Rotary Club changes meeting process in wake of COVID-19

WASHED AWAY Gavin Cordes and his father Ron at the 2019 Rotary Club of Picton Waterfall tour at Jackson’s falls. The club was forced to cancel its annual tour as well as the May lilac cycling tour.(Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)



Volunteer Service clubs such as the Rotary Club of Picton are no stranger to the isolation that has blanketed the world due to COVID-19.

Like many, they have had to change not only how they hold meetings but how they conduct their work and host charitable events.

“Normally at this time of year, we have Tuesday luncheon meetings at the Waring House. Actually, today was the first day we did a virtual meeting via Zoom,” said Rick Jones, head of communications for the local Rotary Club. “We had 31 of our 45 members on Zoom today so that’s how we’re staying in touch with each other and keeping everyone updated.”

The regularly busy club is well-known for such annual events as the Water Fall Tour in April and the Lilac Ride in May.

These events are the latest casualties of the COVID-19 crisis. With the proceeds from such events utilized for worthwhile causes both at home and abroad, their cancellation could have serious ramifications for programs such as Reading for Rainbows, international water projects, the Matt Stever Fund, the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Fund and Community Care for Senior’s Meals on Wheels.

“We had to cancel the waterfall tour on April 11 and 12. That is a big money maker for the Rotary Club of Picton,” stated Jones.“The next one we had to cancel was the Lilac Ride, which is supposed to happen on May 24.” Though the Lilac Ride will continue next year, Jones pointed out that, because the club’s official year end is June, the effects of such cancellations will be felt well into 2021.

“Our year end is at the end of June, so these funds that we would bring in would go into next year’s fund. So people who will be asking for funds (next year) and we wont be able to donate to them,” Jones explained. The Rotary Club’s summer events, such as Uncorked Canada, a wine-tasting event, has been postponed until August 2.

Meanwhile, the annual golf tournament hosted by the club-their largest fundraising event of the year-has yet to be cancelled or postponed, though as Jones stated, they will have to come to a decision regarding that sooner than later. “The funds are used for local charities. The Waterfall Tour is used for Rotary International water projects and a lot of that money is also given to the hospital. For instance, through their new PECMHF COVID-19 Relief Fund, we donated $5,000 to the hospital,” said Jones. “We’ve also given two instalments, totalling $10,000 to the library campaign to support the library expansion.”

As Jones noted, the proceeds from the Rotary Club events go to those in need both near and far.

“Most of the funds from the Lilac Ride go to reaching for rainbows, which is a program to empower vulnerable young girls in the County. We’ve also, apart form donating to these organizations, assisted others in various ways. Picton Rotarians have been volunteering and delivering meals for Prince Edward County’s Community Care for Seniors since 1980,” stated Jones.

They also oversee the Matt Stever Fund, stated Jones, which was created to assist families in the County who are have suffered from various crises such as illness, accident or death of a child.

“Some of these funds will also go to Polio Plus. Rotary International is trying to eliminate Polio. Right now, we’ve vaccinated over 3 billion children from Polio in every corner of the world,” stated Jones. A

ll events combined, including their cash calendar in December, the Rotary Club of Picton raises on average $50,000 per year. The loss of all or even part of these funds will be greatly felt, especially by the most vulnerable people and organizations in need. Cancellations of this scale are a first for the Rotary Club, but true to their motto of “service above self” they are continuing to contribute to the community however they can.

The Rotary Foundation has outlined three ways in which local clubs can help their community in these unprecedented times. These include District Grants, Global Grants and the Rotary Disaster Response Fund. The foundation also has about $10,000 available for COVID-19 responses available to various districts around the world. The current health crisis has altered life as we know it, but it has not changed the needs of many or the will to serve for some such as those in the Rotary Club.

For more information about the Rotary Club of Picton, please visit: .