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More than 350 people took part in Rise.Shine.give Feb. 9 at Nebraska Innovation Campus, helping raise funds for the Rotary 14 Foundation.

This annual event, coordinated by members of Lincoln’s Downtown Rotary Club, also known as Rotary 14, is the primary fundraiser for the foundation, which has been serving the club and our community for more than 20 years.

Club members Amy Dickerson, managing director of the Lancaster Event Center; Jim Smith, vice president with Union Bank & Trust; and Mark Stephens, president of Bob Stephens & Associates; served as committee tri-chairs, providing guidance and encouragement for the others who volunteered.

“Rotary 14 used to have one of Lincoln’s largest charity auctions,” noted Stephens. “But a few years ago, it got so big that it was hard to find someone who would volunteer to chair the committee. As a result, we simplified our event, and we’ve been pleased with the Saturday brunch event we call Rise.Shine.give.”

The 2019 event was Rotary 14's third Saturday brunch fundraiser.

“I’m so pleased that we met our goal of $60,000,” said Dickerson. “Half of that money is designated for special projects that members of the club identify, and half goes into the foundation to help support local and international projects.”

The event raises funds for the foundation in six ways. The first is by selling tickets to special events. Each year, club members are asked to organize “Epic Experiences.” This year’s experiences were coordinated by Lorie Cook-Benjamin of Doane University and Gail Illich of Southeast Community College. The experiences range from a dinner party to a tour of the honeybee farm on the Cornhusker Hotel's roof.

A silent auction is the second way funds are raised. Erin Dobesh of Davis Design organized this year’s auction, which featured more than 70 items that members and guests could bid on. Club members and others donated art, an executive office chair and an opportunity for lunch and a Devaney Center tour with UNL Volleyball Coach John Cook.

Jim Mastera, retired from Cornhusker Bank, led the way on the third leg of fundraising for the event by getting some 40 companies and individuals to sponsor tables and make donations. Many tables were sponsored by club members’ companies, and others were sponsored by individuals who believe in the Rotary mission.

The fourth way of raising funds for the foundation is simply through ticket sales. Committee members Jennifer Brinkman, Lancaster County commissioner; Jess Rustad, Ellynne Bridal co-owner; Randal Hawthorne, The Foundry executive director; Mike Renken, NeighborWorks CEO; and Randy Bretz, Leadership Lincoln communications coordinator; led the way for this effort. In addition to the sponsored tables, nearly 100 tickets were sold with a portion of the proceeds contributed to the foundation.

Fifth, during the event, emcee Mark Feit of Community Health Charities challenged individuals to donate to the Foundation to support the South of Downtown Art Hub, Everett Elementary School, scholarships for college students and a host of projects in and around Lincoln as well as in a few other countries. Nearly $9,000 was donated using the event’s online system.

One last way the club raises funds for its foundation is through raffle ticket sales for a spectacular trip for one lucky winner. Mike Wortman, retired principal from Lincoln High School, led this effort by encouraging club members to sell nearly 800 tickets. The brunch event concludes with the drawing of the winning ticket.

“Mike really stirs up the excitement for our raffle,” commented Smith. “At every club meeting for a couple of months before our event, he greets members at the door and encourages them to sell raffle tickets.”

The Rotary 14 Foundation has awarded nearly $1.5 million in grants and scholarships since it was established in 1997. The funds have helped schools in Lincoln; nearly 30 students with college scholarships; structures and improvements in Lincoln’s parks, including the gazebo in Sunken Gardens; international projects in the Dominican Republic, Namibia, Kenya and India; and support for local nonprofit organizations including Bright Lights, Cedars, Junior Achievement and The Gathering Place.

Rotary 14 was founded in 1910 as the 14th club in the world. Today, more than 30,000 clubs are in 140 countries around the world. The club meets every Tuesday at the Nebraska Club in downtown Lincoln. Club members volunteer in a variety of service projects, giving life to the Rotary motto, “Service above self.”

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L Magazine editor

Mark Schwaninger is L magazine and Neighborhood Extra editor.

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