Vicksburg Rotary celebrates community excellence

Typically, the Vicksburg Rotary Club makes three annual awards: the Paul Harris Fellowship, the Rotary Hero Award, and the Mercer Munn Award. In 2022, the club also nominated a local organization for one of four Golden Trowel awards presented by Rotary District 6360 which serves 56 Rotary clubs active in lower Michigan.

The 2022 Paul Harris Fellow
Jim Bird was honored with the 2022 Paul Harris Award. The award is named after the founder of Rotary in 1905. His death in 1957 prompted an outpouring of contributions from around the world that led to the Paul Harris Fellow program, one that recognizes individuals around the world who make significant donations in dollars and dedication to the Rotary Foundation at Rotary International. Bird joined the local club in 2011, shortly after retiring as a vocational education teacher. He was soon on-stage and backstage for the Rotary Showboat. Always a strong supporter for issues Rotary International leads, Jim thrives on local projects such as the club’s recent scrap metal recycling where he can get his hands dirty! “Rotary involvement has been key to helping our family feel at home in Vicksburg,” he comments. “He serves as a role model to us all,” according to many of his fellow members.

2022 Rotary Hero Award
JR Fulton was selected to represent the Vicksburg Rotary Club at this year’s District Rotary Hero Recognition. His two-word Hero Name from the local club is Model Rotarian. This designation reflects his long tenure and dedicated participation in the club’s Membership Committee. In that role he spurred the club in recruitment and opened his home for Fireside Chats to welcome new members. JR is also a Paul Harris Fellow and has long been recognized for his own outstanding attendance at club meetings and for his participation in the club’s many service projects. JR Fulton joined the Vicksburg Rotary Club in 1963. According to JR, he has really enjoyed being a part of a club that is dedicated to helping meet the needs of his local community and beyond.

2022 Mercer Munn Award
Each year the Vicksburg Rotary Club also identifies a non-Rotarian to become a Vicksburg Rotary Mercer Munn Fellow. The honor is awarded to persons who have made a major commitment to improving life in the South County area and who reflect the spirit of Mercer Munn, a well-known Rotarian and community member who thought of Vicksburg as “the center of the universe.”

Steve Schimp, owner of Vicksburg Do-It-Best Hardware in Vicksburg, is this year’s honoree. In an era of small business challenges, Steve’s family business has survived and thrived for 35 years. Steve was cited specifically for his “When it is done, it will be great” attitude and his “If we don’t have it, we can order it for you” approach. During blizzards, hard times and even a pandemic, his store and staff have been available to serve the needs of their customers.

“I feel honored to be recognized in the name of Mercer Munn, a wonderful man,” Steve says quietly. “We consider it God’s blessing and our privilege to serve our friends and neighbors in this wonderful community,” Steve and his family received the Mercer Munn award clock, donated by Warren Lawrence each year. In addition, the club has made a $500 donation to the club’s Kalamazoo Community Foundation endowment fund, where the gift keeps on giving, forever in their names.

2022 Golden Trowel Award
The Vicksburg Rotary Club is also delighted to announce that our very own South County News was recently recognized as a 2022 Golden Trowel award winner at the Rotary District level. In the club’s nomination, the Rotary board requested that South County News and its non-profit board of directors be honored for taking on the challenge of providing Kalamazoo’s South County area with a community-owned newspaper beginning in 2013.

Between 1897 and 2000 the Vicksburg area had been fortunate to have local news coverage under several banners. That is when the Commercial-Express was sold to the Kalamazoo Gazette. In 2011, the Kalamazoo Gazette ended publication. This created a profound gap in the community for several years, until Sue Moore, a Rotarian and a former publisher of the newspaper mobilized a group to address the loss. The team organized as a non-profit and gathered enough support and advertising for their first issue in June of 2013. Focusing on local news from across six townships, several villages and small towns in the area, the South County News includes news of village and township governments, school board meetings, school sports, community happenings, obituaries and human-interest stories to the benefit of over 11,000 readers. The South County News has offered the Vicksburg Rotary Club affordable opportunities to connect and communicate with the residents it serves. “We are a small club trying to do big things in our area,” summarizes Board President, Syd Bastos. “Vicksburg Rotarians depend on the South County News and appreciate how it keeps our community connected.”

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