President's Diary

Year Summary 2020-2021


AGM President’s report 2020-21


This year was dominated by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the series of Government lockdowns restricting Rotary meetings and face-to-face service activities.


The biggest concern on Portland in the Summer of 2020, was the ongoing struggle many families experienced due to job losses caused by the Pandemic. At the end of June going into July the Club gave £500, our second £500 donation to the Portland Food Bank. In July we also gave a donation of £500 to Life Education, targeting St Georges’ Primary School and Atlantic Academy to fund the schools’ young people’s health programmes and drug avoidance schemes.


As light relief we had fascinating talk from Rotarian Richard Jones about being an expat in Thailand, and I attended a midnight international Rotary handover and Rotaract Zoom meeting with the Clubs of Ica South in Peru.


In August Kim Wilcocks the Chief Executive Officer of Island Community Action and volunteer Shan Litgens, spoke to us about the impact on families incomes of the pandemic on the Island. A donation of £500 was given towards their work. This was in addition to another £500 grant, approved by District in March 2021 for a digital advertising event screen in the ICA office window.


The Club also approved donations of £100 to all the groups booked to attend the Easton “Table Top Sales”; the sales were cancelled due to the Pandemic.


During August we lobbied Portland Town Council to gain final permission for a Rotary Welcome to Portland sign in Victoria Square. I wrote a long letter outlining all the permissions we had already gained for the Rotary Welcome to Portland sign. Permission was granted with the help of Cllr Sue Cocking who lead the vote of the Town Council in our support.


In August I should like to thank the Youth Committee who arranged for a £250 donation towards the Portland Youth Football team, and then set-up the Kid’s Out Christmas Toy Box appeal that went out at Christmas to local women’s and children’s refuges.


September was when we welcomed President Tom Griffin, the current President of Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland to our Zoom meeting.  President Tom, a Scotsman, talked about the epic task to resurrect Rotary in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic. And he admits to mixed feelings. “The difficulty is, we don’t know what is going to happen,” he reflected. “Yet, the numbers of volunteers coming forward to help with COVID-19 is what we should be tapping into.” He saw the adoption of online Rotary meetings as a revolution, bringing a new flexibility and informality to Club meetings. His target is to recruit new Clubs, “new satellite clubs, sponsored by traditional clubs, predominantly online, for millennials.”  He went on to highlight the selling points of Rotary to these new Clubs: firstly, Rotary takes the hassle out of volunteering, secondly, you can be part of a local community and also part of something very much bigger, with the opportunity to network throughout the world. It was one of the largest Club meeting this year, joined by a large number of Rotarians from around District 1200: District Governor Rory O’Donnell, District Governor Elect Michael Fernando, a large contingent from the Casterbridge Club, and members from Poundbury, Bridport, Melcombe Regis and Weymouth Clubs.


During September the continuing impact of the global pandemic meant our September French Exchange was put on hold, as was the planned visit from our Peruvian Rotary friends, and then we heard about how in Nepal the Club’s Water Supply Project had faltered due to Covid and the extremely heavy monsoon rains. We work in Nepal in collaboration with the Okle Village Trust and the Rotary Club of Casterbridge.


In October Janet was busy organising a Rotary competition for Portlanders: to make a Guy Fawkes and place it in front of your house. I hugely enjoyed judging this competition, it was the great fun and a big thank you must go to Andrew who organised the Hull Gregson and Hull sponsorship of the prize.


October’s highlight was assisting Portland’s “drive flu” service, traffic was marshalled by Portland Rotary keeping the flow moving, delivering 1,800 vaccines in one day. This was one of the largest mass flu inoculation events held in the UK, so thanks to everyone who helped out. It was a great success, made memorable simply because we actually met-up in person. I understand alcohol may have involved after the event, to help warm up!


We have also arranged for another donation of £500 to go to the Portland Food Bank, made possible by a Rotary District match funding. A thank you must go to our Rotary District team for releasing Rotary funding, and of course our Club treasurer Bruce, for arranging all this for us and sending off the funds.


In November thanks must go to Keith for organising another Rotary superstar to our Zoom Meeting: the 2019/2020 President of Rotary International Mark Maloney. Speaking to us from lockdown in New York, he lives in Decatur, Alabama, but was visiting family in NY. Past President Mark told us he travelled extensively during his presidential year, although lockdown hit in the final months.  His last appointment in London before lockdown was to represent Rotary attending the annual Commonwealth Service St Pauls Cathedral, along with the Royal family.


Rotarian Steve Cartwright, the RiBI national organiser of KidsOut zoomed in and spoke to us about Rotary’s Christmas Toy-Box initiative. The KidsOut fun and happiness charity has for many years helped children experiencing difficulties.  Depressingly, we have had to cancel this year’s Children’s Christmas Party on Portland, as well as the annual Santa Sleigh visits, and our annual fund-raising activities at Tesco’s, all due to Covid-19 restrictions.


I also enjoyed presenting the donation to CoastWatch at the Portland Bill watch station, organised by Ian’s Porthole Christmas greetings donations. Thank you Ian, and in particular thank you for editing Porthole this year, it’s a wonderful newsletter for the Club.


Last in 2020, but not least we welcomed Val McGowen as a new member to our club, who promptly stole the show, literally, playing a key role in our Christmas Zoom pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk. The best joke of the evening came from Chrissy who was the brown cow.


Then in the New Year Yorkshireman and Rotarian Mike Storr, entertained us with the story of eminent Music Hall entertainers, a donation to Asthma UK followed.


During January and February, I should like to thank Jayne for co-ordinating the collection of laptops for Atlantic Academy, and the Youth Committee in support of the young people on the Island.  We zoomed with youth workers Lisa Osborn and Debbie Warren from the Portland Drop-In centre, who spoke to us about their work running an imaginative youth club at the Community Hub, Fortuneswell. Targeting 135 young people, Lisa described how they have been doing doorstep drop-ins during the pandemic. Over Christmas, with the help of Portland Rotary, they had also delivered secret Santa presents. In response, the Youth committee will be devising a strategy of support for this very worthwhile organisation.


On February 23rd we celebrated Rotary’s 116th Birthday, and I should like to thank Sarah for setting up a Portland Rotary funded lightshow on Weymouth’s Pavilion Theatre. In fact, the Rotary colours, yellow and blue stripes lit up the theatre all week. Sarah also persuaded our neighbours, the Melcombe Regis Rotary Club to add to our donation in support of Weymouth Pavilion.


I should also like to thank Janet for her brilliant expertise running the Club’s Facebook, which has developed during the pandemic, and we are now selling items on Facebook’s “Marketplace” and giving to Rotary good causes. The money raised has so far gone to Rotary’s Foundation.


Another major Club player is Mark, thank you for the excellent running and revamping of the Club’s website. The website reveals our history and all the fun and good times we have had together over the years. It illustrates what Rotary is all about, and how we as Rotarians gain so much more when we go out and help others.


March is the month Rotary highlights the progress of the End Polio Now campaign, which started over 30 years ago. I’d like to thank Keith again, our esteemed Club founder and District Polio Champion for an absolutely riveting presentation, describing Rotary’s world beating vaccination campaign and how close we are to eradicating Polio.


Another inspiring speaker in March was Lewis Hybell, a multigenerational Portlander who started the Portland Rocklings. He spoke to us about his Rocklings project which supports struggling families who need help providing family Birthday presents for children up to sixteen years old. Recently they have also been very busy delivering old laptops to the students at Atlantic Academy.


We also Zoomed with PHF Jo Shannon, responsible for the development aid project Tools For Self Reliance targeting sustainable development through the provision of good quality hand tools. TFSR aims to provide tools to kick-start small businesses throughout several African countries.


During the pandemic Zoom District Assemblies, we voted twice for more District money to be made available to Clubs as grants to support communities during lockdown. It has to be said the March highlight was District Governor Rory’s Virtual Zoom District Conference, a jamboree of films, workshops and live talks, aimed to highlight the work of Rotarians together across the District, sharing all our latest “do-goodery”. Interestingly, Zoom meetings have strengthened and increased the numbers of Rotarians participating in District meetings for obvious reasons: during the pandemic we no longer had to travel over an hour to Shepton Mallett for a District meeting. 


In April, Margaret and I investigated whether the Aqua Hotel will be Covid-Safe and ready for the end of lockdown and a return to face-to-face meetings, later in the Summer. We Zoomed with Martin Grigston, the new Aqua Hotel manager who is redecorating our Castle Restaurant meeting venue.


As a consequence, the Club was given the opportunity to air our views and vote for the preferred Club meeting format after lockdown, when we break away from Zoom. The majority of the Club went for the continuation of a two-course meal meeting.  There was also a majority vote to continue one Zoom meeting per month and for all the remaining Tuesday meetings to be held at the Aqua each month. Week I will continue as either a virtual committee meeting (Zoom, Facetime etc) or House Meeting for Committee Meetings and a 7:15pm Tuesday Zoom Council Meeting. Of course, we shall review this in time, so let’s see how it works out for us.


It has been a year to remember for all the wrong reasons. But it has remained an honour and a privilege to have served the Club this year, notwithstanding the grimness of imposed isolation, curtailed Rotary events, eroding the edges of our Rotary service, comradery and fellowship.


However, I should like to thank Garry for continuing as our Chief Zoom Operator, Peter for keeping the Rotary diary going - a light in the lockdown, Bruce, our Club treasurer, Celia for keeping our Club going as our President Elect next year, and a huge thank you to everyone for still being here.


And finally, I should like to tell you a little about my plans for the future:

Barrie, my partner in crime has purchased a world map which is on the wall in the kitchen, he then gave me a dart and said, “Throw this and wherever it lands—that’s where we’re going when this pandemic ends.” Turns out, we’re spending two weeks behind the fridge.



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