Tuesday, 05 March 2013 13:36

Laguna Hills Club Honors Members

Written by John Barry
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(Laguna Hills, CA) The Saddleback Sunrise Speakers club of Laguna Hills celebrated its 35th anniversary recently by honoring three Toastmasters who have served the club for many years.

Honored at the gala at the Laguna Hills Community Center on Feb. 23, the three are past club presidents and area governors who collectively have many, many years of experience in Toastmasters.

Norm Bour of Mission Viejo, San Clemente resident Tom Carras and John Barry of Newport Beach joined Club 86 between 1981-1982.  Barry has over 30 years of continuous membership while Bour and Carras were gone for many years but have recently returned and now intend to stay.

Bour, 58, was the first of the three to join the club in 1981.  “It was originally a club for realtors and we all did a lot of networking as well as working on our public speaking.  Many of those original members are still in South County today,” he said.

He got involved quickly, serving in various officer roles, participating in speech contests and serving as club president. But life took him in a different direction and Bour left the club in the mid-90’s to focus on real estate, his new marriage, and eventually, the mortgage business.

He co-hosted a radio talk show, “The Norm and Mike Radio Show,” where listeners called in with real estate, mortgage, tax or finance questions.  Along with partner Mike Roberts, a tax specialist, the show ran on KLSX, KRLA and KLAA on Sunday afternoons for four years, from 2004-2008.

He returned to the Saddleback Sunrise Speakers in April, 2012. Why? “I ran into Tom and John at a bagel shop and they said they were still in the same club after all these years,” he said.  “There is something special about this club.  We have a lot of fun and I can’t imagine a club that has the energy, camaraderie and fellowship at seven in the morning.  Yes, I’ve been gone a long time, but when I rejoined, I saw how this club continues to help people, with a commitment to everyone as a family.  I’m delighted to be back.”

Bour works at Opis Network in Newport Beach, a consulting firm that helps businesses and companies take their growth strategies to the next level.  He is a Competent Communicator working on advanced manuals and has won speech contests at the area and division level.

Carras, 67, joined the Saddleback Sunrise Speakers in the spring of 1982 when he was on active duty in the Marine Corps, stationed at the old Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro.  He recruited Barry, a fellow Marine into the club in the fall of that year.  But duty called and Carras was transferred to Hawaii, Japan and Camp Pendleton before retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1992.

“Toastmasters was in my blood and I always found a club at each duty station,” he explained.  Later, as a dean of education at the University of Phoenix in Southern California, Hawaii and Sacramento he belonged to many clubs and helped start several others.

Carras is proud to be back in the club where he started the Toastmaster journey and explained why Club 86 is now his home.  “This is a unique club.  I’ve belonged to clubs around the world and Club 86 is a combination of fun, but with a commitment to excellence.  We’re tough on speakers because we want them to grow and reach their potential.  And when I returned a few years ago it was refreshing to see that this club was still producing great speakers and leaders.  Did I mention that we’re still having fun?”  Carras was the 2010 Founders’ District champion for humorous speaking.

He retired from the Marine Corps, but continues to teach for the University of Phoenix.  Of the three, he is the only one to achieve Distinguished Toastmaster.  Today, he serves as the High Performance Leadership coach for the club and spends lots of time with his grandson, Zane when he’s not paddling with the Dana Pt. ocean outrigger team.

With 30 years of continuous service in the Saddleback Sunrise Speakers, Barry, 65, has witnessed many changes through the years.  “I have literally seen hundreds of people join the club, but a few hard corps members have always carried this club forward in difficult times.  I am proud to be one of them.”

He remembers all the locations where the club met, starting with the Colony Kitchen, and then the Holiday Inn at La Paz & the I-5, Robert’s Pacific Restaurant in Mission Viejo, a pizza restaurant in Mission Viejo, back to the Holiday Inn, the club house at the Mission Viejo Golf Course, the Presbyterian Church of the Master in Mission Viejo, a residential community center in Laguna Niguel and now the Farmers & Merchants Bank in Laguna Hills.

“What a journey!” says Barry. “We’ve been a vagabond group, but we never lost sight of the Toastmasters commitment to excellence.  We’ve helped so many people overcome their dread and fear of public speaking. I can tell you story after story about how we helped change lives, develop confidence and improve people’s self esteem through public speaking.  And we always believed in being a little irreverent and laughing all the way.”

At the end of 2005, he left the club to move to Chicago when his wife got a major promotion.  But by 2007 he was back.  From 2008-2010 while working at the Art Institute in San Bernardino, he never missed a meeting at Club 86 on Wednesday mornings.

As a former Marine, Barry volunteers with the Employer Support for the Guard & Reserve (ESGR), a Department of Defense organization that helps returning guardsman and reservists get their jobs back after overseas deployment.  He is also the public relations chair for the Inland Empire Chapter of the American Advertising Federation.

Barry credits Toastmasters with giving him the skills to go beyond speaking at the club level. “With my Toastmasters training I was able to become a successful traffic school instructor.  And let me tell you, there is nothing more challenging than getting up in front of a bunch of grumpy people on Saturday morning in traffic school and convincing them it’s going to be a great day!” He taught comedy classes every Saturday for over 12 years.

Barry has been a fixture over the years in Division G, where he has served as MC or contest master in countless area and division speech contests.  This year he is also the Community Relations chairperson for Founder’s District.

A proud grandfather of three, Barry is also a distance runner and public speaking instructor at DeVry University.  And he believes that Toastmasters has no ending point.  “It is a lifetime journey and that’s what’s important to remember.  Even after 30 years in Toastmasters, I’m my own worst critic as a speaker, always looking for ways to improve.”

These days, Barry is the club’s new member coach, working with new Toastmasters to help them complete their Competent Communicators Manual.  “Of everything I’ve done in this organization, the most rewarding is helping new members get through their Icebreaker and the agony of nerves.  Watching their progress is my reward now.”

According to Bour, Carras and Barry, Club 86 first met at the Jolly Roger restaurant at Lake Forest and Rockfield in what was then El Toro.  Soon, growth forced a move to the old Colony Kitchen restaurant at Moulton Parkway and Santa Maria near the DMV in Laguna Hills.  Today that restaurant is Polly’s Pies and home to two other Toastmasters clubs.

Today, after moving to many different locations over the years, the club continues to meet every Wednesday morning at 7-8:30am at the Farmers & Merchants Bank on Paseo de Valencia and El Toro Road in Laguna Hills.  Guests are welcome.

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