By John Hammer, Contributor

In days of yore, if you asked anyone about Rotary, they would say, “Oh, it’s just a group of old men sitting around smoking cigars.” That may have been true in the days of our grandparents, but not now, certainly not in the case of the Rotary Club of Charlotte-Shelburne-Hinesburg. In this past year, the role of our Rotary Club and its members has taken on a series of assistive and support services for people in need as the result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The gardening crew rested at Philo Ridge Farm after working in the CCS Garden, from left to right, Linda Gilbert, Susanne and Chris Davis, Keith Walsh, Carrie Fenn, Susan Grimes.

The gardening crew rested at Philo Ridge Farm after working in the CCS Garden, from left to right, Linda Gilbert, Susanne and Chris Davis, Keith Walsh, Carrie Fenn, Susan Grimes.

In recent years, many of the Rotary’s activities centered around specific projects such as building walkways and bridges in the wildlife refuge, a compost building at the Charlotte Central School or the Charlotte Beach attendant hut. The pandemic has added another important layer for members who follow the Rotary motto of “Service Above Self.” Food insecurity in Vermont has been reported to be in the neighborhood of 40%, and a major food delivery service has been created centered around the schools of the Champlain Valley School District (CVSD). This program, run by the district and supported largely by volunteers, provides full meals to needy students under 18 from the district’s schools. The service has provided 133,370 meals within the district since July when Rotary first began providing help to the program.

Scott Wagner, food service manager for the CVSD, said, “It was all about helping people and feeding people for us, and the Rotary Club has been right there with us as partners.” Rotary member Carrie Fenn has been working assiduously in scheduling support for those who have worked in the kitchens, handling distribution and even to the point of riding school buses that are used to deliver meals to families unable to get to the distribution points. Carrie, in her usual self-effacing way, passed on the credit to the program’s organizers. She said, “The CVSD food program runs like a well-oiled machine—from Scott on to the individual school program directors. Rotary members have been able to jump in and support the critical work of these programs for students experiencing food insecurity.”

Sherry Beaty, who runs the Charlotte Central School kitchen, and Linda Gilbert prepared meal deliveries.

Sherry Beaty, who runs the Charlotte Central School kitchen, and Linda Gilbert prepared meal deliveries.

The service continues right through vacation times, so that needy children are provided with healthy nutrition.

In other sectors of the food chain, Rotarians served during the summer in the Charlotte School garden, weeding, watering and harvesting food for the school. During Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Club donated their usual annual gifts of holiday turkeys and hams to food shelves in its three towns. This year’s needs have increased, and 26 turkeys and hams have been delivered through the Charlotte Food Shelf. This, plus substantial donations to food shelves and Meals on Wheels have rounded out this past year’s food activities with no end in sight.

Another pandemic-related effort was originated by the wife of a member. She is a teacher at Shelburne Central School and identified a serious need this year for winter clothing for children and families in the district. The highly successful drive resulted in a flood of donations in all three towns. Rotarians met the challenge of cleaning, sorting and distributing clothing to the school counselors who coordinated the identification and final distribution of clothing. The program will continue into the winter term as needs are identified. Special thanks are due to All Souls Interfaith Gathering in Shelburne for providing storage space and the Wash Shed in the Shelburne Shopping Park for providing free washing and drying machines.

 Susan Grimes (Shelburne), Linda Gilbert (Charlotte), and Chris Davis (Charlotte) socially distance in the garden.

Susan Grimes (Shelburne), Linda Gilbert (Charlotte), and Chris Davis (Charlotte) socially distance in the garden.

Chris Davis, current president of the Club and a resident of Charlotte, gave high praise for the support it receives from its constituent communities. He said, “A thank you for the generosity and support our Club has had in donations of winter clothing and funds even during these challenging COVID times and how critical that support has been to our Club’s ability to serve the essential community needs this past year and going forward with primary needs being food security, winter clothing for kids and families, and the college scholarships the Club is committed to support through VSAC.”

The Club meets each Wednesday morning at 7:30. Ordinarily you would find the meeting in the Fellowship Hall behind Shelburne’s Trinity Episcopal Church, but, as with so any other organizations, it currently meets by Zoom. Access and entrance code can be obtained by sending an email. Information on the Club’s activities can be found on its website or Facebook page.