According to Sam La Presta, one of Rolla’s strengths as a community, is the ability to work with and among all the different organizations in town, be it city or county government, non-profits, or service groups. In that spirit, the Rolla Rotary Club member and his Rotary associates have embarked on a new program, informally called “lunch with a first responder.”

According to Sam La Presta, one of Rolla’s strengths as a community, is the ability to work with and among all the different organizations in town, be it city or county government, non-profits, or service groups. In that spirit, the Rolla Rotary Club member and his Rotary associates have embarked on a new program, informally called “lunch with a first responder.”
Rolla Police Chief Sean Fagan, Missouri S&T Police Chief Doug Roberts and City of Rolla Fire Chief Ron Smith are all Rotarians, but the idea did not come from them. Rotarian La Presta initiated the conversation that eventually led to inviting a first responder to a Rotary meeting.

Each group, such as the Rolla Fire Department, has been sending four first responders (one per week) for the month before another group will take over. La Presta estimates that many first responders representing all public safety groups will have attended a meeting by April 2018, and he says, they will just start over again, rotating the roster. It’s not only attending a lunch for first responder appreciation —they will catch a program of some aspect of what’s going on in the community and they’ll learn about the Rotary Club’s influence in the town and abroad internationally.

La Presta says the response to the program has been great.
“I was really surprised—I talked to every one of these guys personally and they were pleased we were thinking of them and thought it was a great idea,” he explained. Each guest is given the opportunity to make a few comments, should they like to talk about anything the organization is doing. “We always give them an opportunity,” said La Presta. It is also a way to meet directly with a service club to educate the members about ongoing programs the groups are doing for the community.

For instance, Missouri S&T Police Chief Doug Roberts talked to the group about the Missouri S&T Student Emergency Fund that provides students in need with food, books and other things that can help a student survive through a semester. It wasn’t long until Chief Roberts received a donation from the group to help with the fund. The Rotary Club “adopted” a student for the holidays, who’s family was ravaged by the hurricanes this fall.

Mr. La Presta feels the first responder program is good for community outreach in general.
“Some people have never even heard of Rotary, so it’s a good opportunity to see what we do as an organization,” he said.