Rotary Log for July 23, 2020
Zoom social time started around noon.
We were pleased to see that Ellen Labrie was able to join the meeting from her home in Rye.  President Jon Flagg made his appearance with an announcement that we only have 49 more weeks of him as President!  We joined him in the Pledge of Allegiance. 
He then invited Judy Ringer, the Judy Garland of our club, as Jon calls her, to share her beautiful voice.  Judy sang a lovely verse of My Country Tis of Thee.
John Rice’s thoughtful invocation gave thanks for the life of U.S. Congressman, John Lewis, who passed away recently.  May Rotarians follow his example of standing up to hatred and bigotry wherever and whenever they see it. 
Jon welcomed our guest Donna Lewallen who joined us from her sub-tropical hideaway in Dunedin, Fl.
Jon has introduced a new section in our meetings called “Who am I?”  The idea is for the 157 members of the Club to get to know each other better.  He asked Ramona Dow to tell us about herself. 
Ramona is married to Jerry Dionne – they have two daughters and five grandchildren.  But the real joy of the family is Tucker, their pug dog and master of the house!  Ramona grew up on Badger’s Island, Kittery, but has lived in Portsmouth for the last 45 years.   She retired nine years ago as Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Initiatives at Northeast Credit Union. 
Asked about her favorite unusual food, she remembers loving a sandwich of peanut butter, bacon and apple slices as a child!  She loves volunteering with a focus on basic needs, like food and shelter, and is an advocate for financial literacy.  During these Covid-19 times, she has particularly enjoyed reading and listening to classical music.
Ted Alex and Jon are selecting a date in mid-August to take eight Rotarians on a fishing trip.  Members will be able to sign up on a first-come, first-served basis for a three-hour early evening cruise.  Keep a lookout for an email in the coming weeks.
Lindsey Reid is collecting thank-you letters from the students who received Rotary scholarships.  She will share these letters at an upcoming meeting.
Dave Underhill brought us up to date with ACE training.  This is a master training program, set up by the Pinetree Institute, an organization that addresses Adverse Childhood Experiences.   Ours is one of seven Rotary clubs, plus the district, which donated half of the $60,000 seed money to launch the program.  We donated $10,000 to this effort, although there has been a delay in the launch because of Covid-19. 
Training will now be virtual and starts September 17th.  There will be 30 people qualifying for that training: 10 each from Rockingham, York and Strafford counties.  We, as Rotarians, have an opportunity to make nominations.  The deadline is August 10th.  Training is a total of 15 hours over a period of three days, i.e. five hours a day via Zoom.  There is also a short orientation beforehand.  Nominations can be sent to Dave Underhill at
Dave also clarified that there is no cost involved, but participants have an obligation to pay it forward.  It’s a significant commitment: each graduate must train 10 more people over the next three years.  Many in our club work in the health care or social sector and would qualify for the program.  Rotary is not directly connected to the program, Dave explained. The Pinetree Institute handles everything.
Next, Jon mentioned the work of the CDC, the Covid Development Committee, headed by Larry Gray. They will be making recommendations to the BOD as well as reviewing plans for the golf tournament and Christmas tree sales.  The TLC, the Thanksgiving Lunch Committee, is in touch with Portsmouth Hospital which has typically sponsored this event.  There is a lot of thought and background work involved in trying to keep these events going.
Marie Brownell, chair of the golf committee, gave an update on the golf tournament.  The date is Friday, October 16th at Pease Golf Course.  This is a big fundraiser for us.
Jon is looking for a volunteer to reach out to our members to compile a business directory.  The idea is to get a better idea of the businesses and professions of our members. This way, we can reach out to each other for help or advice when the need arises.
Next up was James Petersen, chair of the Program Committee who gave details of upcoming programs.  Next week, we will be hosting Jim Splaine, Assistant Mayor of Portsmouth.  The Governor of New Hampshire, John Sununu, has been invited to speak on September 3rd.  The committee is looking for speakers in August and is also wondering how we are going to host politicians in the upcoming elections. 
The current members of the Program Committee are, in James’ words, “The lovely Ramona Dow, the lovely Caitlyn Hassett and then the list goes downhill.”  The next three members are all attorneys!  Ken Murphy, Tony Delyani and President Jon.   He asked members to email him at if they have suggestions for speakers.
On the musical front, Jon thanked Judy Ringer for graciously leading us in song every week since the pandemic started.  In order to give her a break, Jon is arranging for some students from PMAC to sing for us in the next few weeks.  He will also arrange for some instrumental music to mix things up a little.
The next section of the meeting is a new one created by the President.  He asks someone in the Club to describe their Rotary “job”.  There are many people who work behind the scenes to keep the Club running and one of them is Senor John Rice.  John has been inspiring us during our weekly Zoom meetings with thoughtful invocations.  These takes a lot of time and concentration as he strives to make them short, to the point, non-controversial and non-denominational. 
John also edits the weekly Logs prepared by his team of “Loggers” and writes the copy for the district newsletter.  In “real life,” John is a real estate broker.  On behalf of the whole Club, Jon thanked Senor Rice for his work behind the scenes.
The program.
The theme of the program was the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the hospitality industry.  Our first speaker was our fellow Rotarian, Caitlyn Hassett, Director of Sales for the Labrie Restaurant Group.  She handles event sales like weddings, showers and corporate events. Because these types of events involve larger numbers of people, they were shut down immediately.  As a result, Caitlyn has been working tirelessly to handle cancellations, postponements and refunds.
When the Governor ordered restaurants, etc. to shut down on March 16th, the Labrie Group had to rethink their whole business model. They had to lay off their hourly staff and kept on a skeleton staff of managers at each restaurant.  They emptied their freezers and refrigerators and asked the staff to take food home.  They tried to help their staff as best they could, handling questions and helping them navigate unemployment claims. 
All appliances were shut down to save cost. They tried take-out service only.  It worked quite well for The River House where they prepared meals people could take away and reheat at home. However, they found that large facilities like the Atlantic Grill don’t create enough revenue with take-out.
The original re-opening date was April 7th, but they soon realized that that was not realistic.  Eventually, on May 21st, restaurants could re-open at 50% capacity.  But, instead of a staff of around 50, they were now operating with approximately 10 people.
With so few staff, each person has had to handle many different jobs. Caitlyn was taking reservations and guesses she was fielding triple the normal amount of calls. 
Getting staff back has been a struggle.  There are some who are making more money on unemployment, plus their $600 stimulus check.  Others have children but don’t have daycare and some are looking after an elderly parent.  Still others may have pre-existing conditions which make them vulnerable to the virus.
Caitlyn reckons that most restaurants are only able to operate at 30-40% capacity because of the need to space groups 6ft apart. The Atlantic Grill is at close to 50%, although they are keeping the backs of chairs six feet apart (not as in some cases table edge to table edge.)  The facility operates with very few staff, strictly adhering to Covid-19 guidelines.  There are two support staff on each shift in charge of sanitizing.  Everything is reservation-only, and AG sees full tables for dinner - lunch is more open.
The restaurant would normally handle more than 300 events a year.  They are down 80-90% with most gatherings for this year either cancelled or postponed.  At that volume, sales will most likely not cover her salary and that of the banquet manager.
Caitlyn ended by asking everyone to remember that those serving in the hospitality industry are doing their best.  They put themselves at risk by serving hundreds of people a day.  So, please be accommodating to the rules in place.  And remember, just be nice to those serving you!  It makes a big difference when people are nice!