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Longboat Key Tuesday, Jun. 2, 2020 2 years ago

Rotary Club of Longboat Key stays the course in pandemic

Despite lockdown, the club has kept up their meeting schedule and community work.
by: Nat Kaemmerer Staff Writer

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the Rotary Club of Longboat Key has not slowed down. 

The club has kept up its schedule with its two meetings a month now happening via Zoom. President Nancy Rozance is trying to keep up a sense of normalcy with her members, between the meetings — which are still attended by most of the speakers originally on the schedule — and service projects. 

“I think people are getting to know each other a little better,” Rozance said. “We're sharing things that we might not have shared. Everybody doesn't have this schedule they have to keep so they're getting to know each other more, and I would agree our attendance has been much higher than it is in person.”

Rozance and her club have found ways to make the meetings fun, from themed Zoom backgrounds to a day where everyone wears a fun hat. They even got in touch with a club in Rome and had a joint meeting with them to discuss what Rotary was like around the world. 

“We were all in our little boxes and we went around to introduce ourselves and tell about our projects,” past president Carol Erker said. “We ended up sending a $250 donation to support their work in Uganda.” 

The simpler forms of meeting and Rotarian duties were taken care of — no small feat, given that the members had to adapt to Zoom and interacting online. The club would be missing out on some key in-person events, one being the annual appreciation event for first responders.

However, Erker and new member Joan Sherry just wrapped up what they came up with to replace that event: a six-week food delivery program that involved almost 20 Rotary members and a dozen local restaurants. About 300 meals were served from local restaurants. Beginning on April 12, Rotarians delivered restaurant meals to the fire and police departments on the key, making sure to cover as many shifts as possible. 

“It was a lot of work but the reward was wonderful,” Erker said. “It was a positive coming-together of the community at a time when first responders were working extra shifts. We came up with a program that we felt was a real win-win because we were recognizing first responders and also bringing business to all restaurants on Longboat Key that were open for pickup.”

Restaurants worked with the organizers to come up with affordable, healthy, filling meals for the first responders, who were beyond grateful for the support. Erker and Sherry received messages from the fire and police departments thanking them and letting them know their work was deeply appreciated. 

“It worked,” Erker said. “That’s what we were trying to do.” 

Chef Jose Martinez from Maison Blanche was excited to participate and wanted to personally show up and cook. At the south fire station on May 20, he brought a paella pan, about three feet across, Erker said, to cook up chicken and veggies for paella.

“He wanted to because presentation was so important to him that he wanted to come and personally serve,” Erker said. “He was just so thrilled to be asked to participate. That was pretty much the response of anyone we reached out to. It was quite heartwarming.” 

As for the other in-person events, such as the club’s upcoming passing of the gavel to the next president and an annual recognition event for members, the kinks are still being worked out.

The former is at the end of June and may become a small happy hour rather than a dinner with a couple dozen Rotarians, while the latter is in the works as a virtual event. Rozance is working to recognize the accomplishments of her members and those in leadership. Her dining room table is covered with envelopes that have the awards in them, and she’s sending them in the mail with a note to not open them until the event on June 16. 

“My challenge is having this recognition event in the virtual Zoom Room,” Rozance said. “That’s been a challenge for our people. But we kind of one-on-one help each other.”

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