The Independence Rotary Club held its annual end-of-the year banquet on Thursday, June 17 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Independence to celebrate the accomplishments of the 2009-2010 year and welcome new leadership for the coming year.

The Independence Rotary Club held its annual end-of-the year banquet on Thursday, June 17 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Independence to celebrate the accomplishments of the 2009-2010 year and welcome new leadership for the coming year.  Planned and executed by 2010-2011 President Allen Garner, the event embodied the best of Rotary, combining camaraderie, fun and a sense of purpose.

More than 90 guests attended the evening gathering in support of their home Rotary club.  Outgoing 2009-2010 President Hap Graff proudly recounted the outstanding achievements of the past year.  A true “people-person” himself, Graff credited the 104 members of the Independence Rotary for their efforts and enthusiasm in reaching and exceeding the goals and expectations before the membership.  Acknowledging that good people achieve great things, Graff recalled highlights of the year beginning with the International Rotary Convention in Birmingham, England, in June of last year.  

From the inspiration gained from the experience, the Independence Rotary embarked on an active and productive year of service and philanthropy.  In July the club participated in Project Shine, working alongside other dedicated individuals to spruce up Independence schools for the coming academic year.  The membership lent considerable sweat-equity to projects throughout the year including participating in the Rotary World Service Day by distributing snacks to 150 foster children through the Midwest Foster Care and Adoption Association, removing medical equipment from the old Independence Regional Hospital to be donated to facilities in need in the Philippines, moving furniture and fixtures at Swinny House at Drumm Farm, and participating in Greater Kansas City Day, enduring a driving rain storm to sell newspapers on the Royals Opening Day to raise money for Hope House and Rotary Youth Camp.

In addition to the donation of time and talent, local Rotarians also contributed $49,000 to regional and international causes.  $42,000 stayed in Independence to benefit hometown charities, projects and programs.

Distinguishing themselves among the outstanding Rotarians in Independence’s club, Laura Vernon was honored with the Paul Harris Fellow Award, the organization’s highest award, for her 15 years of leadership with the Independence Youth Friends program from which she recently retired.  Judy Stiles was the recipient of the inaugural Fred Hahn Rotarian of the Year award.  Stiles was responsible for writing the weekly newsletter, chaired three events, acted as club photographer and was a frequent participant in Rotary’s many projects and events.  

Lyn Crowley was recognized for his 50 years of service to Rotary and his 49-years of perfect attendance.  Crowley’s five-decades of avoiding the Rotary Presidency came to an end as he was elected for a two-week term while President Garner attends the International Convention in Montreal, Canada.

Acting as Master of Ceremonies Brad Constance had the honor of introducing the evening’s entertainment.  Promoted as a “Dancing with the Stars” format, the program proved to be open to interpretation as Rotarians and their spouses put a unique spin on the friendly competition.  Greg and Mindi Finke took the purist approach executing a choreographed ballroom routine with lifts and all.  Brad and Mary Kay Speaks chose to share the spotlight by recruiting audience members to join in an inspired Macarena.  Billie and Trish Preston won over the crowd with a rendition of the Twist.  Votes cast crowned Preston victorious and raised more than $500.