On February 7, the local Gig Harbor Rotary clubs recognized members of the community that exemplified the rotary club ideal of “service before self.”
Each individual club nominated non-rotary members who personify a devotion to others before self. Nominees are chosen for their reckless attitude toward giving; they are people who devote a large part of their personal time and effort toward their venture of choice. Nominees are also capable of becoming a Paul Harris Fellow through donations made in their honor to the Rotary Foundation.
This year the North, Morning and Midday Rotary clubs each presented a nominee. From the North Club, Ken Kieffer; from the Morning Rotary, Tom Taylor; and from the Midday Rotary, Doctor Sherwin Shinn.
Ken Kieffer is distinguished by his service to the Make A Wish Foundation, having fulfilled over 400 wishes to date. He also volunteers for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), Breast Cancer Awareness, Special Olympics, Tibetan Nuns Project, the Lupus Foundation, the Alzheimer’s Association, is a volunteer for hospice care, and can be seen in Romania (if you happen to be there) assisting at an orphanage. There’s more, but I’ve run out of breath! It may seem like a lot, but Ken continues to be undaunted. “I think, ‘What if this was my child or grandchild? What would I do?’” says Ken. He truly embodies the “golden rule.”
When asked as to his inspiration for his (now) full-time job as a volunteer, Ken refers to the candle he keeps in his car. It’s from his daughter’s wedding. He looks at it every time he gets in and is reminded that “it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” Ken is out to light that candle.
Tom Taylor is distinguished by his fierce dedication to developing programs toward a healthy community through the nine community-wide YMCAs. In Gig Harbor alone, the YMCA boasts of 21,000 members, supporting 7,000 non-members beyond that. When Tom first joined the YMCA back in 1971, there were only 500 members. That number quickly exploded to 10,000 once the YMCA on Pearl street was built. Tom is proud of the Y’s dedication to include all members of the community regardless of age, religion, race, income or social status.
If you can make it to the Y, you’re welcome. Within the Y there are a variety of programs meant to provide relief and social support, such as the Shower Pass. The Shower Pass grants the use of the gym showers to anyone in the community, including the homeless. This allows for a greater chance of getting a job and also contributes to the overall health of all community individuals. Community support, however, doesn’t stop at the Y building. The Gig Harbor YMCA also provides before- and after-school care for working parents throughout the Peninsula and has created the YMCA Youth Legislature. Tom is currently excited for an aggressive project to increase community sports facilities. The YMCA has partnered with the city to build two community soccer fields with artificial turf. Tom’s inspiration? For his life to be a benefit to the world, to give something to future generations. To build a legacy for a better community.
Lastly, Doctor Sherwin Shinn is distinguished by his collaboration of a nonprofit called World Wide Smiles. The inspiration for World Wide Smiles came from the fulfillment of a childhood dream: Sherwin went to the Himalayas. Sherwin’s last day of vacation was interrupted by the cry of a child; it was unusual enough to elicit his investigation. What he found was a little girl swollen from temple to armpit from a tooth infection. It became immediately apparent to Sherwin that the girl would die if left untreated. He immediately had her transported 2,000 feet up the mountain to the nearest medical facility. Faced with inadequate tools, no running water and minimal sanitation, Dr. Shinn performed the removal of the infected teeth with his pocket knife. Thankfully there was anesthesia.
It was this experience that ignited Sherwin Shinn’s passion for preventive care. He would come back to the Himalayas several times; partnering with schools to pass out toothbrushes and address tooth health. It wasn’t long after that he was asked to go to other countries as well. The effort eventually expanded to become its own nonprofit. Today, the nonprofit establishes clinics all over the world, enriching the local economy by training and equipping locals for the work. Sherwin’s inspiration comes not only from kids who have the opportunity to grow up because of the efforts of the nonprofit, but from his personal passion for enhancing the lives of others. Dentistry is his vehicle for giving unconditionally.
Looking at each nominee individually, a pattern emerges: giving without condition. The rotary nominates its community members because they are personally inspired and challenged by what they see happening. I think it’s safe to say that it’s inspiring for us all.