Let’s admit that the impact of COVID 19 caught us a bit by surprise.  That at first we thought we might be able to manage to function as a service club with simple adaptations.  Then reality struck, and we went in to social isolation.  We only cancelled two weekly meetings, though! We started meeting on ZOOM at the beginning of April.  By mid April, we had a Pandemic Response ad hoc committee in place, tasked with creating initiatives in response to the consequences of living in a world wracked by virus.  This is what amounts to a quarterly review of what we’ve done in these past three months.


Community Service in a Time of Pandemic

As an organization, we emphasize Service and Fellowship.  We decided that our first emphasis had to be on our own Members, because we are nothing without our members, right?  Ivy Stevens-Gupta spearheaded our efforts for members.
  • Each month, members of the Board of Directors reach out to club members, checking in.
  • The club has purchased Rotary/People of Action face masks, which were back ordered, but are now here.  We have mailed masks to each member who has requested one – and will continue to do so until everyone who wants one, has one. 
  • Semiannual dues notices were distributed with an email detailing our recognition that dues payment may be difficult for some at this time.  We have a safety net in place for members whose only barrier to membership is cost.
Our second focus was on Service.  Needs are high in our community, so we looked for ways that we could help within the confines of social distancing.  Juliet Gibbs led the search ways to serve, whether in person (socially distanced, with masks, outdoors), or remotely, with a focus on food security issues.
  • Club member Stacy McNeil of the Salvation Army, needed help with food distribution, as need increased dramatically.  In the months of May and June, 12 Rotarians volunteered 34.5 hours of service, distributing free food at the pantry, or delivering meals to homeless people being sheltered in hotels in the area. 
  • Working with Club member Jessica Gosa, executive director of Foodnet/Meals on Wheels, we launched Notes to Neighbors, coordinated by Past President Mary Berens.  Meals on Wheels food deliverers are not allowed to “visit” with food recipients, so Notes to Neighbors is a gesture of care and friendship.  As of the beginning of July, 9 Rotarians had written/created 503 notes to be included with meal deliveries.  Mary estimates (conservatively) that 42 hours of service went in to this effort, and she notes that some Rotarians enlisted grandchildren and friends to participate.  Special note:  club member Sherrie Haefele, who is a gifted quilter, sent 17 handstitched postcards!
  • Our Rotary grant writing specialist, Nancy Potter, submitted a District Grant application in support of the Salvation Army food services to the homeless program.  Regrettably, not all grant applications are funded, and in a crowded field of applications, ours was not approved.  That being said, we still appreciate the effort it took to apply, so thanks go to Nancy Potter, Juliet Gibbs and Stacy McNeil.
Our most visible new effort has been “Tastes of Gorges”, our Safely Distanced Supper Club.  This project is coordinated by Dennis Gray and Maricelis Acevedo (aka Team Grace), and Ron Provus.  Launched in mid May, we encourage members and friends to support our local restaurants by ordering take out meals on a specific day(s).  Promoted by email, social media posts and local news outlets, the focus has been on restaurants which have supported our international service projects through our Dozen Dinner Draw raffles.  To date, we have highlighted 8 local restaurants in 9 weeks (we have gone to our meeting host, Coltivare, twice).
A long standing project of the Ithaca Rotary Club is Highway Clean-up.  Coordinated by John Barradas, this spring cleanup had 14 participants.  Additionally, 3 Rotarians did an “On the Lake” waterway cleanup by kayak, and at least an additional 6 members did an “On Our Own” solo clean up in our own neighborhoods, promoted by Maricelis Acevedo,    who is also working with Cornell Cooperative Extension to ensure the care of our Rotary Rotary.
Past President Brett Bossard is serving as our Clubrunner webmaster, updating our website regularly.  The homepage reflects our current Rotary year theme, “Rotary Opens Opportunities”, and has a statement on reflecting diversity, as well as numerous new articles. 
Our new Communications Team Chair, Sherrie Negrea, has taken a lead in crafting public statements for the club, and has been posting press releases at an average of one per week since joining the Board.  She has sent press releases about “Tastes of Gorges”, our roster of Program Speakers, our new Club President Geoff Dunn, and the Road Rally.
And in the “last is definitely not least” category,  TEAM GRACE ( Dennis Gray and Maricelis Acevedo) is easing in to the new world order of Fundraising with an upgrade to the weekly raffle.  Now dubbed the “Do-Goodery” Raffle, bids are taken virtually during our ZOOM meetings as well as by text or email.  Fun items entice bidding, and the proceeds are dedicated to mini-grants to local organizations addressing food security.  First up, the Ithaca Rotary Harvest, a 14 year tradition of providing three weekends of direct food deliveries to needy families, in coordination with the Ithaca City School District. 
Respectfully submitted,
Joanne Lamoureux, Chair, Pandemic Response Committee