2019-2020: Rotarian of the Year

2019-2020: Rotarian of the Year

Each year the current District Governor has the privilege of selecting and honoring outstanding achievements.  These are usually announced at the Annual District Conference.  Rotary years 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 were anything but usual.  Let’s just call them the “Pandemic Years” and everyone will know what you will be referring to.

Although the pandemic tried its hardest to stifle, slow down, stop or even suffocate Rotary, you saw to it to NOT let this happen.  On March 13, 2020 you did see things come to a screeching halt, but you soon picked up the pieces and got back to the business of Rotary.

The Aloha Presidents* became the COVID-19 Presidents.  Meetings went from being in person to meeting on Zoom or Skype.  Projects were assessed and in cases where they could, they became virtual.  Everybody had to follow strict guidelines of social distancing, small gatherings, and strict health protocols.

Many club leaders rose to the challenge, pivoted, switched gears and kept going.  There were numerous challenges to meet head on.

This Governor asked for members to nominate their fellow Rotarians for the highest district honor of “Rotarian of the Year.”  There were several nominations, all worthy in a normal year, but remember this wasn’t normal.

This Governor took all these nominations in consideration, with the other duties of the nominees.  Considerations like goals and results when applicable.  Considerations like dealing with crisis, when this was not part of the playbook.  Always looking for a way to win, a never-say “die” attitude regardless of the headwinds.

After all the nominations, reports, discussions with other Rotarians, and my tedious research, it was an obvious choice naming the recipient of Rotarian of the Year.

Lorena Beckius, Ogallala Rotary Club
Lorena Beckius, Ogallala Rotary Club

Mrs. Lorena Beckius!

Congratulations to Lore.  It’s worthy of mentioning Lore’s leadership guided the Ogallala club during the 2019-20 year with the following list of accomplishments. We can all get great inspiration from Lore’s creativity, her genuine love of community, and her extraordinary achievements!  Here is the full list that I compiled.  All very well documented at https://www.facebook.com/OgallalaRotary.

Club Projects BEFORE March 13, 2020.

  • Mrs. Nebraska Adair Reese BBQ
  • Kites & Castles Lake Mac (Winter Coats fundraiser)
  • Rotary Colorado Peaches (Scholarship fundraiser)
  • School Supplies For children
  • Adopt-a-Beach Lake Mac
  • Runway for Rotary Fashion Show (PolioPlus, Collister Park)
  • Rotary Youth Exchange Student Yulliia (Ukraine)
  • Rotary Baked Potato Bar (Henry Rifle Raffle)
  • Blood Drive Clean up and Tear down
  • Rendezvous Chili Cook Off
  • Kayak Big Mac
  • Reading with Rotary
  • Meals on Wheels
  • Unity Project
  • World Polio Day, Purple Pinkie 
  • School Dictionary Project
  • TeamMates of Ogallala
  • Christmas Caroling

Club Projects after COVID-19.

  • The Grocery Grab (postponed twice)
  • The Rotary Superhero (monthly)
  • Royal Family Kids Camp
  • Rotary Connects Game board
  • Rotary Diaper Drive
  • Neighborhood Teddy Bear Hunt
  • Supporting COVID-19 first responders pick up the lunch tab
  • Do it Local, COVID-19 Community Coupon Book
  • COVID-19 Masks and coverall collection 
  • Community Cruise Nites (Social Distanced to support local drive-thru businesses)
  • Community Cruise Nite Food Drive
  • Puzzles, games and letters of love to area seniors in nursing home
  • Support your Local Businesses – Buy Gift cards
  • Ogallala High School Senior Graduation Cruise Nite
  • Josh the Otter Youth Water safety book
  • Holiday Hero Blood Drive
  • 2020 Ogallala High School Academic Scholarships. $2,250
  • 6ft Cleanup Challenge, Cleanup environmental plastic waste
  • Supporting Terry LaFore #StrongerTogether
  • Arthur Bay Beach Cleanup

District/Club Activities.

  • Big Red Blowout
  • RYLA
  • Ogallala Interact Club
  • Lake Mac Rotaract Club (chartered March 10, 2020 w/17 members)
  • Covid-19 Global Grant w/ Amboto, Ecuador
  • COVID-19 Grant to make 3D printed shields for front line workers
  • First Club to meet on Zoom (March 21, 2020)

*Rotary International Convention was scheduled for June 2020 in Honolulu, but was cancelled out of an abundance of caution for world travellers.

Passport to Adventure

Passport to Adventure

Diary of an exchange year

Originally published in ROTARY Magazine, Sept. 2020

In 2002-03, Lorena Soria traveled from Ambato, Ecuador, to to Ogallala, Nebraska, as a Rotary Youth Exchange student. Afterward, she returned home to Ecuador for college. On a visit to Nebraska for a friend’s wedding, she met David Beckius. After dating long distance, the couple married; they have twin four-year-old boys, and Lore Beckius was 2019-20 president of the Rotary Club of Ogallala — the same club that hosted her 18 years ago. She shares here some highlights from her exchange year.


Today is the day. My mom cried all the way to the airport. I was crying too, but I gave her a hug, dried my tears, and went through security. When I got off the plane, my host family was waiting for me, holding a sign that read “Welcome home.” My host mom’s name is Michelle, and she has two daughters, Heide and Mallory. When we pulled up to their house, I was surprised at how big and how nice it is. I even have my own room and bathroom!

My host sisters and their friends asked me lots of questions. They don’t know much about Ecuador. I told them we have volcanos and so much natural beauty. I’m using my pocket dictionary all the time. I don’t understand any of the slang that Americans use, and their accent is so different from the British English I learned in school.

I went to a Rotary meeting and met my Youth Exchange adviser. I also visited my new school. I will take U.S. history, geography, English, chemistry, and math. I also picked a few electives. I can’t believe all the fun classes they have here. We don’t have choir or cooking or anything like that in Ecuador. My host family also took me into town. Front Street looks like something out of an old Western movie.

I started school today. I was so worried about what to wear. I’ve never gone to a school where I didn’t have to wear a uniform. Mallory is a junior, and she drove me and Heide, who’s a sophomore, to school. I was nervous, but the other students were nice. When they said hi, I kept leaning forward to give kisses — but they don’t do that here. I’m learning to say, “Hey, what’s up?” and give a little wave instead.


My host mom told me I should try out for the school play. That is something I would never have done at home. The play is called A Service for Jeremy Wong, and it’s about the killing of a gay high school boy.

Today, a really cute and popular boy said, “Hey, what’s up?” to me.

I replied, “Good!”

But I think that was wrong. I asked Mallory what to say so I’ll be ready next time.

Photo by Lore Beckius


I’m getting into a routine.

I have basketball practice after school.

I go with my host sisters to all the volleyball games. On Friday and Saturday nights, we go “cruising.” It’s so much fun. We drive up and down Highway 30 and listen to music.


It’s almost Christmas!

It makes me a little homesick. Christmas is such an important time in Ecuador.

I learned that I will switch host families on 23 December. I’m going to miss Mallory and Heide. The next family I’m staying with has three younger boys.

I went to the Catholic church here twice on Christmas Eve. It makes me feel better to be surrounded by familiar traditions.

On Christmas morning, there were so many presents with my name on them under the tree. My new family is trying to make me feel at home, but I don’t know them yet, so I feel a little awkward.


I’ve become close to my new host mom. We go shopping together and get manicures. She always tells me how happy she is to have another girl in the house. And she is a really good cook. She’s always baking something.

Photo by Lore Beckius


My host mom includes me in everything she does for the boys, like presents for Valentine’s Day.

I talk to my family in Ecuador about once a month.

One thing I like about my high school is that everyone seems to get along. The kids ask me about Ecuador. Some want to learn the bad words in Spanish, and I did get in trouble for teaching them a few.


My English has gotten much better. I’ve even started dreaming in English.

I’m so busy with speech competitions, choir, basketball, and tennis that it’s hard to even have time to think about things back home in Ecuador.


I’m living out in the country now with my third host family, which has five girls, so it can be a little tough to get time in the bathroom to get ready for school! I’m looking forward to going to prom next month. I’m going with a group of girls, and I already have a dress. We don’t have prom in Ecuador, so this feels like a special American thing to experience.

It’s a lot of fun living in this family with so many girls. I get along very well with their oldest daughter, who is a high school freshman. We go to the movies together and hang out.

I had so much fun at prom! We danced and danced. I felt like a movie star.

Photo by Lore Beckius


Graduation is here.

My parents traveled to Nebraska for the ceremony.

Even though our principal practiced saying my name, he still mispronounced it. But it was so exciting to get my diploma! He also gave me a little American flag.

Photo by Lore Beckius

We went to watch the Fourth of July fireworks, and the song “Proud to Be an American” gave me goosebumps.

I go home this month.

My exchange has helped me to grow up and be ready to live on my own. I am so proud that I was able to make it through one year by myself.

I’m home now, and it’s weird to be back.

My parents talk to me in Spanish, and I find myself accidentally answering them in English.

My friend Serena came from Ogallala for a visit. We keep in touch online, and I can’t wait to go back to visit.

Photo by Lore Beckius

Did you know?

  • In 2018-19, 70 percent of exchanges were long term, lasting a full academic year.
  • 91 percent of Rotary districts are certified to participate in Rotary Youth Exchange, but only 16 percent of clubs sent or hosted students.
  • 5,768 Rotary clubs participated in Rotary Youth Exchange.
    (Figures do not include information about the program in Germany.)
  • Learn about how Rotary Youth Exchange began HERE, Rotary through the Years.