News

Chris Weber is Rotary’s literacy champion

April 25, 2017

Northfield Rotary is well known for its support of Polio Plus, an international campaign to eradicate polio. Closer to home, people associate it with youth exchange and bike trails.

But thanks to volunteers like Chris Weber, literacy is another area where Rotary is making a difference.

Chris has been chairing Rotary’s Literacy Committee for five years. During his tenure, Rotary has partnered with the local Early Childhood Initiative Coalition (ECIC) and other community organizations to make gently used books more accessible to families across the community. It has also contributed monetarily to the recent Northfield Public Library expansion and the new bookmobile, coming soon to neighborhoods near you. In 2016, Northfield Rotary received a district literacy award for its work here at home as well as its support of international literacy work, such as Books for Africa.

Chris comes by his literacy passion both from personal experience and from his Rotary connections. He and his wife, Deanne, read to their kids from infancy on, and saw the difference it made in their children’s social and academic development. Then, at a Rotary International convention he was seated next to the point person for Rotary’s literacy efforts. After listening to him for an hour, Chris was all in.

Rotary joined with ECIC, Healthy Community Initiative and Early Childhood Family Education to create a system for collecting gently used books and then distributing them at key community locations. It has also contributed to Northfield Promise’s reading team. Chris invites anyone with used children’s books to drop them off inside the north door to Northfield Community Resource Center.

Michelle Lasswell, president of Northfield Rotary Club, said literacy is one of Rotary International’s six areas of focus.

“Basic education and literacy are essential for reducing poverty, improving health, encouraging community and economic development, and promoting peace,” she said. “This is the main reason why Rotary International is dedicated to promoting literacy.”

Chris’s leadership has been a difference-maker, she said.

“Chris took the initiative to act on his passion, and since it began he has helped make this a sustainable program that puts books into the hands of children who might not otherwise have access to these books,” she said. “He has expanded it to include Spanish speaking books. His leadership and commitment have truly helped this program grow and has made a difference for children here in Northfield.”

Chris points out that Rotary’s literacy efforts are possible because of the active support from his committee and other Rotary volunteers.

“We couldn’t do any of this without the help of other Rotarians, especially those on our committee,” he said.

Chris and the Rotary Literacy Committee would like to make adult literacy the next area of focus. Rice County’s adult literacy rate is lower than the state average, he said. Closing that gap would enable more adults to fully participate in community life and to better navigate the business of daily living.

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Caption: Chris Weber, chair of Northfield Rotary’s Literacy Committee.

Rotary raises funds for international projects

March 27, 2017

Northfield Rotary helped build a school in Thailand by funding a brick-making machine

Northfield Rotary Club raised more than $10,500 for international service projects at its recent Rotary Foundation Centennial dinner.

“This is a remarkable amount, above and beyond our club members’ normal contributions,” said Michelle Lasswell, president of Northfield Rotary. “This is another example of our members’ strong commitment to building goodwill around the globe.”

The dinner was held February 16. Sarah Swan McDonald, a Social Studies teacher at Northfield High School, Northfield’s Teacher of the Year and a former youth exchange student, talked to the 80 people present about philanthropy. Members of the club’s International Service Projects committee reviewed past projects underwritten in part by the club.

Rotary Foundation is the $1 billion charitable arm of Rotary International. Its mission is to advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through the improvement of health, the support of education, and the alleviation of poverty. The foundation taps into a global network of Rotarians who invest their time, money and expertise to address the challenges of poverty, illiteracy and malnutrition with sustainable solutions that have a lasting impact.

Northfield Rotary is currently developing a major clean water project for some 50 villages that surround Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. Past projects funded, in part, by Northfield Rotary include Books for Africa,  a generator project  for Yendube Children’s Hospital in Togo, solar panels for a rural medical clinic in Korbongou, Togo, school supplies and books in partnership with the Cilongu Foundation for a school in Democratic Republic of Congo, and bunk beds for a residential school in Tanzania.

Northfield Rotary Club was formed in 1925 and is one of 64 clubs in southeastern and east central Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin. With 130 active members, it supports youth exchange, polio eradication, literacy, bike trails and a variety of international projects designed to improve health and education around the globe.

Rotary Announces ‘Good Neighbor’ Award

March 16, 2017

Carol and Gerry Gengenbach were honored last week with the Northfield Rotary Club’s Good Neighbor Award. The award goes each year to someone outside the club whose community work reflects Rotary’s commitment to “service above self.”

Carol, a retired teacher, has served for four years on the board of Northfield Community Action Center, one year as vice president. She has been a member of the program committee and was a leader in CAC’s Bridges Out of Poverty workshop. Carol currently chairs the organization’s Housing Task Force, serves as a mentor for Northfield Works and volunteers at Thursday’s Table and the Northfield Food Shelf. Carol tutors children in math and reading as part of Accelerate Northfield. She also serves on the board of Northfield Retirement Community Foundation. Previously, she served on the NRC Board of Directors.

Gerry, a retired Lutheran minister, has served for six years as president of Northfield Senior Center and sits on every board committee. His spirit of hospitality is credited with helping develop the fun and warm welcome that permeates the center. He also repairs furniture for the organization’s Used-A-Bit shop. Gerry delivers Meals-On-Wheels and financially supports the work of the Northfield Historical Society, Northfield Retirement Center and others.

Erica Zweifel, chair of Rotary’s Good Neighbor selection committee, said the Gengenbachs are outstanding examples of Northfielders who invest in their community.

“With their numerous volunteer activities, Carol and Gerry are living out the Rotary motto of ‘service above self,’” she said. “They are building community left and right and making a real difference in the lives of their neighbors.”

Previous winners of this award include Alice Thomas, Judy Code, Margit Johnson, Zach Pruitt and Judy Dirks. To learn more about Rotary, join us on Thursdays from 12:15 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. at Northfield United Methodist Church or visit our web site at: northfieldrotary.org.

Thanksgiving Turkey Trot is Community’s Unofficial Homecoming

November 14, 2016

The Northfield Rotary Turkey Trot has become Northfield’s unofficial homecoming event for the 1000-plus runners and walkers who participate each year.

Now in its 16th year, the 5K run/walk is a Thanksgiving tradition for many Northfield households, a “must-do” for those who want to connect with old friends and neighbors and be reminded that Northfield is always home.

Rob Bierman, chair of Rotary’s Turkey Trot Committee, said this event has become one of the community’s signature events.

“The Turkey Trot gives Northfielders an opportunity to touch base with one another and reflect on their shared experience here in Northfield,” said Bierman. “You’ll see lots of hugs and hear a lot of catching up before and during the run/walk. There is always a lot of positive energy here.”

He said it also gives people an opportunity to show their gratitude by running or walking for a good cause.  Funds raised at the Turkey Trot will support Rotary’s ongoing work with its youth exchange program and polio eradication. Northfield is known as a “rock star” in Rotary youth exchange circles. Northfield regularly sends 10 to 15 students abroad each year and this year is hosting six foreign students.

On the polio front, Rotary International and its partners have made remarkable progress toward a polio-free world. Over the last 30 years, polio cases around the globe have been reduced by 99 percent. Only three countries remain polio endemic — Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria — so the campaign continues.

The Turkey Trot will begin at the Carleton College Weitz Center (north entrance) at 9 a.m. Same-day registration opens at 8 a.m. Online registration for the Turkey Trot is available now at northfieldrotary.org. The cost to participate is $15 prior to Friday, Nov. 11, $20 after that date. All entries made online before November 11 are guaranteed a commemorative long sleeve t-shirt. Runners and walkers are encouraged to bring their dogs to the event.

This event also dedicated to collecting food for the Northfield Food Shelf. Runners and walkers are invited to bring a food donation to the Turkey Trot Thanksgiving morning.

If you have questions, please call Rob Bierman at 612-226-9237.

Rotary takes ‘turkey trot’ online

October 19, 2016

This year, Northfield Rotary is taking the annual Thanksgiving Turkey Trot online.

For those who support Rotary programs, but will be somewhere else on Thanksgiving morning, there is now the “Free-Range Turkey Trot.” Long distance runners are invited to sign up at northfieldrotary.org/event/turkeytrot and share a photo or video of their virtual run. The cost is $20 per participant. The fee includes a T-shirt mailed in advance so those out of town can wear them for the photos or videos they post. The most creative will be awarded a prize. The deadline for those who will be running elsewhere is Friday, Nov. 11.

“We saw an opportunity to include more people in this event,” said Rob Bierman, chair of the Rotary Turkey Trot Committee. “This gives those who cannot physically be in town an opportunity to support Rotary’s important work.”

Funds raised at the Turkey Trot will support Rotary’s ongoing work with its youth exchange program and polio eradication. Northfield is known as a “rock star” in Rotary youth exchange circles. Northfield regularly sends 10 to 15 students abroad each year and this year is hosting six foreign students.

On the polio front, Rotary International and its partners have made remarkable progress toward a polio-free world. Over the last 30 years, polio cases around the globe have been reduced by 99 percent. Only three countries remain polio endemic — Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria — so the campaign continues.

The actual Turkey Trot will begin at the Carleton College Weitz Center (north entrance) at 9 a.m. Same-day registration opens at 8 a.m. Online registration for the Turkey Trot is available now at northfieldrotary.org. The cost to participate is $15 prior to Friday, Nov. 11, $20 after that date. All entries made online before November 11 are guaranteed a commemorative long sleeve t-shirt. Runners and walkers are encouraged to bring their dogs to the event.

This event is also dedicated to collecting food for the Northfield Food Shelf. Runners and walkers are invited to bring a food donation to the Turkey Trot Thanksgiving morning.

For more information, go to northfieldrotary.org/event/turkeytrot or call Rob Bierman at 612-226-9237.