On Thursday, March 14, Prior Lake Rotarians, their significant others, and special guests, gathered at the Mystic Lake Center to celebrate The Rotary Foundation. Impact and recognition were woven throughout the evening. For the impact, the formal program started with the number of lives positively impacted by the Club's giving and doing for the 2022-2023 Rotary year. That was over 464,000!
 
Part of the recognition was the announcement of our Honorary Paul Harris Fellows. This recognition bestowed on honorees who are nominated by Club members, is presented to members of the community that have made outstanding contributions and lives out Rotary's motto, Service Above Self. The Certificate of Appreciate is awarded to an organization that has made an outstanding contribution to the community. The 2024 honorees were Laura Aase, Ryan Bartlett, and Prior Lake-Savage Optimist Club.  
 
  
Celebrated Honorees

Laura Aase (nominated by Vic Noer)

Laura embodies the spirit of our Service Above Self Rotary motto.  Laura is Prior Lake resident and a retired teacher who taught in Apple Valley for over 30 years.  She has served on the Safe Harbor Advisor board at Passageways since 2017 and she serves as the lead of the Sisterlink program, where she is the main coordinator for all of the planned activities with the Passageways youth.  Additionally she heads up the Giftlink program at Passageways.  This is a program that ensures all of the youth at Passageways receive gifts and have a happy holidays.  Through her work on that program, they have raised over $10K in donations each year for the past 3 years.  Most of these donations have been raised through Laura’s church, Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church, with Laura spearheading the gift giving/fundraising effort.

 

Ryan Bartlett (nominated by Mark Braaten)

Ryan has participated as a mentor in our STRIVE program as well as supplies food whenever asked for virtually all Rotary events. It’s hard to simply list all he does for the community non-profits and High School events including hosting team meetings and fundraising programs at his restaurant. Ryan has shared his experiences with area students through volunteering in both the MN Caps program and STRIVE, where he mentors students that learn differently. He also provides them internship opportunities that provide new perspectives to working toward their dreams. 

Ryan provides support for anyone that comes to him with a need, or if he sees a need. He has provided free meals to families that may be struggling, supported youth fundraisers, hosted fundraisers for area first responders, and provided meals for volunteers, such as for the Polar Plunge this past year. Ryan Bartlett has a huge heart for this community and displays this at every opportunity that come his way.

 

 
Prior Lake - Savage Optimist Club (nominated by Mary Haugen, Cindy Shepard, Sam Ouk, Ashley Cappuccino, Bill Zimbinski, and Tom Herbert)
 
Our Rotary Club has been fortunate to have the Optimist Club as our partner in several of our events. They donated to our recently completed Sleep In Heavenly Peace event both financially and by volunteering. They have been key partners in each of our Martin Luther King, Jr. events contributing financially and helping promote the breakfast and program. We are fortunate to have an organization committed to service like ours willing to work together.

One of the most active organizations at Prior Lake High School is the Junior Optimist Club. They have over 200 students as members. Their purposes are to “perform community service, develop leadership skills and foster friendship among members”. The Optimist Club provides an advisor and supports the group as needed but the club itself is student run. The club makes possible this opportunity for students to grow in service to others and benefit personally as well.   
 
The Optimists also have an Excel program which is a mentoring program like STRIVE. In fact, the curriculum they use is a Bloomington Rotary Club STRIVE curriculum. Club members are paired with high school students who will benefit from an adult mentor to achieve their academic goals and formulate plans beyond high school. The program started in 2002 and continues today.
 
This organization is a vital part of our community. The services, donations, events and activities they sponsor and support are a key part of the service to others done in our community.