Stevens Point Area Retired Teachers Association, or SPARTA, met Nov. 12 at the Sky Club, with 61 present. A special welcome was given to Rose Matthews. Appearing as a surprise guest was State Sen. Julie Lassa. The door prize was won by Betty Allar.
For the event, regular business was tabled for a program recognizing the contributions of two special members - past president Elbert Rackow and retiring Book Committee chairwoman Ruth Steffen. Gene and Nancy Kemmeter assembled a slide show of 60 pictures, showing Rackow and Steffen in their many active roles through the years. Co-Secretary David Blado delivered a short tribute, stressing Rackow's impact on SPARTA and the community through his commitment to volunteerism and service. To express SPARTA's gratitude, co-President Joyce Chekouras presented Elbert with a plaque commemorating his 22 years of leadership.
When it became time to recognize Steffen, Book Committee co-chairwoman Carol Van Alstine led the way, with heartfelt thanks for Steffen's years of service. Steffen's daughter Betsy Laswell recalled stories of the early years of the book sales, when the Rackow garage served as the main storage. For her dedication, Steffen received a Certificate of Recognition from Chekouras.
Then it was time to "pass the microphone" - an opportunity for anecdotal reflections. George Alafouzos started, followed by Bob Helgert, Judy Zimmerman, Shirley Multhauf, Robert Rossmiller, Carol Van Alstine, Dick Judy and Jerry Kasdorf. Lassa emphasized the "educational commitment" of both honorees, as well as their contributions to the community. A fitting finale was the dramatic entry of the cake, its top completely covered with words of thanks.
Following the Honor Program was a presentation by Humane Society Executive Director Ron Blaha, focusing on "How the Humane Society serves both the public and the animals." In his remarks, Blaha expanded on the society's mission - to prevent animal abuse, cruelty, neglect and overpopulation while seeking adoption. Because the society has limited staff and resources, Blaha cited a number of volunteer opportunities, including walking dogs, helping in the office, adoption follow-up and foster care.
Volunteer opportunities for members included the Academic Decathlon on Jan. 9 and 11 next year, as well as the Humane Society.
Grants approved were: $300 to Holiday Basket Project, Operation Bootstrap; $100 each to Central Wisconsin Children's Museum, Monteverdi Master Chorale, SPARTA Scholarship in honor of Alberta Konieczki and the Humane Society of Portage County (the favorite charity of our speaker; $200 each to Central Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra Inc. and the United Way's Project Fresh Start.
SPARTA cordially invites retired educators and support personnel to attend their next meeting Jan. 14 at the Sky Club when Portage County Executive Patty Dreier will summarize "What is Happening in Portage County."