Coats For Kids

coats4kidsBefore it was even officially chartered as a Rotary club, the Rotary Club of Harker Heights began distributing brand new winter coats bought at wholesale to children in need of them at Harker Heights Elementary School in 2009. The effort later expanded to provide coats for students in the Homeless Awareness Response Program of the Killeen Independent School District, thus reaching the entire District. Styles and colors are always varied and the coats are distributed “under the radar” by classroom teachers, so it is not readily apparent who the recipients are. Hundreds of new coats since 2009 have been given out under the leadership of Rotarian Steve Menczer, and the official donation of the sealed boxes each year is usually received by a school’s student council, which is always a gratifying experience for the Rotarians.

Hygiene Kits for H.A.R.P.

The Rotary Club of Harker Heights also began in 2009 to assemble basic hygiene kits (toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, etc.) to be distributed to students in need of them in the Homeless Awareness Response Program of the Killeen Independent School District. By 2017, the effort had grown to the point that 300 kits were assembled and then presented at the 2017 Rotary Dodgeball Challenge. (Photos courtesy of Killeen Daily Herald)


interact2 interactInteract is a Rotary-sponsored student organization at Harker Heights High School. Interact students carry out two service projects a year: one that helps their school or community and one that promotes international understanding. The students have been involved in a variety of projects, from sending school supplies to Africa to the raising of a local Habitat For Humanity house. They have hosted annual Glow Runs and produced Military Appreciation T-shirts to support these efforts. Among their many noteworthy efforts: In 2016, they raised $4,000 to benefit the Fisher House on Fort Hood. In 2017, they supported the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) of Bell & Coryell Counties.

(Photos courtesy of Killeen Daily Herald)

Glow Run 2016

Early Act/First  Knight

earlyactEarly Act helps elementary school students gain an increased awareness of their community and the world. The most visible aspect of this program is Early Act/First Knight, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Harker Heights at two local schools: Harker Heights Elementary and Willow Springs Elementary.

EAFK brings the values of noble character and service alive through the theme of gallant knights and chivalry. It is a character education program with live-action components like jousting tournaments and periodic school-wide knighting ceremonies. Students that best model the particular virtue of the Code of Chivalry being studied that month, such as Courage, Compassion or Perseverance, are awarded medallions by a knight, and fifth-graders are dubbed Knights of the Order of the Black Prince.

4 3-2-11 Union Grove Knighting 1

As classes file in for a knighting ceremony, none of the students know who will be receiving the awards. Ideally, their parents and sometimes their entire families can attend as well as a surprise. Many students, who might never receive an award for personal athletic or academic accomplishments, have been profoundly affected by being honored in front of the entire school for the way they live their lives with noble character. The program can also have an effect on the parents of the students; one school reported that the rate of tardies plummeted in the first year they began the program.

As of June 2018, EAFK schools sponsored by the Rotary Club of Harker Heights had 3CR at HH Elementaryawarded over 5,400 medallions to students since beginning in January 2010. The students who first received the Order of the Black Prince in 2010 as fifth graders graduated from high school in the spring of 2017.

(Photos courtesy of Killeen Daily Herald)


rylaThe Rotary Youth Leadership Award (RYLA) program is an intensive co-ed training experience for high school students. All fees for each camper are paid by a sponsoring Rotary Club as a way to support leadership development in their community. Over the course of their week-long stay, students participate in a variety of activities that foster their abilities to work effectively with and motivate others, and to make sound decisions. When they depart, they should have a strong foundation in teamwork, time management and self-discipline, as well as 90+ new best friends.

The returning campers always prove to be motivated to participate in service organizations and projects locally, and take leadership positions in their schools… both at high school and later on at college. The dividends received in our community from training these fired-up young adults grow with each passing year.

It is typical for a Rotary club to each year send perhaps one student to RYLA. Initially, the fledgling Harker Heights club did the same, but saw the amazing results in their returning campers and began seeking out ways to send additional students to the camp.  Thanks to the proceeds of the Rotary Dodgeball Challenge and the tireless leadership of RYLA Chair Doug Babb, beginning in 2016, the Rotary Club of Harker Heights has been able to sponsor FOUR worthy students to attend the RYLA camp each year.

(Photos courtesy of Rotary International)