Rotarian Terry Thomas was very pleased to introduce one of the Club's newer members, Andrew Kole, to present his classification talk and share a little about his life story with the Rotary Club of Belleville. Terry emphasized the importance of Rotarians being fully engaged, living the Service Above Self motto, committed to participating in the activities and initiatives of Rotary.  That is what Terry sees when he looks at Andrew Kole.  The only shortfall Terry sees is Andrew's reluctance to actually dress up like a Clown in the Santa Claus Parade, but there is still time to convince him otherwise.
Andrew was born in 1983 in the vibrant City of Dnipro, right in the heart of Central Ukraine.  Both his parents were dedicated pediatricians and to us that would mean a life of relative comfort, but not so in Ukraine as part of the Soviet Union.  Andrew's childhood coincided with the collapse of the USSR, bringing about a complete economic meltdown and collapse of the only bank in town.  Lifetime savings were no more, poor people became poorer.  There were widespread shortages of basic necessities and consumer goods.  Amidst the turmoil of everyday existence, Andrew spent his time playing soccer, a way of life at the time in Ukraine.  And while Andrew was spending time at soccer, his mom, with unwavering determination, took the opportunity to relocate to Canada, Halifax more specifically in 2003.  Andrew was 19 and his parents had been separated for seven years.  Andrew did return to Ukraine to complete his university education but joined his mom in 2006 permanently.  Finding a job proved challenging and working at a call center, although not Andrew's first choice, did provide him with a platform to enhance his proficiency in the English language.  Andrew focused on expanding his academics, obtaining a college diploma and an undergraduate degree in accounting, securing his CPA and CMA designation and then his MBA from Laurentian University in 2022.  Proudly, he became a Canadian citizen at this same time, changing his name officially to Andrew Kole, the Canadian version of his former name in Ukraine.
Through baseball in Kingston, Ontario, Andrew finally felt like he belonged and became long time friends with an extraordinary group of individuals, one who became his best man.  This sport opened many doors for Andrew and he is grateful for those opportunities.  What Andrew thought was merely a photo of him in his soccer uniform turned out to be a work of magic for his dating profile and that is how he met Julie, his lovely wife.  They became engaged in 2019 and after planning a 2020 wedding six months later, found COVID interrupted their well laid plans and they delayed until 2021 on a very wet, rainy day in September.  Andrew is thankful that Julie introduced him to Rotary, as she was a member of the Stirling Rotary Club and is very involved to this day, with a slight step back with the birth of their son Leo in April 2022.  Jo-Anne Wheeler invited Andrew to a Rotary meeting and he finally joined in August 2022.  Since joining, Andrew has worked with the International Service Committee, the Rotary Loves Trees team, the budget committee and most recently, Clowns for Kids.  A great adventure so far and Andrew is very excited to see what Rotary Refresh brings to the forefront.
Andrew and Julie have proudly assisted Ukrainian newcomers to the Quinte region, displaced by the conflict in their homeland in finding local employment opportunities, acquiring clothing and essential household items, securing transportation, obtaining driver's licenses, crafting job applications.  Recently, they helped to organize a community gathering for local Ukrainians residing in this area, aimed to foster connections among the newcomers, to share their stories, exchange experiences and provide emotional support to each other.  There were around 80 people in attendance and the Rotary Club of Belleville donated $500 towards food for the people.  Andrew extended a sincere thank you again for the Club's invaluable support.  Today, Andrew proudly holds the role on the senior management team of a family-owned business, one that is firmly rooted in Belleville and boasts a 35 - year legacy of helping eastern Ontario organizations attain their business objectives through technology in the area of document management and business process automation.
Tracy Bray thanked Andrew for his presentation today and presented him with his new blue badge (instead of his newcomer red badge).  Welcome to Andrew.  We are looking forward to meeting his son Leo soon.