What to do in Rotary during COVID-19.


Looking for Service Projects and Things to Do During Covid Sheltering?

Many club members have wondered what service activities we can do during COVID isolation. Some have assumed that they will have to wait until the pandemic is over. Wrong! There are a number of ways that Rotarians can help their community, even while isolating.

Many of our service projects are now initiated through our new areas of focus—e.g., Rotary Climate Action Team and Social Justice Group--and your best way of finding out about them is by monitoring their minutes (see website focus tabs) or attending their meetings. Other club committees, like Supportive Housing and Education, have current projects. Some of our annual service projects, like the Third Grade Dictionary Project, are delayed until next year, but some are happening now.


1. Examples of upcoming hands-on service projects

Freon recycling project: Initiated by our Rotary Climate Action Team (RCAT), working with ESRAG, the project will collect old refrigerator units that contain freon, a greenhouse gas. This is a regional project, starting soon. Contact Ed Church, project lead, or Ignacio Franco, chair of the CAG.

Homeless outreach: Club members regularly assemble and distribute sundries, health aids, and sometimes food to the homeless in partnership with Solo Mio. This takes place several times a month. Contact Patricia Lewis to learn where and when to show up to help, or check with other active members on the Supportive Housing Committee. Other projects of the committee have included stocking the city-purchased trailers for homeless residence, preparing weekly meal preparation at a youth shelter, funding a mini-housing project for young adults in Oakland, and speaking up for more housing at hearings on proposed housing sites.

2. Work with Youth

Mentor a Cal Rotaracter. Even if you missed the mixer with Rotaract, you can still sign up to mentor. Check with Rotaract Liaison John Pardee. There were 70+ Rotaracters at their first zoom meeting of the 2020-21 academic year last in Sept, including many new recruits. Most attending were online from a home outside Berkeley, so the mentoring, for now, will mostly be by Zoom until COVID abates.

Work with Rotaracters in their planning and service projects. Cal Rotaract in recent years has had 250 to 300 Cal student members. They traditionally do a service project each week, do a general assembly every two weeks, and each week alternate committee meetings and team meetings. As with most campus activity, this Fall much will be by Zoom. There are roles for Rotarians who are interested in working with their committees. Contact John Pardee or Shawn Rowles about simply observing an assembly, as a way to start.

Mentor a scholarship student. The club provides a four-year scholarship to students who are first in their family to attend college, along with mentorship by one of our Rotarians. So mentoring is a four-year commitment. Contact Tina Etcheverry to see if there are current mentor needs.

Work with Berkeley High Interact Club. Tina Etcheverry has served as lead advisor to the club and would like to turn over the role. With online learning continuing at Berkeley High, club recruitment has been hard, and the number of students engaged in Interact has fallen. Contact Tina if you can take this on or would like to find out more. Currently, much is by Zoom gatherings. When sheltering ends, Interact usually meets weekly at the high school or YMCA Teen Center. Rotarians can rotate covering the meetings.

3. Help the Rotacare clinic in Richmond.

Much has shifted to video health consulting, but there still may be need for volunteers in translation, receptionist work, filing and reporting, meal prep for the volunteer staff, painting or fixing up new facilities, proposal writing, or fundraising. Check with Pate Thomson.


4. Watch for club projects deferred to spring

3rd Grade Dictionary Project: The preparation and presentation of the dictionaries for 3rd graders was delayed to spring, since the schools are mainly doing online teaching this fall.

Camp Tuolumne Restoration: The tree planting effort to restore the City of Berkeley’s camp areas destroyed by wildfire is scheduled to start in spring.

5. Get involved with major projects in the community

Volunteers are needed to help youth and families in the schools working with the Ed Hub sponsored by the Berkeley Public Schools Fund. Contact Oscar Luna or check the Fund’s website.

Submit your Census form and consider becoming a census taker. They were still calling for more volunteers recently, though the need will end soon.

Support the campaigns for the candidates or issues of your choice as a major form of community service in our democracy. However, don’t wear your Rotary garb while so engaged, since we’re nonpartisan.

Serve as a poll worker on Election Day. Contact the City Clerk in the town where you reside. Again, the need is great in many towns, and there isn’t much time left to volunteer.

Vote! By mail or in person, voting is both a community duty and service of major importance.


6. Get involved with one of the four new club issue committees

One of the major club innovations in the past two years are our issue committees. Most meet monthly or even weekly to discuss and learn more about their primary topic, sometimes bringing in their own relevant speakers and videos, or to undertake projects. The current Issue committees are:

The COVID-19 Interest Group, tracking the pandemic, the status of vaccines, and how generally to advise Rotarians on staying safe and healthy during the pandemic. It meets weekly, and the discussions are highly informed and lively. Contact Tina Etcheverry to get meeting links.

The Rotary Climate Action Team, which works closely with ESRAG (the Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action Group). It's sponsoring the freon exchange project (see above) and has helped to educate club members through a series of expert speakers. Members often attend both club committee meetings and the ESRAG meeting for the West Coast. Contact Ignacio Franco if you’d like to receive links to the meetings, or John Pardee, who leads ESRAG in the District.

The Supportive Housing Committee sponsors a number of club projects, including those mentioned above. Contact Joanne Dickerson-Harper to get links to their meetings.

The Social Justice Committee, our newest area of focus, is just starting up and is examining racial attitudes. Contact chair Charlene Stern to get meeting links.


7. Other Club Activities

Finish your requirements for the Blue/Gold badge. For new members, you can now complete the badge doing many of the tasks on Zoom. We don’t claim it’s as much fun as going to meetings and events in person, but it’s a significant way to increase your Rotary knowledge and experience. Check with your sponsor or Mary Alice Rathbun, Membership Chair.

Get involved with a Berkeley Rotary club support committee. In addition to service and issue committees, the club has many committees that support the club in many ways and make possible our club meetings and other functions. Many really need new members to take stuff on, so that all the work does not fall on just a few people. Some committees meet monthly (e.g., Membership, Communications) or even more often when an event is coming up (e.g. Social Events). Some get together weekly (e.g., the Program Committee that handles our Zoom club meetings; some meet quarterly or less often (e.g., Grants). Some meet only when there's a specific need and often through one-on-one emails or phone calls. Check out the Committees on the club internal website (Dacdb). If you don’t know yet how to go on to Dacdb, contact Austin Henderson to learn how. Once you see the long list of committees and check out what they do, contact the committee chair if you want to serve or simply attend a meeting to find out what is going on. There are important needs NOW for which people are needed, even if we must train them, e.g., more people who can run club and other Zoom meetings. This will be especially important if the club moves to "hybrid meetings" when public gathering is again allowed, but some members will still need to attend by Zoom until a vaccine emerges. Contact Austin Henderson or Joan Collignon to learn more.

Get training for your current and new club roles.There are online training videos now for almost every Rotary club function on the Zone, District, and RI websites. Look them over, spend an hour, and improve your performance in your committee work or role in the club. Veteran and new members benefit by regularly updating their training. The District 5160 Virtual Fall Assembly was held on October 3-4, but videos of the breakouts and plenary sessions should be posted on the district website. Hopefully the Spring Assembly will be in some hybrid version – allowing attendance in person and also by Zoom.
The Zone Institute for all the Western U.S. and Canada was opened for the first time the last year to all Rotarians, and will be held this year as virtual meetings on Nov.12-15. Look over all the institute training and other events on the Zone website.

Have an idea for a club service project or social event? Contact Grier Graff or Kurt Hauck (Projects and Grants) or Moe Orenstein or Arlene Marcus (Social Events) for information and assistance.

8. Rotary Beyond Our Club

Get involved with one of Rotary's many Rotary Action Groups (RAGs) or Rotary Fellowships. These have existed many years, and there are more than 40 of each. Check the RI website to see which interest you. For lists of both and contact information, log in to the RI website, go to “My Rotary” and “Exchange Ideas”, then click on “Discussion Groups.”

The Rotary Action Groups (RAGs) link Rotarians around the world, often have monthly meetings by Zoom, discuss their central issue, have guest speakers, and launch service projects. Our club has often helped found projects linked to the Water and Sanitation, the Health and Wellness, and the Peace RAGs among others, with members involving themselves with hands-on projects. You need to contact the RAG directly to join and get links to their activities, though some have websites to browse. Many club members belong to several RAGs, and I believe we have as many as 15 or more members in the new Environmental Sustainability RAG, so new it’s not yet listed on the RI website list.

Rotary Fellowships link Rotarians around the world who share the same profession, hobbies, or interests. Many have regional meetings by Zoom or in-person to taste and compare beers, share fishing stories, plan cross-country motorbike trips, work out home trades for vacation travel, discuss legal or professional issues, examine the latest health aids and practices in working with patients or family members suffering particular health problems, etc. Contact them via the information on the RI website.There are over 100 Fellowships and many members belong to more than one.


Get involved with District-level or other clubs' work projects, social events, and fundraisers. Visit other club meetings across the District, attend their fundraisers, or volunteer to work on service projects they’re doing. Your best bet is to Google the club directly, check out their website, and send an email asking for a link to their meeting or event. Most clubs are in the same kind of Zoom mode as our own club. But in less dense areas (towns in rural areas, some suburbs) there are still club meetings and projects happening in person with social distancing and masking. And just as we now get visitors from clubs all over the District and around the world, so too is that happening with other clubs. The closest clubs to us are the BARSHEEP clubs along the I-80 corridor, or the clubs along I-24. We have an ongoing partnership with the BARSHEEP clubs. Check out their clubs' websites periodically or contact Grier Graff, who is currently the most knowledgeable of what each club does as Assistant Governor for the BARSHEEP area. President Chris Ahoy is another good contact, since the BARSHEEP club presidents meet monthly.

Volunteer for District service. We have several club members who are involved in or even lead District-level work. If you are interested in helping, contact the club member listed below or look up the committee chair in the District website or directory.

Coordinating and assisting the BARSHEEP Rotary clubs along the I-80 corridor (Grier Graff, Beth Roessler), advising and monitoring Rotaract across the district (John Pardee), coordinating and linking the high-school-based youth programs--Interact, the youth camps, and Youth Exchange (Rebecca Phuong, Fred Collignon, organizing Rotary alumni outreach (Fred Collignon), working with the Chinese Embassy (Mary Alice Rathbun), Foundation fundraising (Larry Goldenberg, Fred Collignon), working with the District website (Austin Henderson), nominating future Governors (Tina Etcheverry), Training (Tina Etcheverry, others as asked), overseeing District finances (until recently Fred Collignon). There are also roles mentoring Global Fellows at UCB, serving as a Sgt-at-Arms, doing registration for District events, and so on. 

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Upcoming Speakers

 Sep 15, 2021
   Doug Fielding, Former Owner/President, Charcoal Companion Group
   "America vs. China: Who Will Be the Loser in This Economic War?"

List all past speakers