After a full year of meeting via Zoom, the Brookings Rotary Club plans to resume in-person meetings on Tuesday, April 20 at 12 p.m. The meetings will re-convene at the Brookings Activity Center, although members and guests may still choose to participate virtually through hybrid technology.

The “2021 Reunion Celebration” will feature welcome back gifts, cake and long-anticipated fellowship for all participants, which will include masks and social distancing strategies for those attending in-person.

“Our primary objective is the safety and wellness of our members,” said Don Norton, Club President. “But we are hoping that by April 20, with increased numbers of vaccinations and continued masking and distancing precautions, we will be able to offer an in-person meeting option, as well as continuing to Zoom the meetings for those who have not yet been vaccinated or who do not yet feel comfortable meeting in person.”

The Activity Center is scheduled to re-open on April 19, and a technology grant from Rotary District 5610 will help the club provide the equipment needed to offer the hybrid option.

Norton said the club formed a “Restart Committee” months ago to explore options, but club leadership could not make any decisions until recently because of continued risk and community protocol restrictions. Then earlier in March, Rotary District 5610 offered pop-uptechnology grants designed to help clubs stay active and accessible for all members, and the Brookings Club was awarded one of the 18 approved grants. The grant, combined with club budget funds, will be used to purchase equipment that will allow in-person meetings to be “Zoomed” to those who prefer to continue meeting virtually. “We will continue to be interactive with all members, whether they are attending in-person or via Zoom,” explained Norton. “And we will buy all the equipment we possibly can from local businesses, so that’s a great way to help support our local businesses.”

Rotary District 5610 Governor Dan Little, D.V.M., who is also a member of the Brookings club, said the district grant funds were available because of limited travel expenditures this past year due to Rotary International’s precautions against travel during the pandemic. “Now those funds can be used to help our district’s clubs stay vibrant and keep membership strong,” said Little.

“RI has indicated that districts and individual clubs may make their own decisions about re-convening in-person, based on community and regional situations,” Little continued. “I applaud the Brookings Club for taking advantage of this grant to celebrate the opportunity to offer both in-person and virtual meeting options, and for cautiously inviting their members to make their own choices about how they wish to participate.”

Norton said that all Rotarians – whether they attend in-person or virtually – will receive a "Welcome Back!” bag with Rotary-themed gifts. And the club also has purchased new signage to encourage current and prospective members to celebrate Rotary’s motto of “Service Above Self.”

“Our members have continued to creatively and actively participate in service this past year, while abiding by community regulations,” said Norton. “Service projects have included food drives for the community and SDSU pantries, the installation of a Rotary clock on Main

Avenue commemorating our club’s 100th anniversary, and projects with the Boys & Girls Club, the Brookings Area Youth Mentoring Program, McCrory Gardens, the Brookings Arts Commission, the Brookings Marathon and more.” The club also continues to sponsor a student’s education in Tanzania, supports Rotary International’s global polio eradication effort and raises money each week through club “Scholar Dollars” for six annual scholarships to SDSU awarded to area high school students.

“The pandemic certainly presented unexpected challenges for us,” said Norton, who took office – virtually – July 1. “But after missing only two meetings in March 2020, Past President Jennifer Soma hit the ground running by launching the Zoom meetings last April. And we’ve never looked back. Our service to community and the world has never been needed more.”