tasks each month.This is a great way to help move Rotaract Oshkosh forward and to put your own stamp on what our club can be and achieve.

President (Presently Bethany Lerch)
– Oversee club organization and operation including meeting schedules
– Lead meetings
– Determine member skills and designate projects appropriately

Vice-President (Presently Jerry Medina)
– Work closely with the club President in terms of goals, projects and activities
– Develop a long-term plan (yearly) as well as a short-term plan (monthly)
– Preside over meetings in the President’s absence

Treasurer (Presently Dan Snyder)
– Request funds from Oshkosh Rotary chapters (via Joshua Anderson at Oshkosh Downtown)
– Track money spent and money received
– Collect member dues

Secretary (Presently Becky Snyder)
– Promote Rotaract to local Rotary clubs, Rotary International, prospective members and the surrounding community
– Record meeting minutes

Historian (Presently Joseph Mann)
– Photograph Rotaract in action at meetings, service projects, workshops and fundraisers

Running Events Chair (Presently Michelle Dei)
– Find running events in the community that members can participate in
– Organize group sign-ups for events
– Report at monthly meeting upcoming runs

Interact Liaison Chair (Presently Crystal Seeley)
– Maintain contact with local high school interact groups
– Facilitate collaboration with interact groups for combined activities

If you are interested in leading Rotaract Oshkosh, contact the group at [email protected] with your name, the position you dig, and why you want it. We’d love to include you in our September exec meeting so you can get a feel for it all. Oftentimes there is good food and good brews and always good company.

July Meeting Notes

July Meeting Notes

Written by Joseph Mann, Historian

It’s July! Already eight months since our very first meeting – can you believe it?

Summer weather has arrived and Rotaract Oshkosh events are going on full force this summer! For those who were enjoying the nice weather or on vacation for the Fourth of July, here is a rundown of our July meeting:

The meeting began with the Pledge of Allegiance at 6 PM at the Algoma Club. Bethany then welcomed our special guests:

Following Bethany’s warm welcome, we all shared the best part of our day for this month’s Change for Change.  There was a wide variety of answers from “not being late to work” to “being here tonight.”

July Meeting | Rotaract Oshkosh

We briefly recapped Trivia Night at Peabody’s and agreed that if we choose to do another, we need to get more people to attend.  We also passed around a sign-up sheet for our upcoming brat fry fundraising event on July 27 at the Butcher Block in Oshkosh.  The brat fry is from 10am to 2:30pm and I encourage you all to come volunteer, or buy some burgers and brats!

July Meeting | Rotaract OshkoshKate Salter shared the Oshkosh Women’s Fund Campaign to End Isolation. You may notice telephone booth like structures around the area. This is a part of the project.  They need volunteers to stand in these booths, as well as help outside them handing out information.  Sign up via Volunteer Spot (will be put up on Facebook as an event).

July Meeting | Rotaract OshkoshNext up was Bill Thimke to tell us more about an upcoming travel opportunity to Lima, Peru in November. There, Oshkosh Southwest Rotary helps support an orphanage to “assist hundreds of children by providing funding and on-site assistance.”They also have a something known as a “Soy Cow,” which is a machine that produces a milk substitute from soybeans. Southwest sponsors five of these installations outside Lima, each of which serves thousands each day. Rotaract Oshkosh members are free to go on this trip with other Oshkosh Rotarians. For more information, contact Bethany Lerch.

Finally, after everyone grabbed some appetizers from Manila, Jeff Bollier shared with us several up-and-coming improvement plans for the City of Oshkosh. He presented on new residential developments just across the river from Beckett’s, Pioneer Island and the happenings of the former Buckstaff factory buildings—including a rare inside.

July Meeting | Rotaract Oshkosh

Check our Facebook for upcoming running events including the Titan 5K on July 20.  If you plan on going to the Titan 5K, please sign-up on and run with us as a team!

Until next time, happy Summer everyone!

Pantry Matters

Pantry Matters

Written by Bethany Lerch

In 1989, a handful of churches worked together to start the Ecumenical Food Pantry in a small room inside Trinity Episcopal in downtown Oshkosh. What began as a small customer base soon grew beyond the 12′ by 25′ room inside Parish Hall. That’s when the seven churches really built momentum with volunteers and financial support.

Then, in January 2008, it evolved into a new nonprofit organization, the Oshkosh Area Community Pantry. That year, as poverty rose, it served more than 14,000 customers. And with poverty comes food insecurity. According to Feeding America:

  • In 2011, 50.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households
  • In 2011, 14.9 percent of households were food insecure.
  • In 2011, households with children reported food insecurity at a significantly higher rate than those without children, 20.6 percent compared to 12.2percent.
  • In 2011, households that had higher rates of food insecurity than the national average included households with children (20.6 percent), especially households with children headed by single women (36.8 percent) or single men (24.9 percent), Black non-Hispanic households (25.1 percent) and Hispanic households (26.2 percent).
  • In 2011, 8.8 percent of seniors living alone were food insecure.

Food insecurity is a serious problem in Winnebago County. It means that children and adults may have to drastically reduce their food intake or resort to unhealthy foods that are more affordable. Consumption, or lack thereof, impacts academic performance for children in school and perpetuates higher crime rates in adults. Poverty, and hunger, are powerful. Mahatma Gandhi once said “Poverty is the worst kind of violence.”

In a small effort to help end this cycle, Rotaract Oshkosh has dedicated itself to a monthly volunteer commitment at the Oshkosh Area Community Pantry. We want to make a difference for people affected by food insecurity right here at home. Join us the first Monday of every month anytime between 3-7 pm to help check in customers, organize food shipments and stock shelves. The next time: Tomorrow, Monday, 1 July.

Until then, here are a few photos from our 17 June service project with the pantry:

The Chartering Party

The Chartering Party

On Tuesday, 30 April, Rotaract Oshkosh joined the Oshkosh West and Oshkosh North Interact clubs to celebrate our charters from Rotary International, all of which arrived simultaneously. Here are some pictures from our evening at the Algoma Club and Manila Resto.

Rotaract Oshkosh
Left to right: Michael Scott, President of Oshkosh Southwest Rotary; Joe Mann, Historian, Rotaract Oshkosh; John Hobbins, New Generations Chair at Oshkosh Southwest Rotary; Michelle Dei, Running Events Chair, Rotaract Oshkosh; Jerry Medina, Vice President, Rotaract Oshkosh; Bethany Lerch, President, Rotaract Oshkosh; Becky Snyder, Secretary, Rotaract Oshkosh; Dan Snyder, Treasurer, Rotaract Oshkosh; Karen Frederick, Southwest Rotary; Jeffrey Reed, Assistant Governor, District 6270

Oshkosh North Interact | Rotaract Oshkosh Oshkosh West Interact | Rotaract Oshkosh Crystal Seeley | Rotaract Oshkosh Joe Mann and Joe Walk | Rotaract Oshkosh Jerry Medina and Dan and Becky Snyder | Rotaract Oshkosh Rotaract Oshkosh Bethany Lerch | Rotaract Oshkosh Jerry Medina | Rotaract Oshkosh Oshkosh West Interact | Rotaract Oshkosh Oshkosh West Interact | Rotaract Oshkosh Oshkosh North Interact | Rotaract Oshkosh Crystal Seeley and Virginia Pliska | Rotaract Oshkosh Joe Walk | Rotaract Oshkosh Joe Mann | Rotaract Oshkosh Oshkosh North Interact | Rotaract Oshkosh Rotaract Oshkosh Joe Mann | Rotaract Oshkosh Dan and Becky Snyder | Rotaract Oshkosh Jena and Joe McNeil | Rotaract Oshkosh Virginia Pliska and Joe Mann | Rotaract Oshkosh Jerry Medina | Rotaract Oshkosh Rotaract Oshkosh Dan and Becky Snyder | Rotaract Oshkosh Joe Mann and Joe Walk | Rotaract Oshkosh Rotaract Oshkosh Rotaract Oshkosh Rotaract Oshkosh Rotaract Oshkosh Rotaract Oshkosh

Why Run

Written by Michelle Dei, Running Events Chair

Michelle Dei, Running Events Chair | Rotaract Oshkosh
Turkey Trot 2011

I’m running the Oshkosh Half Marathon tomorrow. My first half ever. Excited, anxious and hydrated are all words to describe my current state of being.

After the events that transpired this week in Boston, I feel even more proud of my accomplishment. I think I speak for all those participating tomorrow that we are running for Boston.

I haven’t always been a runner, in fact I wasn’t ever much for physical activity. The 2011 Turkey Trot was my first race.  A friend at the gym encouraged me to sign up. I trained for about six weeks for the five mile run and finished without stopping. I felt incredible.

As time went on, I continued to sign up for 5ks and started running on my own for fun. This January I decided it was time for my first half marathon. I asked a friend for a training schedule and have followed it, more or less, for the last four months. There have certainly been days I don’t feel entirely enthusiastic about running, but once I get out there it clears my head right up.

There hasn’t ever been one mile I regret running. Every Saturday I have bundled up and hit the road for my long runs. During the week I have enjoyed running with friends. At this point in my life, I couldn’t imagine not running.

My heart goes out for all those injured during Boston and once again I am reminded that I run for those who cannot.

See you at the finish,
Shell Bell

April Meeting Notes

April Meeting Notes

Written by Rotaract Oshkosh member Joseph Mann

Hope everyone is enjoying this wonderful “spring” weather in Wisconsin! Anyways, we had our fourth meeting at the beginning of April. (Another good turnout – thank you!). If you missed our April meeting, here’s what happened:

Pledge: We started our April meeting how we start every meeting, with the pledge.  We now have an American flag that has been donated to us! (Yes!) Then, after a fun game of baseball trivia, with a few curveballs, we got right down to business.

DSC00457Housekeeping: Part of being an official member of Rotaract includes an annual financial commitment of $50.00. When you are a paid member, you will receive a Rotaract t-shirt, pin, and will be able to have an online profile on our site (How cool is that?) So, for those looking to become a paid member, please contact Dan Snyder.  For those who have paid and want to have an online profile, please contact Bethany Lerch.

April Volunteer Activities:

  • Food Pantry, April 1 – Volunteer in good company in another round of stocking food and organizing donations for the pantry. Next tentative date is Monday, May 6 from 5PM-7PM at the Oshkosh Area Community Pantry.
  • Blood Drive, April 8-12 – The Community Blood Center has picked Rotaract Oshkosh as their organization of the week! During the week of April 8-12, the Community Blood Center will feature us in their media and has asked that, in return, we donate blood. If you did not have a chance to donate during our week, feel free to call and make an appointment at any time.
  • Propel-Discover Mercy, April 17 – Propel Oshkosh has extended an invitation to Rotaract members to attend the Discover Mercy seminar at Affinity Mercy Medical Center on April 17. It is free and includes a tour of the new robotic surgery suite, cancer center, and fitness for the physically challenged and P.E.A.C.E Program. After the tour, meet with hospital leaders and enjoy a social with cheese, sausage, fruit trays and wine, beer, soda, and water. RSVP is required by calling 920-223-0522.
  • Earth Day, April 20 – Join Rotaract Oshkosh and Habitat for Humanity on Earth Day to help plant garden boxes and beautify Oshkosh. Just for volunteering, you receive a free t-shirt and free lunch (Glass Nickel, Roxy…). Volunteering is from 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. (Lunch at noon). Meet at 100 North Main Street (Bethany’s apartment) at 11:45 and we will head over together.
  • Half Marathon, April 20 – The Christine Ann Center is looking for volunteers to help with the kids run the weekend of the Oshkosh Half Marathon. Volunteers are needed on Saturday, April 20 (day before the actual Half Marathon) for the following time slots:
    7:45-9:00am
    8:30-10am
    9:45am-12pm
    12-2:30pm
    2:30-5:15pm
    If you are not able to attend the Habitat for Humanity Earth Day project, or would like to volunteer in the morning as well, please join this event on Facebook or email us at our GMail account to coordinate. (So far, just Bethany will be going in the morning for the Christine Ann and is looking for friends!)

Upcoming Running Opportunities

  • Oshkosh 5K and Half Marathon, April 21 – We have a couple members running around Oshkosh on Sunday, April 21. Michelle Dei and Taylor Cook are running the half marathon while Bethany is running the 5k (and finishing the Half with Michelle!)  For those interested in half price registration, please contact Becky Snyder. Not busy that morning? Come out to support the Rotaract runners! 

Chartering Ceremony: Tuesday, April 30, Algoma Club

  • 6:00PM – Cocktails and social hour
  • 6:30PM – Presentation
  • For more information, see either our blog post or our Facebook event!

PRESENTATION: Speaker 1, Lisa Koeppen

Community Blood Center at Rotaract OshkoshLisa Koeppen, from the Community Blood Center did a wonderful presentation on the importance of donating blood. The community blood center provides for many hospitals throughout Wisconsin. Lisa taught us about the four different components of blood that can be used to save lives. We were also informed of incorrect assumptions that many people have about donating. She discussed the importance donating regularly, so that in the case of a disaster, there will be a supply of blood available BEFORE something happens. The Community Blood Center has picked Rotaract Oshkosh as their organization of the week! During the week of April 8-12, the Community Blood Center will feature Rotaract Oshkosh in their media and has asked that, in return, we donate blood.

PRESENTATION: Speaker 2, Keri Ewing

Keri Ewing at Rotaract OshkoshKeri Ewing from (1) Habitat for Humanity and (2) D.R.E.A.M House Orphanage talked to us about the D.R.E.A.M. house project in Thailand. It is a home for both orphans and impoverished children in the northwest region of Thailand along the Burmese border. They protect helpless children from human traffickers. They strive to provide these children with everything they need, and then some. It is more than just a shelter with food and security; they give each child an opportunity for an education as well as cultivating all aspects of the child’s life. Keri also talked about the volunteer opportunity on April 20, through Habitat for Humanity. Please see the details in the upcoming events!

The next meeting: May’s meeting will take place on Tuesday, May 7, at 6pm at the Algoma Club, 103 Algoma Blvd, in downtown Oshkosh. However, don’t forget to join us on Tuesday, April 30, at 6pm for our Chartering Ceremony! As always, there will be some delicious food for everyone from Manila!

April Meeting | Rotaract Oshkosh

We’ve Been Chartered!

To the Friends and Family of Rotaract Oshkosh,

Great news. Like, really, great news.

Two months ago, we sent in chartering paperwork to Rotary International in Evanston, Illinois. And, not long ago, we learned that Rotary International recognized us as an official Rotaract chapter. We now join more than 900 other Rotaract clubs around the world.

What that means for us is, well, we need to plan a bash—and fast!

We’ve decided to hold our chartering ceremony on Tuesday, 30 April, at 6 pm at the Algoma Club with Manila Resto providing an array of food and drinks for us to enjoy. The very special thing about this particular shindig is that we won’t be alone: It will be a joint celebration with Oshkosh Interact clubs to celebrate their recent recognition by Evanston, too. Rotarians from both the Downtown and Southwest clubs, as well as members of the Oshkosh e-club will also be with us, in addition, to members of Rotaract clubs from Fond du Lac, the Fox Cities and Milwaukee.

This is an incredible opportunity to learn more about Rotary and meet people of all ages who have come together through Rotary, and through “Service above self.” That is, after all, what we’re all about.

So, with this note, we’d like to invite you to join us. Drop by the meeting tonight at 6 pm at the Algoma Club to learn more from Jerry, Dan and Becky, Joe and Michelle. (I will be there in spirit, sending lots of good thoughts from Washington, DC.) If you’re able to attend – and we hope you are – please sign up this evening or drop us a line at [email protected]

This is a very exciting time for us and we’re thrilled to be growing so quickly. As we continue to grow, so, too, will our ability to contribute to the Oshkosh community. We hope you’ll grow with us!

Very sincerely yours,
Bethany