John White’s report from the Rotary Club of Ft. Myers

On February 11, John White attended a meeting of the Ft. Myers (FL) Rotary Club while vacationing in Florida. Here’s his report:

At 159 members, this club claims to be the largest in southwest Florida. It was chartered in 1922. They have an Executive Director and rent an office nearby the meeting venue. Their dues are somewhat higher than ours. The members wear big custom plastic badges with stickers identifying Past Presidents, Paul Harris Fellows, etc. Like us, they seem to be big on helping kids succeed with mentions of RYLA, Youth Exchange, and Interact during the President’s remarks. They have at least one major fundraiser; a fashion show.

The bell rang at noon and the meeting was over at 1:00 but the buffet line opened at about 11:30. The price of $20 covered beverages, a salad bar, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, and two hot entrees; chicken breasts and beef brisket. Lunch was accompanied by piano music. Attendance was 50-60 members and about ten guests, mostly snowbirds. A Rotarian couple visiting from Mt. Clemens brought a flag to exchange. I hadn’t seen one of those interactions with a domestic club in some time.

The “main stage” of the Ft. Myers Rotary Club.

They started the meeting with “God Bless America,” the Pledge of Allegiance, Four-way Test and a religious invocation. They had several on-site fundraisers; 50-50 raffle, spare change bucket, Happy Dollars, and a fine if a phone rings during the meeting. They concluded the announcement of the guests by singing a cute little welcome song to the tune of the one sung by the Seven Dwarfs as they went off to work.

The President announced birthdays like we do but added the name of a celebrity or two who shares the same date. Very cute. A banner on the podium announced they were a 100% Paul Harris Club. That’s quite an achievement for a larger club (we are at about 50%). Beyond encouraging cash donations, they did it by sharing Foundation Recognition Points from both the club and its members.

The speaker was a Professor from the University of Florida – Go Gators! (Apparently, when saying the name of the school, it’s de rigueur to follow up with that exhortation). The presentation was on a major effort to establish an annual connection with every one of Florida’s 4,250 K-12 schools with a UF scientist (faculty, staff or student). The goal is to raise awareness of the plight of the Florida’s earth systems: air, land, water, and life.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the speaker was given a large metal coin with the Rotary seal on one side and the Four-way Test on the other. It looked like the ones we once gave to each of our new members.

Overall, it was a very interesting meeting with a bunch of friendly and welcoming Rotarians. I recommend visiting other clubs while away from home. You can find nearby ones easily using Rotary’s ClubLocator app on your smartphone/tablet or Club Finder on your laptop/desktop. In most populous locations, you should be able to find options for breakfast, lunch of happy hour.

p.s. I also went to church here and happened to see Elizabeth Payne, widow of our beloved Art Holst. She is doing well and has lots of friends in Ft. Myers. In the spring, she will be headed north to Columbus to be near one of her children. She sends her best to all her dear friends in Ann Arbor.