The Rotary Clubs in Lincoln have been providing dictionaries to every 4th grade student since 2006. Because of the pandemic we were not able to deliver in 2020. We have been to do the project in 2021, though it will look different.
In photo from left to right Gina Cotton (Rotary 14), Sue Schuerman (President Lincoln East Rotary), Dave Dietz (President Lincoln South Rotary), Srini Ampavati (Lincoln South Rotary), Sara Reyes (President Lincoln Giving Spirits Evening Rotary) and Clay Ehlers (Lincoln South Rotary and Assistant District Governor).
Rotary Finally Delivers Dictionaries to Schools
For immediate release.  May 3, 2021
By Randy Bretz
The dreaded COVID 19 created delays, business changes meant decisions had to be made, yet the determination of Lincoln’s Rotary Clubs finally delivered thousands of dictionaries to each and every fourth-grade student in the city.
Each fall for nearly twenty years, members of Lincoln’s Rotary clubs have walked into every fourth-grade classroom in the city and personally handed out the dictionaries. Not only did the children appreciate receiving their very own book, it was a real joy for club members to go into each and every elementary school and interact with the students. However, in the Fall of 2020 the schools were dealing with the COVID pandemic and outside visitors weren’t allowed into the classrooms.
“We realized that we couldn’t have Rotary members in our schools,” noted Mindy Burbach of Lincoln Public Schools, “Yet we knew that the dictionaries were good for the children to have as a learning tool and reference book.” Early last Fall Rotary was notified that the project had to be delayed. “In March this year, we reevaluated the project and worked with representatives of the clubs to come up with an alternative,” she added. “We decided to have the books delivered to each school by LPS personnel, and for the teachers to play a video describing the dictionaries and letting the children know they were from Rotary.”
Then, there were business decisions that impacted the project. “Every year we’ve done this project, the preparation and boxing of all the dictionaries was done at Green’s Plumbing and Heating on North 48th,” noted Gina Cotton a member of the Downtown Rotary and Chair of this year’s effort. However the company had been sold and the building put up for sale. “When I contacted the new owner, Jeremy Robke, he was so impressed with what we were doing he offered to let us use his new warehouse,” Cotton noted. “That says a great deal about people in Lincoln.”
And yet another business decision impacted the project. Each year, there’s a chairperson for the project and a co-chairperson. They work together to coordinate this effort to mobilize dozens of Rotary members, box up thousands of dictionaries and communicate with the schools. Well, the guy who was supposed to be there to help Gina this year took a job in another city. “Everything was up in the air, Jeff (Hebb) was gone, Green’s had been sold, I felt overwhelmed,” lamented Cotton. But as the project began to unwind, she kept moving ahead.
Talk about determination.
Oh, and there’s one more business decision that caused an issue. For years, Downtown Rotary Club member Shannon Harner had her real estate office print some special labels to place in each dictionary. She took a new job, but the folks at Home Realty said they’d do the project anyway. Phew, one more distraction taken care of.
Gina and representatives from Lincoln South Rotary, Lincoln East Rotary and Giving Spirits Rotary finally had their green light from Lincoln Public Schools so she jumped on the phone to Mary French who runs The Dictionary Project, the people who print and ship a million dictionaries for Rotary to distribute. “I was thrilled to get the call from Gina,” French noted. “And we were able to arrange shipping right away from our operation in South Carolina.” French started The Dictionary Project nonprofit organization in 1995 and each year she produces and distributes them to Rotary, other service clubs and organizations around the United States.
There’s just one more interesting part to this story. On April 30, the boxed dictionaries were delivered to the Lincoln Public Schools Distribution Center where they needed to sit for about 70 hours in quarantine. Then, the boxes containing more than 4,000 dictionaries were distributed to all of Lincoln’s elementary schools. And, in those schools students are watching a video produced by Downtown Rotary’s President Eric Drumheller. (   He shares about the value of having a printed dictionary, how Rotary serves our community and beyond, and what he word service means. Rotary’s motto is “Service above Self.” Maybe they should also look up the word determination, because that’s what drove Gina Cotton and a small contingent of volunteers from Lincoln’s clubs to complete the project.
Randy Bretz
Gina Cotton
402 304 2140
Link to Drumheller video: