President Dan opened the Zoom platform early so members and guests would have an opportunity to enjoy some informal conversation before the meeting officially started.  Joan Reimann reported that her brother had been diagnosed with COVID following surgery and had to be readmitted to the hospital.  He is back home and feeling better.  This revelation prompted lots of talk about COVID immunizations.
Someone noted the hat rack visible behind Allan Cady.  This started some impromptu fun which lasted throughout the meeting.  Allan began modeling his hats.  Others in attendance also got into the fun including Jack Rosenberg, John Benedict, Steve Ross, Joan Reimann, John Pennypacker, and Bob Jensen.
Allan shared a story about a black hat.  He wore it when they were having a contest at work.  The theme of the contest was a boxing scenario.  Allan was a boxing manager from back in the 40's.  He arrived for the meeting wearing a white shirt, suspenders, the black hat, and had a lit cigar in his mouth while he handled the contest.
At noon, President Dan Coons welcomed everyone, introduced himself, and recited the Rotary International 2020-21 Theme - Rotary Creates Opportunities.  He also recited the Rotary Vision Statement:
Together we see a world where people unite and 
take action to create lasting change - 
across the globe, in our communities and in ourselves
President Dan invited Chris Krueger to offer the invocation.
Rotary Minute - Chuck Flint
Chuck used an article in the February issue of the Rotary magazine to be prepared with facts about how We Did It - Rotary's Success in eradicating wild polio from Africa.  1996 was a year when wild polio paralyzed an estimated 75,000 children across Africa.  Since then health care workers have given over 9 billion doses of the oral polio vaccine preventing 1.8 million wild polio cases.
The 47 countries that make up the World Health Organization's african region are home to nearly 1,400 Rotary clubs and 32,000 members, many of whom have dedicated time and resources to the effort.  Rotary members around the world have contributed nearly $890 million toward eradicating polio in the region, advocated for support from their governments, mobilized communities around National Immunzation Days, and held events for World Polio Day to raise public awareness.  The first synchronized vaccination effort in the region was in 1990.
Each contribution to Polio Plus gets us closer to our goal of eradicating Polio altogether.  Donors receive Paul Harris credit for their donation and each dollar is matched two for one by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Chuck strongly encouraged members to donate to Polio Plus so our name can remain another year on the traveling trophy Mesa West was the first club in the district to receive last year.
Happy Bucks - Colleen Coons followed by Greg Okonowski
  • Allan Cady pledged $10.  His youngest son works at a large Toyota store for his oldest brother.  He runs a sales team of eight people, five of whom are bilingual in Spanish and English and all are under the age of thirty.  They set a new record in sales off of service leads.  Allan also pledged $5 for each hat he had on during and prior to the meeting.
  • Dan Coons fired Colleen Coons as Sgt at Arms when Greg Okonowski arrived late for the meeting.
  • Colleen Coons pledged $29 - one for each year she has worked for UPS.  She will be retiring from the company effective February 28.  
  • Polly Cady pledged $10 - saying she had a wonderful time working at the St. Vincent de Paul garden on Saturday, January 30.  She also thanked Shelly Romine for the wonderful job she has done putting monthly service projects together so members can have the opportunity to safely do hands on service.  Polly also asked if Dan was going to be in the market for a boat now that Colleen is retiring.  
  • Shelly Romine expressed her appreciation for the volunteers who worked at the garden on Saturday, and paid $10 to put in a plug for the February 24 service project, suggesting members use the link she sent to them or the link in the newsletter to sign up to work on February 24.
  • Pam Cohen pledged $5.  She recently enjoyed having dinner twice with a childhood friend and his wife.  He was her brother's best friend in middle school and spent a lot of time in their home.
  • Chuck Flint was happy to have attended the Interact meeting.
  • John Pennypacker mentioned that he and Jeanie have information they can share about tax credit donations which can benefit TRVFA and other charities and enhance the donors' ability to direct their state tax obligation to multiple worthy causes.  John paid $5 sad dollars.  A friend was in a serious automobile accident.  The friend's daughter is still in the hospital and his son passed.  John was happy to report that Mesa West is in the upper echelon of clubs with members who have registered for "My Rotary."  Being registered with RI makes managing donations to The Rotary Foundation and specifically Polio Plus much easier.
  • Lee Holmes announced that the Mesa club celebrated their 100th anniversary on February 3.  Lee will be giving $100 to Polio Plus in their honor.
  • When asked about his unusual hat, Bob Jensen responded that it was one he picked up while visiting Germany.  He indicated that his wife likes to keep the house cooler than he is comfortable and the hat enables him to be comfortable.
  • Wendell Jones pledged $100.  He stressed they were not sad dollars.  His father, who recently passed, lived 99 years and 8 months.  The $100 was because Wendell knows his dad is in a much better place and is no longer suffering.
  • Lola McClane announced that her sister, who was present when Lola was inducted into Mesa West, had her 89th birthday on January 30.  Lola pledged $89 to celebrate that occasion.
  • Allan Cady announced that we are at $23,500 with what we have redeived to date in the Sponsor Campaign, plus he is aware of a couple of new pledges.  He was encouraged that we are not far from the initial goal of $30,000.  He is feeling optimistic enough to feeel that we may get to $35,000 or more.  He is feeing very encouraged.
  • Shelly Romine again reminded members of the February 24 evening service project at United Food Bank.  CLICK HERE  to register to participate.
  • President Dan announced that a recent email from Rotary International has stressed that Rotary needs to act responsibility to protect members and those we serve by holding meetings virtually until the end of the Rotary year.  Reimbursement for Rotary-related travel has been suspended through the end of the year.
Program - Wendy Hamilton - Autism
Chris Krueger introduced Wendy Hamilton from Omaha Nebraska, stating that Wendy knows another friend of Mesa West - Buey Tut with Aqua Africa.  
Wendy is the Chief Development Officer at Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in theatre from Coe College (Cedar Rapids, IA) and her Master of Fine Arts in theatre management from Wayne State University (Detroit, MI). After living on the East Coast for several years, Wendy “boomeranged” back to Omaha in 2007 when her mother, aka “Moppy,” was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Her family’s story has been featured in Autism Asperger’s Digest and in the book, Different, Not Less by Dr. Temple Grandin. She has presented at many state and national conferences as well as spoken at TEDxOmaha (The Story of Fred and Leroy: My Mom has Autism, 2014). She currently serves on the Board of Temple Israel and the Nebraska Ehlers-Danlos Awareness and Support Group. Wendy is the past Chair of the Omaha Mayor’s Commission for Citizens with Disabilities, and previously served on the National Affiliate Leaders Committee for the Autism Society of America and Autism Society of Nebraska. Wendy has been named a Ten Outstanding Young Omahan, is a graduate of Leadership Omaha, and the New Leaders Council-Omaha. She is the mom of twin sister greyhounds who are practically perfect except when they’re not.
Wendy began by stating that she is getting used to using Zoom to do public speaking and serving as an advocate for those who have autism, but is challenged by the fact that when she shares her screen, she loses the ability to "read" her audience if she chooses to appear to be talking directly to the audience because she is looking toward the camera.  Because theater is a large part of her background, reading her audience is important for her.
Wendy and her sister have known from a unique perspective the impact of autism.  They are daughters of a mother who has autism.  Their mother's name is Rhoda.  Rhoda loves a pun and she loves to give people nicknames.  Rhoda called Wendy's older sister "Leroy" and called Wendy "Fred."  To her daughters, Rhoda was "Moppy."  When Moppy learned that Wendy would be presenting information about Autism to a Rotary Club in Arizona, she said - Oh, so you'll be speaking to Rhodary today.  Wendy proceeded to tell the story of Fred and Leroy.
Wendy's goal is to help change the way people think about autism.  She asked everyone to close their eyes and imagine the word "mother," focusing on the images that come to mind, the emotions that come to mind, and the sensory memories.  She then asked everyone to try to imagine a person with autism in a parental role.  People with autism are typically socially awkward and may even misbehave in public.  She asked everyone to then imagine a woman with characteristics like the main character in the movie Rain Man as a mother.
Wendy's hope is to go beyond raising awareness.  Her hope is that people will think about autism differently and talk about it differently.  She was happy to have the opportunity to speak to a Rotary Club as we have a common desire to make the world better.
The early years of Fred and Leroy's lives were what was familiar to them.  It wasn't until they stepped outside what was familiar that they grew to realize how different their lives were.  They knew their mom was different.  As they grew into themselves, they had an inherent desire to understand their mother.
In their household, routine was everything.  Waving from a window at the school bus was one of the very few signs of affection Moppy was able to show.  She didn't do normal "mom" things like cook, clean house, help with homework or show physical affection.  As time passed, Moppy required more and more hours of "me" time.  Fred felt like her mother was not interested in her - like she wasn't even visible.
Rhoda developed pretty normally until about age six.  At about age seven she was aware of people talking about her.  She was teased and tormented and forced to transfer schools repeatedly.  One incident of bullying was very painful.  Other students took her clothes and left her in a bathroom naked and Rhoda was blamed for starting the "fight."
Wendy's grandmother was very aware of the stigma that was associated with a child that was different, but Rhoda was under the radar and was never diagnosed until well into adulthood.
Fred as a young child wondered if she was selfish and ungrateful and just didn't know how to treat her mom the right way.  She rememberd one day after school, her mom was lying on a giant waterbed.  Fred cuddled up nest to her and for once, Moppy didn't push her away.  Fred felt Moppy's heartbeat on her cheek.  As a child she remembered thinking "Maybe a beating heart was all we will ever have in common."  They started moving away from each other.  Leroy didn't need her mom the way Fred did.  Fred loved to go to other homes and enjoyed watching moms doing normal mom things.  It was not a normal kind of life.  Feeling love from their mom was a constant work in progress.
Rhoda had married in 1971 - and the marriage finally reached a breaking point after twenty plus years.  Fred and Leroy had always been daddy's girls.  Their father took full custody of Fred and she was estranged from her mom all through high school.  After college, Wendy was eventually able to forgive her mom and herself.
Over the years, there were various idagnosis(es):
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Tic Disorder
  • Non-Verbal Learning Disorder (NVLD)
  • Asperger's Syndrome
  • Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder (AD/HD)
  • Severe Anxiety
  • Paranoia
These were all words.  They didn't change anything.  Moppy was still her very feisty, curious self.
Autism Spectrum Disorder provided a better understanding and perspective of what could and could not be managed.  Dr. Temple Grandin is a scientist and an advocate for better understanding of autism and the world's need for all kinds of brains.  She has been a kindred soul in recent years of the Fred and Leroy story.  
Wendy said autism doesn't go away with adulthood.  We need to change the conversation.  Her mother worked as a cashier at a giant box retail store from age 14 to 66.5.  She does have a pension.  She does not qualify for disability.  Wendy said her mom is verbally gifted.  She has survived 70 years as an adult with autism without services.  
If you missed the program, and would like to hear Wendy tell the story of Fred and Leroy, CLICK HERE for her Ted Talk Video.  If you did hear Wendy's presentation, you may want to share the link with a friend or loved one.
As the meeting was wrapping up, Allan Cady reported that he had worn eight separate hats during the meeting, and at $5 each plus his ten happy dollars, he understood his total pledge to be $50.