Suffield Rotarians are inherently social creatures and enjoy meeting regularly to break bread with their colleagues. We initially learned that 2020 would be a much different type of year in mid-March 2020, when we were notified that all visitors were banned from entering Suffield by the River, where we were holding our dinner meetings at the time. Soon thereafter we realized that our dinner meetings would have to be put on hold for an extended period. However, even more important than our camaraderie is our dedication to service, and we were determined to do whatever we could to serve our community, despite the fact that our fundraising would likely be (and ultimately was) severely curtailed.
Initially meeting only via Zoom, our first response to the pandemic was donating thousands of dollars to local restaurants that remained open and were struggling to make ends meet. The money was used to provide free meals to first responders, benefitting our restaurants and invaluable first responders alike. In April of 2020, our Packard Golf Committee began to meet and plan for the 29th Annual Glenn Packard Golf Tournament, unsure whether conditions would even allow us to proceed with the August tournament, but determined to do whatever we could to continue this tradition and event that so many looked forward to each year. Ultimately, on a beautiful August 14th day, in full compliance with then current COVID 19 protocols, 93 players participated in a modified tournament, with smaller and fewer teams being allowed. Tee sponsor signs remained from prior years and were provided to traditional supporters without cost. Registration had to be online only, with no money collected on-site. No indoor banquet could be held, but those gathering displayed all the usual joy of participating in a modified touch of normalcy. We are presently meeting to plan and organize the 30th Annual Packard Golf Tournament to hopefully be held on August 13.
In May of 2020, with masks being hard to come by, working with Masks for CT, a small group of Rotarians packaged ten thousand masks. Shortly thereafter, with many other area volunteers, all Rotarians, in the parking lot of Enfield High School, distributed the packages to more than 7,000 needy recipients.
By June we had resumed meetings, albeit outside and only weather permitting. We also continued our long-standing practice and awarded six scholarships to members of Suffield High School’s Class of 2020, students who had suffered so much disruption during their senior year. We proceeded with the scheduled induction of Rev. Scott Seabury as President, replacing Gail Demko, who had done so much to meet the unexpected challenges in her yearlong tenure. Shortly thereafter we also were able to induct a wonderful new member, Dr. Christina Fitch.
During the summer we donated 700 masks to the Suffield Community Aid (SCA), the school nurses, and the Suffield Ambulance (for use by patients being transported). Working with new meeting protocols, since September we have honored our outstanding Students of the Month, with the student and family either coming to the meetings (moved to a large indoor facility when the weather turned) or via Zoom. Although fundraising was dramatically affected by the changes to the golf tournament, and the cancellation of the famous chicken BBQ during Suffield on the Green, the club decided to continue its support for the Guatemala Water Project, which brings running water to a remote mountain community that had never had it. In fact, aided by individual donations by its members, the Suffield Rotary increased its support and donated $2,400 to the worthwhile project.
In October, we were proud to be a major sponsor of the Field of Flags orchestrated by the Suffield 350th Committee. And we are now looking forward to working with our Interact Club at SHS to construct a float for the delayed 350th Parade.
On December 5, as winter approached, we ran the 5th Annual Rotary Sand & Salt Program and delivered sand and salt to the residences of 31 senior citizens. In the final month of 2020 (hooray) the club and its members donated $1,100 in grocery gift cards for holiday distribution by SCA. We also received permission to “Ring the Bell” in front of Dunkin the weekend before Christmas, and with many of you donating, we were able to collect more than a thousand dollars for the SCA.
On the one-year anniversary of the initial closing of the Suffield schools in response to the pandemic, we acknowledged the work and dedication of the staff and teachers at each of the four schools with candy baskets and signs of appreciation. We donated over $4,000 to the Suffield Players to pay for an electrical upgrade of Mapleton Hall and contributed $650 to the Windsor Rotary Food Packaging Project for delivery of 2,160 meals to the needy in a local community. We gave $750 to Kent Memorial Library to support an after-school program for youth, and $300 more to continue our long-standing support for the Little League.
As we look forward with optimism to a “return to normalcy,” we are proud of what we have accomplished during these very “non-normal” times. And although I am most acutely knowledgeable about the efforts of the Suffield Rotary, I am keenly aware that we are not alone, and am confident that many of our other local volunteer service organization continued their work as well. Please feel free to write and submit article to publicize your group’s efforts, and let people know and help our entire community come together as we recover from this most difficult time.