This year, the Rotary Club of Fort Wayne honored four community leaders/volunteers — Chuck Surack, Marshall White, Julia Meek and Nelson Coats — who embody the Rotary motto: “Service Above Self.”
The four received the club’s Paul Harris Community Service Award, named after Rotary International’s founder, at the group’s weekly meeting at noon July 13 at Parkview Field’s second-floor suite level. Each was also named a Paul Harris Fellow of Rotary International, meaning a $1,000 gift is being made in their honor to the Rotary International Foundation. Gifts to the Rotary International Foundation provide money for health, education, peace initiatives and community development projects in over 200 countries and territories where Rotary has members.
Chuck Surack, founder and CEO of Sweetwater Sound, philanthropist and community leader, is known for his deep and abiding influence on Fort Wayne and Allen County. In addition to his many financial gifts and leadership positions on boards he has loaned his overall wisdom and experience as a successful business leader and community activist in many ways, according to a Rotary news release. He donates to many community groups and shares his time on various boards, from Easter Seals Arc to the Fort Wayne Philharmonic. He has chaired several large capital campaigns and won many city, regional and state awards in recognition of his philanthropy and community leadership. Overall, Surack has established several flourishing businesses, including SweetCars and SweetAir, and has contributed much to the success and momentum to this area. His ownership of the Clyde Theatre in Quimby Village has now expanded to a restaurant next door called the Club Room at the Clyde, which recently expanded, and the newest business adjacent to it, Crescendo Coffee & More, which has ice cream, other desserts, Utopian Coffee and sandwiches, wraps and pizza as well as drinks.
Marshall White, CEO and founder of Unity Performing Arts Foundation is director/life coach for Voices of Unity Choir. “White has been shaping and molding young lives in the greater Fort Wayne area for more than 30 years, using music as a vehicle to build character and change lives in a positive way,” according to the Rotary release. Marshall’s Voices of Unity choir was named one of the top 50 arts- and humanities-based programs in the country serving youth beyond business hours as part of the 2009 Coming Up Taller Awards. Marshall also has led the Voices of Unity Youth Choir to international competitions, winning the World Grand Champion title and two gold medals at the 6th World Chair Games in Shaoxing, China, in 2010. The choir has won many other awards and toured internationally. Marshall also travels the country to discuss reaching and empowering the millennium child for greatness, conducting master classes, choral training and workshops for churches and schools.
Julia Meek, for more than 40 years, has been showcasing musicians, artists, poets, writers, photographers, foodies and anyone involved in cultural events through her interviews on WBOI, 89.1-FM, public radio. “Additionally, Meek offers a unique form a storytelling through her weekly show, ‘Folktales,’ in which Meek explores how folktales from around the world treat a particular theme, ranging from sunshine to sadness.” She has planned and presented this show as a volunteer for 40 years. On another show, “Meet the Music,” Meek showcases musicians of all genres. And, most recently, she has begun hosting a monthly live performance, “Friday Night Vibes,” at the Club Room. She also is a graphic and mural artist.
Nelson Coats is a dedicated volunteer and community leader. “In addition to being a highly regarded and honored CPA at Dulin Ward & DeWald, Coats is the quintessential community volunteer,” according to the release. “He has championed and supported the work of United Way by serving on many committees, the board of directors, executive board and as treasurer. Not surprisingly, Coats has been honored with many awards by United Way.” He also has served on the boards of Leadership Fort Wayne, the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Authority Board and several other nonprofit boards. He has entertained many by playing the French horn in the Fort Wayne Community Band.