Outgoing Rotary president reflects on term, hopes club grows in future

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

It started with a visit to a local tea room almost nine years ago and led to four terms as president of the Rotary Club of Amherstburg.

Now, Lena Lazanja is moving out of that role thankful she took it on in the first place.

“It’s been quite the ride,” she said.

Lazanja admits she didn’t know the scope of what Rotary accomplishes both locally and internationally, the latter seeing projects done in third-world countries to improve the quality of life there.

“I’m proud of that,” said Lazanja. “I think that’s the one thing that encourages me to carry on.”

Lazanja originally became president in 2011-12 and remained in that position in the 2012-13 year. She stepped back for one year but the president’s job was hers again in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 years.

Rotary terms start July 1 each year.

“It’s nice to belong to this family,” she said.

Being involved with the Rotary Club of Amherstburg has assisted Lazanja in many ways, Lazanja continued. She was new to town when she joined and it has helped her get to know the community, learn leadership skills and build relationships.

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“Rotary has helped me meet new people, it has helped me with employment,” she said. “We’re all volunteers. It’s a wonderful way to come into Amherstburg and become part of the community. I encourage anyone that is new to the community or anyone who wants to give to the community to come to the Ribfest or come to a meeting and see what it’s all about.”

The local Rotary Club has 14 members, she said, and they are always looking for more. She said the Rotary-sponsored Interact Club at General Amherst High School is growing and that could lead to a boost in Rotary membership down the line.

The club has performed a number of activities, projects and events in Amherstburg over the years, perhaps the biggest of which is Ribfest. This year’s event is scheduled for July 8-10 at Centennial Park and Lazanja states “a lot of people don’t understand that it’s a Rotary event.”

Lazanja said one of her biggest accomplishments as president was a smoke alarm initiative done several years ago in conjunction with the Amherstburg Fire Department. She said she wrote the grant and it allowed for door-to-door distribution of smoke detectors in rural areas.

“It was a great accomplishment because it received, at that time, national recognition,” said Lazanja, noting the joint project was written up in a firefighter publication.

That project also received an award from Rotary District 6400, which not only encompasses clubs in this part of Ontario, but stretches into Michigan and Ohio as well.

“I got to ride on a fire truck. Who doesn’t want to ride on a fire truck?” she joked.

Lazanja has also helped with such projects as bicycle rodeos and the Amherstburg Classic golf tournament, the latter that has helped other organizations in the community. One such organization has been the AMA Sportsman’s Association, who also has programming to assist local youth.

The upcoming “Fill a Backpack” event at Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) is another project the Rotary Club has recently been involved with, as they hosted a chicken dinner at Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 which attracted over 60 people.

“I was the president and I get to be the face (of the club) a lot of the time but, really, there isn’t anything I could do without the rest of the club,” she said.

In addition to thanking her fellow club members, she also thanked the volunteers that have helped with Rotary events, including the 200-250 that help out at Ribfest.

Lazanja said she will still remain as a member of the Rotary Club but she also plans to get involved with other groups and causes. She wishes incoming Rotary president Laura Jurilj the best and said she is “confident and comfortable in her following in my footsteps. She’ll do a great job, for sure.”

Rotary has enriched her life, she added.

“I’m so glad I stumbled into a tea room and eventually became president of such a wonderful group,” said Lazanja.

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