As Rotarians, we are called on to focus on creating communities and convening groups that are connected, inclusive, and resilient. Rotary's stated purpose is to bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian service and to advance goodwill and peace around the world. So it was natural for the Rotary Club of Americus to partner with the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation for the Inaugural Peace Day event "Cultivating a Culture of Peace" held October 3rd in downtown Americus.
By sponsoring and hosting the "Cake and Conversation" booth, Americus Rotarians provided individuals the opportunity to chat with area leaders about working together to make our community a more peaceful one. With law enforcement being a hot topic in the news, Mark Scott, Americus Police Chief and Colonel Eric Bryant, Chief Sheriff's Deputy (both Rotarians) made themselves available for conversations with the public. Clay Jones, Chair of the Sumter County Board of Commissioners, was also in attendance to answer questions and listen to concerns.
The club thinks Mattie said it best when he stated "Peace begins by getting to know your neighbors, around the block and around the world." ~Mattie J.T. Stepanek The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation is a volunteer-based 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, created in 2005 to continue the work of the late teen poet and peace activist, Mattie J.T. Stepanek. During Mattie’s “almost 14 years,” he penned seven NY Times Bestselling books of “Heartsongs” poetry and ”Just Peace” essays, and served as an ambassador for many peace- and disability-related organizations. Mattie died in 2004 due to complications of a rare neuromuscular disease.
The mission of the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation is to further Mattie’s message of hope and peace by providing access to the message, promoting understanding of the message, and motivating people to action in sharing the message. Their vision is to offer educational and recreational programs, projects, activities, and resources that encourage peacemaking as a deliberate choice for individuals and for our world.
As an added note, the Rotary Club of Americus inducted its two newest members - Kimberly Baker with Shiver Lumber Company and Laura Bauer, Executive Director for the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation, on September 8, 2020, with District Governor Kirk Driskell and Mattie's mother, Jeni Stepanek, present. New Rotarian Laura Bauer planned the Peace Day event, the first of what we hope will become an annual celebration in Americus, GA.