Making Strides in the Community

By Marchel Alverson

Carl Chinnery’s humbleness fits him as neatly as the suit and tie he wears at his law firm, Chinnery Evans & Nail, P.C., in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. 

Chinnery is a strong believer in letting his good works speak for themselves, and he walks the talk—literally. When asked by Unity World Headquarters if he and his fellow Rotary members would help fund the renovation of the nature trail at Unity Village, Missouri, Chinnery stepped in without hesitation. In addition to cleaning up the trail, Chinnery and the Rotary Club helped in planning and fund-raising for new signage, benches, and mile markers.  

He did this without expecting any praise or attention, yet, on May 12, 2016, approximately 150 people gathered for the unveiling of the Carl L. Chinnery Nature Trail at Unity Village. The local community honored the longtime Rotarian and civic leader for his continued support. 

“I had no idea the nature trail was going to be named after me,” said Chinnery. “It was a total surprise. I was bowled over.” 

Chinnery has fond memories of the nature trail and of Unity Village. His family spent a lot of time on the grounds, swimming, picnicking, and walking along the trail when he was a child. 

“I remember reading Wee Wisdom® magazine, and my parents stopping by Unity Farm to pick up fruit, vegetables, and milk … anything they had at the stand,” he said. “We also used to come to concerts out here, and the orchids. Those were good times.” 

Those precious times at the Village would help the family cope when Chinnery was diagnosed with polio in 1942. All five of his brothers would also be afflicted by the disease. 

Chinnery sent two of his children to the Wee Wisdom school on campus, which closed in 1982. His Rotary Club has met at Unity Village since 1977, with the exception of three years. His law firm also frequently hosts retreats at the Country Club, and they donated the little free lending library station that sits in front of the Unity Village Bookstore and Coffee Shop. Still a family affair, Chinnery’s wife, Jean, is also active at Unity Village.

“I’ve always enjoyed coming to Unity Village,” Chinnery said. “I’ve even led tours. I think it’s such a lovely campus and a wonderful place to be. As Unity Village has grown so, too, has the Rotary Club.” 

When Rotary No. 2376 of Lee’s Summit began meeting on campus, there were less than 80 members. Today more than 185 members meet at Unity Banquet and Dining. Chinnery attributes this growth with the consistency of meeting at such an accommodating and “nice place.” 

While not boastful in his own right, one thing Chinnery is boldly passionate about is the need for partnerships in the community. He’s so dedicated to the cause he single-handedly laid the foundation for the inaugural “Thanksgiving, Peace, Service, and Unity” luncheon at Unity Banquet and Dining on November 21, 2016. The luncheon honored local community service groups including Lee’s Summit Rotary Clubs, Masons, Kiwanis Club, Knights of Columbus, Optimist Club, and Lions Clubs. 

“No one organization can do everything in the Lee’s Summit community alone,” Chinnery said. “It takes the combined effort of many organizations. There are a lot of service groups here, and I don’t think people know about all the exceptional work they do. This is a coming together for all involved to give thanks to the people who have done so much good in the community.” 

Still, Chinnery does not accept, or expect, any praise. He avoids the limelight, instead focusing on the mission, on happenstance, on fate. Said Chinnery, “Sometimes you wonder why things happen. When I joined Rotary, there were still 350,000 cases of polio a year worldwide. Last year, there were 70, so it’s on the brink of extinction. Rotary is the oldest and largest service organization in the world. We’ve spent $1.7 billion and millions of man-hours to eradicate the same disease that I and my brothers were struck with as children. I’ve spent the last 16 years traveling the world giving presentations on polio eradication. That’s community at work.” 

Chinnery vows to never stop working, whether abroad or at home. Rotary is working with Unity World Headquarters to expand the current trail, moving the trail head to the Unity Bookstore. They will be adding additional exercise stations and benches. The trail will be more than 3.0 miles long, round trip. It’s his way of preserving a piece of history that is near to his heart.

“I love being a part of this community,” Chinnery said. “I love promoting the community and seeing the good works happening around us every day. It’s fun. I also know that as Unity continues to get better and better so does the entire community. In service, there is hope for our future.”