John Sawyer of the Bixby Rotary Club Earns District Service Above Self Award

Contributing Writer

Bixby Breeze photo
ROTARIAN CONGRATULATIONS: Former Rotary District 6110 Chairman Rolf Hufnagel, left, presents the Rotary Service Above Self Award to Bixby Rotarian John Sawyer at a meeting of the Bixby Rotary Club in June.

John Sawyer was surprised at his Bixby Rotary Club meeting at Michael V’s restaurant in June when he was awarded the 2020 Rotary District 6110 International Service Above Self Award, one of the most significant laurels a Rotarian can receive.
Rotary’s highest honor recognizes Rotarians who demonstrate Rotary’s motto, Service Above Self, by volunteering their time and talents to help others. The award is internationally competitive, and is granted to no more than 150 Rotarians worldwide. No more than one individual from each district each year can earn the prestigious honor.
Rotary District 6110 is an organization which exists solely to help the individual Rotary clubs within the District to advance the Object of Rotary. It is comprised of Rotary Clubs from northwest Arkansas, southwest Missouri, southeast Kansas and northeast Oklahoma.
Sawyer has worked diligently through the years at his Rotary Club of Bixby to help others. He created a Reading Partners Program where volunteers go to schools to help students learn to read more proficiently. He has worked with the Department of Human Services to provide socks and other items of clothing for needy children. This past Christmas season he and his club, with the help of Henry Primeaux, provided 800 items of clothing for foster children in the area.
Sawyer is the owner of Sawyer-Phillips Insurance Agency in Tulsa. He graduated from the University of Missouri at Kansas City with a Music Education degree and taught public school for three years and then went in the life insurance business followed by five years as a church music director. Sawyer married his high school sweetheart, Billie Kay, 50 years ago and has two sons, two grandsons and two great grandchildren. He is currently president elect of the Rotary Club of Bixby.
Sawyer has been a Rotarian for 11 years. “I became a Rotarian when a group of friends and I took a fishing trip to Mexico and became acquainted with a small fishing village a half mile from our fishing camp. One day upon returning from a day on the water fishing, we were informed that we had no running water. Two days later the water was turned back on. In conversations with the residents of the village we realized this was a common occurrence year-round, as the water was coming from another village about 10 miles away and the pump station was very old and unreliable.
“Our group raised $3,000 to purchase two 5,000-gallon water tanks that could be filled with fresh water the villagers could have to take back to their homes. When I saw the impact that one act had on those people, I became a Rotarian.
“When I returned to my local Club in Bixby, I learned from Ellis Potter that Rotary International had an ‘Eyeglass Kit.’ This is a self-contained kit that can make up to 300 pairs of reading glasses. I immediately met with Ellis and purchased one kit and arranged for it to be delivered to the village of Puerto De San Marcos, Mexico. A gentleman in the village enlisted a husband and wife that learned to make the glasses. Before long 250 pairs of glasses were handed out. Since then we have supplied two more kits. As the word spread, people from villages all around the small village would just show up and ask for ‘lenses.’
“Realizing just how much impact a little bit of initiative of my part could have such an impact on so many people, I really became interested in the Global Grant process. At our PETS Conference last year in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, I met Beth Keck and she told me about ‘Project Fairs’ that were held around the world showcasing local opportunities for writing Global Grants. I found one in Cali, Colombia and decided to go. There I met so many fellow Rotarians from around Central America needing funding for their projects. I honestly had no idea the kind of need that is out there. I am currently working on two projects in Colombia, one is to get a lot of medical supplies to a community and the other is to provide matching funds to help feed an entire village. If successful, this will impact hundreds of lives.”
The mission of Rotary International is to provide service to others, promote integrity, and advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through its fellowship of business, professional, and community leaders. The vision is “Together, we see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change — across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves.”
For more information about Rotary District 6110, visit

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