Cleburne Rotarian David Barkley detailed the importance of Rotary’s Service Above Self Award during the opening of Thursday’s weekly luncheon.
“The award is Cleburne Rotary’s highest honor for individual Rotarians,” Barkley said. “This award recognizes Cleburne Rotarians annually who have demonstrated exemplary humanitarian service with an emphasis on personal volunteer efforts and active involvement in helping others through Rotary.”
Club members chose Rotarian Dr. Jim Hart as recipient of this year’s award.
Technology, unfortunately, played havoc, Barkley joked.
“With the help of Jim’s wife Christy I was able to put together an amazing slideshow of Dr. Hart’s life but, unfortunately, the computer’s not working,” Barkley said.
On a more serious note, Barkley noted the gravity of the honor.
“Service Above Self is a very meaningful award and it’s humbling to think your peers recognized you for the service you’ve done for your community,” Barkley said. “In the case of Dr. Hart specifically we have to take that farther to consider the service he’s done for the world. You’ve served Rotary as past president and your involvement has made ours a better club.
Hart, who owns and operates Hart Orthodontics in Cleburne, has helped improve healthcare locally, Barkley said.
“But it’s through his mission trips with his wife Christy that he has changed peoples’ lives,” Barkley said. “There’s no amount of dollars, no amount of anything we can put to that other than to tell you thank you. You have clearly changed people’s lives. If this award is deserved by anybody you are the guy.”
Fellow Rotarian Dr. Tony Torres agreed.
“It has been said that he who works with his hands is a workman,” Torres said. “He who works with his hands and head is a craftsman. But he who works with his hands, head and heat is an artist. That’s what Dr. Hart is. He’s an orthodontic artist. He works with such compassion. I can verify that because I’ve been his patient and I know how meticulous and detailed he is.”
Moreso, Torres said, it’s Hart’s actions beyond Cleburne. Hart and his wife travel at their own expense to the Dominican Republic annually to offer free dental services to those in need.
“The areas he’s gone in the north central part of the Dominican Republic is a very poor area,” Torres said. “The dental chairs he and the other dentists have to work with down there are made out of wood and the back side of the chair is lifted with a car jack. They put their instruments in a crock pot and boil them for sterilization. That’s the way they work. There’s not air conditioning. Flies are all around. He’s actually sweating while working on his patients. It’s just dripping from him.”
Such hardship is worth it for the help given and the bonds formed.
“The emotional bonds he forms with his patients,” Torres said. “The ears, the hugs and the little children coming to him and just embracing him.”
Torres noted that Hart is heavily involved in a global grant program to try to establish a dental clinic in that area of the Dominican Republic.”
Fellow Rotarian Tom Hazlewood called Hart a servant leader in our community.
“He is well respected in his profession, an outstanding employer, a proud father and top-notch Rotarian,” Hazlewood said. “Jim’s commitment to our local club not only impacts Cleburne, but has impacted many parts of the world for the better. Jim and Christy’s Rotary mission to third world countries to provide safe and appropriate dental care to those in need sets an example for all of us. I am proud to call Dr. Hart my friend.”
Rotarian Lowell “Stretch” Smith agreed.
“If anyone exhibits what Rotary is supposed to be about it’s you,” Smith said.
Hart thanked his fellow Rotarians for including him among the “impressive” list of past recipients.
“I feel honored to be part of that list,” Hart said.
Hart grew emotional when he called Ryan Van Den Bergh, his oldest grandson to the podium.
“Several years ago he and I were talking about the Paul G. Harris Fellowship and I explained to him what it was,” Hart said. “I explained that you get that by giving the foundation $1,000 and what the money is used for. On his own he started saving his money. I remember going to his house and he had this big Mason jar he would put dollars in until he accumulated $1,000. So this is a great honor and I’m so proud to be able to give you this Paul G. Harris Fellowship and think you may be the youngest member ever.”