Springfield, Missouri, U.S.A. and Tlaquepaque, Jalisco, Mexico have been Sister Cities since 2003. At about that same time, Rotary International began encouraging clubs in different countries to join together to conduct service projects in recognition of the upcoming Rotary Centennial in 2005. So the search for a “Twin Club” became a priority of the Rotary Club of Springfield Southeast in the 2003 – 2004 Rotary year.
A natural place to begin this search was in Mexico because of the new Sister City connection between Springfield and Tlaquepaque. The first official contact was a letter of invitation from Southeast Rotary President Brad Bodenhausen to the leaders of Club Rotario Tlaquepaque El Refugio – one of two Rotary Clubs in Tlaquepaque at the time.
Club Rotario Tlaquepaque El Refugio was interested in such a connection and two months later club President Mario Alberto Estrada and Immediate Past President Eduardo Reyes visited Springfield to discuss the idea. The club leaders decided on two broad goals that would guide the Twin Club partnership:
Regular exchanges would be important to build fellowship between club members and increase cultural understanding between the U.S. and Mexico; and service projects would focus on benefitting children in both countries.
Club Presidents Brad Bodenhausen and Mario Alberto Estrada signed the official Twin Club agreement on February 26, 2004 at a ceremony in Tlaquepaque. The first service project jointly completed by the clubs was a campaign to encourage students not to use drugs and a campaign to promote environmental protection. The two clubs produced videos that were distributed to all the schools in Tlaquepaque.
In 2005, El Refugio club leaders Estrada and Reyes joined nearly 20 Southeast Rotarians to celebrate the 2005 Rotary International Centennial Convention in Chicago. Over the years, numerous other exchanges and visits to both cities have brought Southeast and El Refugio Rotarians together in the spirit of Rotary fellowship and service.
The two clubs have discussed numerous potential projects through the years, but in 2006 decided to focus on support for children’s centers in some of poorest neighborhoods of Tlaquepaque. A milestone of this effort occurred in 2008 as the two clubs joined with the municipal government of Tlaquepaque to fund improvements to CAI Las Huertas, allowing the children’s center to add a new classroom, office and restroom to better serve the pre-school students there.
A group of 12 Rotarians and spouses representing Springfield Southeast traveled to Mexico in early March 2009 to help dedicate the children’s center improvements and to celebrate the five-year anniversary of the Twin Club partnership. Seeing healthy and happy children enjoying themselves at their pre-school and meeting their parents and teachers was a true highlight for the Springfield participants.