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Toastmasters tackles fear of public speaking

Don Bellairs is starting a chapter in King City


by: BARBARA SHERMAN - READY TO SPREAD THE WORD - Don Bellairs is starting a King City chapter of Toastmasters International and invites everyone to check it out.King City's Don Bellairs is a man of multiple talents who enjoys bringing out the best in people, and he is trying a new approach to get people out of their shells.

"Recently he approached me and proposed starting a Toastmasters Club in the King City area," said Phyllis Harmon, Toastmaster International's Dist. 7 lieutenant governor of marketing. "Don wants to share his passion for Toastmasters by starting a club specifically for active seniors.

"He says that Toastmasters gives people who have entered their retirement years an opportunity to relive their life adventures by sharing them with others as well as giving them new material and ideas to think about."

A kickoff meeting for anyone in the area interested in learning more about Toastmasters will be held Monday, Feb. 11, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the King City Clubhouse in the multi-purpose room.

Don himself started in Toastmasters in 2002 and never looked back. "A friend invited me to come, and I joined," he said.

Don earned a Distinguished Toastmaster Award in 2008, making him one of only 20 percent of all Toastmasters in the world who have earned this award.

Don said he enjoys Toastmasters because he learns something new every week, meets new and interesting people, and has a lot of fun. He also gets to talk about his life experiences, travels, kids and anything else that interests him, and get lots of positive feedback on his presentations.

Besides keeping his mind active by attending Toastmasters events throughout the metro area, Don enjoys helping his club members improve their own communication and leadership skills by giving them feedback full of encouragement and opportunities for growth.

Don has been part of the Tigard-area Noontime Nomads Club since he started in Toastmasters. "We have 26 members, and about 17 to 20 come each week," he said.

Don spent his career as a merchandiser of women's apparel and owned his own women's clothing store. Originally from Kansas, he was sent to Japan while serving in the Air Force and married an American girl he met there. They moved to her home state of Tennessee, and he attended the University of Tennessee.

They lived in Nashville, Minneapolis and Kentucky, where he had his shop; Don retired 16 years ago and bought a house in Portland to be closer to his two sons and their families; he moved to King City eight years ago.

As for starting a King City Toastmasters Club, Don said, "I have always wanted to do this. The Clubhouse is the perfect place."

And he wants everyone to know that they can come to the first meeting and check out how meetings are run without having to talk or give a speech themselves.

At the first meeting of a new club, Toastmasters come from other clubs, and a couple of them give speeches while other members do the critiques.

"People won't be good their first time, but Toastmasters provides a safe place to fail," Don said. "We have to make it fun, or it is a grind. We have winners at each meeting, and the joy of Toastmasters is seeing people improve. They come in scared and gradually get better and better - after a year, you can't shut them up!"

Worldwide membership is currently 280,000 strong and growing every day, and there are 13,500 clubs in 116 countries.

Since 1924, more than 4 million people around the world have become more confident speakers and community leaders because of their participation in Toastmasters.

For more information, call Don at 503-799-1970.