The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has impacted just about every local community and civic group. Health and safety concerns as well as federal, state and local guidelines have scuttled highly anticipated annual events and suspended much needed fundraising campaigns.
Often, these organizations rely on these events to fund charitable programs, particularly around the holidays, for less fortunate members of the community.
In a typical year, the Rome Rotary Club and its membership volunteer countless hours to hold the annual Rotary Canalfest each summer at the city’s Bellamy Harbor Park. In addition to bringing a fun, family-oriented event to the city, the Rotary Canalfest also is a major fundraising effort, providing the means for the club to engage in such much-needed civic events as its holiday party and giveaway for children in need.
While the ongoing pandemic made fundraising impossible, it also prevented Rotary from hosting its traditional party for the children at the Stanwix Veterans and Men’s Club, which features both Rotary and Rome Free Academy student volunteers helping to spread holiday cheer to the youngsters.
Undaunted, Rotary Club members dug into their club savings — and undoubtedly many of their own pockets — to purchase items for goodie bags for more than 60 local children in need. A host of club members gathered last week at the Berkshire Bank branch on East Chestnut Street to stuff bags each with such items as a coat, hat, gloves, blanket, games, books, toys and school supplies. Club members then set off across the city to distribute the bags to local schools where they would be given to pre-selected students.
Moreover, each bag also contained something intangible but no less vital — the understanding that people in the community care about each other and about making sure that those in need can still celebrate the season.
It certainly would have been understandable had Rotary and its members chosen to suspend the program for a year, and while that may have been a fleeting consideration it is certainly not the Rotary way.
Indeed, since its founding in 1905 in Chicago, Ill., Rotary has strived to make its communities better. As part of that effort, its motto since 1950 has been “Service About Self.”
We are proud, and grateful, that our Rome chapter is a perfect example of its motto in action.