Rotary Log for September 10, 2020
 
The meeting took place in living rooms, kitchens, offices and dens around the Seacoast!  In other words, virtually, on Zoom!  President Jon Flagg led everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance.  He then ‘introduced’ the inimitable Whitney Houston in a stirring rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner recorded at Super Bowl XXV in 1991.
 
John Rice’s invocation addressed the need for a sustained sense of faith, love and resiliency for those suffering from the pandemic.  He included a reminder that we all continue to be mindful of the needs of others.
 
One guest joined the meeting – Markus Schaaf, recently returned to Portsmouth from Amsterdam.
 
Jon encouraged members to get together informally during this time of social distancing. He announced an informal members’ gathering to chat and smoke cigars on September 22nd (rain date September 24th.)  Jon jokingly added that the event would not be held in a “smoke-filled back-room.” Instead, folks will gather on an open-air deck overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  Look for an email from John Pappas with details.
 
Next up, Marie Brownell, Golf Committee chair, gave a progress report on the upcoming Rotary golf tournament.  The shotgun start is Friday, October 16th at Pease Golf Course.  She thanked Don Chick who has graciously offered to document the event with candid shots of the days’ proceedings! 
 
The Committee is still looking for sponsorships. Marie asked members to contact businesses and acquaintances willing to step up.  The tournament will be open to golfers on September 15th. Dave Underhill chimed in that, so far, $14,100 has been raised in sponsorships.  Silent Zoom applause all around!
 
Jon thanked Neal Ouellett for leading the charge in obtaining sponsorships.  His own company, Living Innovations, which supports people with disabilities, is on the sponsor list.  Jon also mentioned the following sponsors:  the (second best) law firm of Hoefle, Phoenix, Gormley and Roberts, and Jon’s own firm, Flagg Law.  Past Rotarian David Yanovsky, owner of Exeter Subaru in Stratham, will sponsor the scorecard.
 
Jon had already highlighted August birthdays at a previous meeting.  Now, he took a step back in time to congratulate all those in the club who had July birthdays. They include Ted Alex, Pat Barbour, Steve Bennett, Caitlin Burke, Keith Eveland, Caitlyn Hassett, Dave Holden, John Lyons, Priscilla MacInnis, Joh Madden, Ed Mallon, Patricia Novello, Butch Ricci, Jr., Leonard Seagren, Cindy Shanley, Bob Smith, John St. Pierre and Craig Taylor.
 
Don Chick next gave a truly hilarious “Hysterical Moment.” He is worried that the pandemic might be pushing President Jon “over the edge.”  So, he started looking for clues and in a series of Zoom screen shots, showed us how he asked the membership for help.  The images revealed that no-one seemed inclined to respond. 
 
Undaunted, he started a prayer ‘vigil’ for Jon, with screen shots of people in prayerful poses.  Hoping to raise money to help, Don put up a shot of Dave Underhill offering to collect money in his piggy bank.  Fine Master, Neal Ouellett, wearing rubber gloves, wouldn’t touch that even with a long broomstick (impersonating a 10-foot pole). Neal even fined Don for asking. 
 
When Don went back to see Jon, he laughed hysterically.  Don ended his “Hysterical Moment” by asking us individually to decide whether the pressure of being president is too much for President Flagg!  There was lots of praise for Don in the Chat section.
 
In introducing our speaker, President Jon himself, James Petersen asked him to provide some personal details.  Jon is a native Mainer. He was born and grew up in York, attended Bates College in Lewiston and went to law school in Portland!  Now that his children have moved back to college, he and his wife, Polly, are alone at home again. 
 
Asked if he’d like to share a professional accomplishment with the members, Jon replied that there are “so many!”  One our fearless leader did admit to, though, was that he and Butch Ricci had recently helped an older lady in danger of losing her house to foreclosure.  She had a lot of equity in her home and the two of them were able to get it stopped.
 
Jon took the floor to present his ‘State of the Union” message – his 2020 Vision for the Portsmouth Rotary Club.  He has categorized it as The Three “Cs.”  The first “C” stands for Community.  The question is “How can we get the biggest bang for our buck to help the community in a pandemic?” He outlined the “Underhill Proposal” which still needs board approval.  This would be a scheme where members’ gifts to local organizations would be matched by the Portsmouth Rotary.
 
The Christmas ornament this year will be a depiction of the famous Portsmouth hot dog and hamburger joint, Gilley’s.  Instead of ordering 500, this year’s order will be for 1,000.  There will be a big effort to sell these. The money raised will go to buying gift cards to restaurants and retail businesses, helping those businesses affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
 
Another community-oriented aspect of Rotary’s work are hands-on projects.  One was recently completed at the Dondero School playground. There are others in the pipeline.
 
The senior luncheon will not take place this year. Instead, Rotary will try to organize meals to be packaged and delivered (perhaps with a little gift included.)
 
Ann Bliss and Betsy Scott are working hard to change the format for the Thanksgiving dinner and make it work.  We will not be able to use the church function hall as a venue, so an alternative is needed.  Portsmouth Hospital has again generously offered to donate the food.
 
The second “C” stands for Club.  Jon emphasized the need to keep the club healthy.  He believes the club should support itself, now more than ever.  Towards that goal, he is working on a Vocational Information Package (VIP) which would provide details about each Rotarian’s business expertise or areas of competence.  The aim would be to make it easy for members to call on their colleagues for business assistance.
 
Jon reminded us that when Rotary was set up in 1905, it was as a business organization.   The charity work came two years later.  Businesses are still the backbone of our club, bringing in money that can then be given out. We should be supporting Rotarian-owned businesses first.
 
Weekly luncheon meetings remain a problem. Approximately 45-50 members have indicated that they are willing to attend in person.  However, not everyone is able to attend every meeting.  The Portsmouth Country Club requires a minimum of 40 persons to make serving lunch economically viable. 
 
It is understandable that many are not comfortable attending in person, but we must guard against complacency.  We should try to keep things as normal as possible while acknowledging that the future is up in the air.
 
The upcoming golf tournament has been a major fundraiser for the club for many years.  Not only does this event bring in a lot of money, but it is also an important opportunity for socializing.
 
Christmas tree sales are another major fundraising effort, raising sometimes as much as $45,000.  For many in the club, the day after Thanksgiving is a special date on the calendar when the trucks from Canada are unloaded.  The question is whether we will be able to sell $30,000 worth of trees?  In typically optimistic fashion, James Petersen chimed in, “I’m here to save Christmas!” 
 
The third “C” is communication.  Jon pointed out that not enough of the general public knows or understands what Rotary accomplishes in the community.  Led by Communications Committee Co-Chairs, Nancy Notis and Susan Gold, Jon wants Rotary to become a household name.  He wants it to be on the front page of local newspapers. 
 
Jon will need Nancy and Susan’s help with social media to let people know that Rotary really does help the community.  Hands-on projects at the Seacoast Repertory Theater and the Dondero School playground should be publicized in the newspapers and other media.
 
James, in his professional capacity, has been trying to explain to people why it is so much safer to be outdoors than in.  His calculations show that it is dramatically different to be outdoors.  Christmas tree sales will still require the need for social distancing. To that end, we might not be able to use the inside of the trailer.  A suggestion is to have the cashier sit at the small window to the right of the main door.  Separate steps would be constructed for clients to reach this new payment window. 
 
Regarding Thanksgiving dinners, Al Lantinen wondered if we could organize more home deliveries.  Ann Bliss reported that she has meetings scheduled with housing authorities to see what can be done. She is also working with the health officer. We might need to find an alternate location where to conduct drop-off and pick-up. No commercial kitchen has been found yet to organize the food preparation.
 
Ben Wheeler thanked Jon for his efforts as President during these difficult times.  He said how much it meant to him and to others to keep our traditions and events going.
 
Pat Novello, who is comfortable with outdoor meetings, asked what will happen when we must move indoors.  Jon said the problem remains the same as meeting outdoors – there needs to be enough members attending to make it worthwhile for the country club.  Larry Gray is working on protocols for moving the meetings to the indoor dining room. 
 
Before meeting’s end, Jon was reminded that to encourage people to attend outdoors, he had promised a nice bottle of cabernet. Since the meeting was ultimately held on Zoom, a winner will be picked at random from the Zoom attendees.
 
Almost forgetting to invite everyone to recite the 4-Way Test, someone jokingly asked how much that fine would be.  The President retorted, “You can’t fine a sitting President!”
 
Respectfully submitted, Francoise Meissner
 
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