President Richard Jost

Rotary program year 2020-2021 was a time of stress for the entire world, and the Las Vegas Rotary Club survived with flying colors. What was to have been a year of Rotary opening doors of opportunity for all, the RI theme for the year, saw the COVID 19 virus slam most of those doors shut. When those doors reopened a bit, it was to a year of social distancing, facemasks, and virtual social and business interactions. Our normal weekly meeting had to be modified to limit in-person
attendance, and so we added a virtual “Zoom” on-line option to our established Facebook live stream as an option for members to stay engaged in as many of our normal activities as we could support. We were very fortunate to have many
members with the technology skills and the willingness to volunteer their time to make live and on-line hybrid meetings work. When our District was forced to convert activities, reporting, and-year end awards to virtual only, our club missed
out on the award that we would have won with no competition, the Covid Survivor club award. Richard Jost had the honor of serving as the club’s 98th President. He was able to rely on the extraordinary dedication and talents of the club’s Executive Director, Shawn Noorda, the tireless support from the club’s Board of Directors, and the always insightful advice provided by Past President Ginger Anderson and many other recent club Past Presidents to navigate the 2020-2021 program year.

While we could not go on campus to support local school students, we found alternative ways to partner with Spread the Word Nevada and the schools that we have adopted to continue our literacy programs. The Breakfast with Books program altered its delivery mode, but still over 8000 families participated and
over 10,713 books were distributed to school students. Marie Walsh was never shy about making more volunteer opportunities available. We also bagged up a
ridiculous amount of candy for our schools to distribute to their students who would otherwise have lost Halloween to Covid, but that is “sort of” within our
club’s mission statement. At the end of the school year, we could not host our annual luncheon awards program for graduating high school valedictorians, so
instead we sent each one a cash gift to be used at their discretion. We received, in return, amazing photos and letters describing their future plans.

With so much of the economy, and life in general, shut down for so much of the program year, it would have been reasonable to expect some shrinkage in a club’s membership. Our club crushed those odds and ended the year plus one in membership! The membership committee, co-chaired by Rosalee Hedrick and
Toni Kern, worked hard to make that happen, with a lot of help from a lot of members.

Local and international service projects took on a Covid theme as we supplied personal protective equipment to first responders and hospital workers locally and in India. Our hybrid meeting format gave us the opportunity to hold joint meetings with our partner club in India, which was an unexpected silver lining to the Covid cloud. We also participated in virtual events in Israel, where our exchange student was spending her year. Some of our social events went on-line also, including a well-attended virtual wine tasting set up and hosted by our club’s sommelier Tina Bishop. Can you believe that there is a Rotary pin for everything under the sun except club sommelier? Following our club’s signature annual service project, Santa Clothes, we enjoyed a virtual holiday party, complete with a trivia contest and a wonderful live band arranged by Jim Hunt. Anil Melnick, Janice Lencke, and their committee worked on parallel tracks to plan a live in-person party and also a fallback virtual party while trying to outguess the virus restrictions. Because of the virus restrictions, we could not have the children that we were shopping for at Santa Clothes present in person, but we nevertheless were able to provide holiday gifts for 360 children, the largest group ever in the 25-year history of the event. 133 shoppers from our club joined with volunteers from other Rotary Clubs in Las Vegas to make a 250-shopper army that was able to procure over $120,000 in requested holiday gifts for those children. The virus was no match for the leadership of Michael Gordon, Ginger Anderson, Jim Hunt, Tom Krob and Randy Donald, who adopted the NASA motto for this year’s Santa Clothes FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION.

Early in the program year we partnered with other clubs in our area, with a local non-profit that coordinated food distribution, and with a group of local restaurants hit hard by pandemic restrictions to pick up prepared meal packages and deliver them to the doorsteps of families in need. As in every recent year our 25 Club, a club for new members within the club, collected canned food for the Salvation Army to distribute at Thanksgiving in a friendly competition with the local Kiwanis clubs. Once again, we are the champions! Food was not all that we distributed, as an impressive, dedicated group of our members led by John Williams, Jim Hunt, and Russ Swain obtained and distributed multiple batches of three hundred wheelchairs to needy persons in our community.

In addition to our global grants in India, we also took on a global grant under the leadership of Karen Whisenhunt to provide rehabilitation equipment for autistic Ukrainian children, in partnership with the Rotary Club of Kyiv, a Lefler grant piloted by Jim Kohl to provide a hydroponic garden at a local elementary school named for one of our club’s long time members (as are many of the schools here in the nation’s fifth largest school district), and continued to make grants to local organizations engaged in childhood literacy programs.

We could not deliver in-person our quarterly Wetzel Awards to deserving enlisted personnel at Nellis and Creech Airforce bases, but as the virus restrictions eased slightly, we were able to host a cigar fellowship event at Creech for club members and on-base personnel that raised over $870.00 for the club’s foundation.

The year ended with the club’s bank accounts in the black and carrying forward sizeable balances for next year’s Santa Clothes and the upcoming club 100-year anniversary celebration project and the centennial party. In keeping with long standing club tradition, the year ended on a festive note when at an in-person party at Bob Werner’s home, our out-going president, a U.S. Navy veteran, was reintroduced to the submarine service in the deep end of Bob’s elaborate swimming pool!

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