V.P. Tricia Cummings presided over the meeting in the absence of President Dave.  We began with a hearty rendition of God Bless America followed by Reverend Allen’s always welcome and anticipated blessing. 

Tricia informed us of a cash register training camp for all those entrusted with handling the cash register for the tree sales.  Rumor has it the camp doubles as a weight loss program—at least for one’s fingers.  Who knew?

We were further informed about the continued remarkable progress with the Polio Plus program and a fund-raising drive headed by Ellen Labrie.  Over seventy club members have donated with more expected to do so.  Donations can be made up to December 31.  All are urged to donate as much and as often as possible to achieve the incredible goal of eradicating polio throughout the entire world.  We are almost there.  Rotary has much to be proud.

Guests were introduced followed by an announcement regarding a Rotary District seminar scheduled for Friday, October 4 in Elliot, Maine.  All are welcome to attend and hopefully many did.

Tricia next called Butch Ricci, who was a no-show.  Tricia remarked there will be a big fine, BIG FINE!  In the event this report is met with notions of retribution by a fine master whose name will be withheld, as the club president is immune from fines of any nature, equal immunity is bestowed upon the reporter reporting presidential comments.  If this isn’t a club bylaw, it should be starting now with a sunset provision taking effect tomorrow, no, better yet Friday October 11.

Dave Holden paid a happy buck and queried the club about what to do with a poinsettia that remains thriving almost a year since being purchased from Basil.  Amazing what a little Miracle Grow will do.

Ben Wheeler gave $10 worth of happy bucks--$5 for the wonderful care provided to his late grandmother by the Edgewood Center and $5 for the expected arrival of child number two.  Best wishes from all for a healthy baby.

Next, Paul Famulari gave happy bucks for the arrival of another grandchild and the sale of his house in a mere three days for more money than originally asked.  Who said anything about a recession?

Joanie Dickenson gave us an update about the wonderful progress being made with the Interact Club including Soup Kitchen volunteering and t-shirt sales.  Her colleague and new Rotarian, Cathy Edison, informed us about the Memorial Bridge Road Race to benefit the Community Child Care Center.  The race is scheduled to immediately precede the Badger’s Island Chili Fest.  Volunteers are needed and welcome.

Ed Mallon introduced our guest speaker, Mary Ellen Burke, who spoke to us engagingly about the “Discover Portsmouth” initiative located at the former Portsmouth Public Library.  Converted by the Portsmouth Historical Society, the building now houses a new exhibition that displays art and history pieces for the greater Portsmouth region. 

Mary Ellen began by giving us an overview of the multiple uses being made of the building including hosting non-profits as well as corporate sponsored events.  Discover Portsmouth is designed to be a place to create a cultural vision of Portsmouth that draws upon the immense enthusiasm for local history held by resident and visitor alike. 

As proof of the tangible effects felt by the Historical Society and the Discover Portsmouth initiative, she spoke about recent renovations to the John Paul Jones house and gave us a brief history of its flamboyant first executive director, the colorful Dorothy Vaughn—pink hat suit and all.  She also explained how Portsmouth’s uniqueness as a community is defined by its past—a very dynamic past with all sorts of diverse, divergent and convergent aspects including its Yankee background, immigrant influences, black residents, women, slaves and other groups that add to the city’s rich history.  Considered one of the best heritage sites in the U.S., Portsmouth will be celebrating its 400th Anniversary in 2023.

As an example of Portsmouth’s reputation as a cultural destination point, Mary Ellen told us about a couple heading to Nova Scotia from Salt Lake City, Utah, that took a detour to see Portsmouth.  There is so much history here, the 20,000 residents cannot possibly keep all their doors open, buy up all the art and fill all the hotels and restaurants.  As a noted cultural destination point, cultural non-profits contribute about $43 million to the local economy.  The challenge, in Mary Ellen’s view, is how to integrate the cultural activities into the community without overrunning it.

Since she last spoke to the club, approximately $1.3 million has been invested in the old library still owned by the city.  With its central location and renovated facilities, the former library venue presents the perfect place to showcase the many cultural aspects and local talent of the community. 

The many accomplishments and features of the initiative include Discovery Thursdays, a performance series featuring local talent each Thursday at 7 pm., a museum shop, walking tours that quickly sell out, the Gingerbread house contest, hosting guest lectures and speakers such as feminist icon Gloria Steinem and the one and only Tommy Chong of Cheech & Chong fame (assuredly not the same night), hosting non-profit events that have helped raise about $500,000, weddings, children’s birthday parties, corporation events as well as collaborative events with places such as the Warner House for Basket Day and the Visitor’s Center. 

Surprisingly, 40% of the people who visit the facility sleep in their own bed that evening.  This “one-stop gateway to the historical, cultural and artistic venues of greater Portsmouth has broad local appeal.

As with any non-profit organization, the Discover Portsmouth initiative is always looking for more sponsors, members and shoppers.  Sounds like a good use of a BIG FINE!  May Ellen informed us It is about half done—the bathroom is literally half done—so any support from Rotary or any source is much needed and most appreciated.

As the last order of business the 50/50 raffle was drawn.  None other than Bill Hurley won the whole enchilada!  The raffle plus bonus exceeded $900!  Sounds like someone is in dire need of a 1099—what say you member accountants?