ELYRIA — Four people ventured a long way this week to experience some of what Northeast Ohio has to offer.
On Thursday, the last day of their stop in Elyria, the Scotland nationals spoke at the Elyria Sunrise Rotary meeting about their experience here.
“It has been a fantastic last few days,” said Les Mason, a watch manager in the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.
Mason, whose equivalent rank here would be fire captain, had a week full of watching local first responders react to a threat at Elyria High School, extinguish a small house fire, revive a toddler who stopped breathing and administer naloxone during an overdose.
From vocational-based visits to local companies, organizations and service entities to dinner with local families and even an Indians home game at Progressive Field, the group enjoyed a taste of what it means to be an American. Jill McCardel, Scott Anderson and Mason were the young professionals selected to travel to the states as the group study exchange team from Rotary District 1020 in central and southern Scotland. Andy Ireland, a past district governor from Scotland, led them.
Ireland said his previous employment was in corrections, so he ventured to a number of prisons this week and visited Lorain County Community College and Cleveland. He even fired a gun — an 8 mm Glock — for the first time at a firing range.
“It’s been a lot of things socially and vocationally as we have been here, but as the Rotary leader on the team, it is really up to these guys. It’s more about them than it is about me,” he said. “It’s for them to be more confident individuals, to be more culturally and vocationally secure in what they do when they go back.”
Beside the cultural differences surrounding firearms, Ireland said he also noticed distinct differences in the two nations’ prisons.
“Back home we have more interaction with prisoners. You guys tend to be a bit more standoffish than we are,” he said. “It’s understandable. We just interact with them more on a daily basis to try and give them that change in life. You know, you guys are starting to do that, but I think it could be a bit softer in the approach.”
The Ohio tour continues with stops in Toledo, Columbus, St. Marys and Sandusky. Elyria Rotarian George Costaras said the visit encourages peace and cultural exchange.
“To me this is internationalism. A big concept in Rotary is making friendship and peace one person at a time. Its big part of what Rotary is about,” he said. “This is our opportunity for our club, a small club, that doesn’t always know what to get involved in. As you can see from today, it just re-energizes us.”
McCardel, who back in Scotland works in information technology for the banking industry, said the Elyria Rotary has been incredible. Her visits included stops at Chemical Bank and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — an experience she called mind-blowing.
“Everyone here has been wonderful. It has been a bit overwhelming,” she said. “Everything from the experience, the individuals I have met, my hosts, the members of Rotary that have coordinated everything — just really made us feel a part of their little family actually.”
Anderson, a financial analyst who visited Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and Cleveland Research Co., discovered a newfound passion in basketball just in time to watch the Cleveland Cavaliers make another run for the championship.
“I wasn’t a basketball fan previously, but I’m loving basketball,” he said. “… I’ve got a Cavs top. I’ve got a Cavs mug for my desk at work when I go home.”
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.