Thank you to the Rotary Members in District 5650 for completing the survey. Read more to see the resulting article written by Lincoln 14 Rotary.
Lincoln’s Downtown Rotary asks:
What Comes after COVID?
By:  Randy Bretz, Past President of Rotary 14
        Jess Rustad, Rotary 14 Communications
The news and our social media are filled with the joy of turning a page on the calendar, welcoming a new year with all the promises we hope it has for us. Indeed, right now it looks as though this next year won’t be as challenging and difficult as the one we just left, but as you ponder what lies ahead, there will be changes. Most will agree, there’s no going “back to normal.”
Lincoln’s Downtown Rotary Club, also known as Rotary 14, has already begun to consider what 2021 will be like for our organization as we enter our 111th year. The very first Rotary club was started in Chicago in 1905 so that professionals could exchange ideas and form meaningful and lifelong friendships. Humans need and want connection with one another. We’re social beings and we benefit from relationships. Charles Vogl, in his book The Art of Community, points out that “We know that social relationships have profound positive effects on our physical and mental health, longevity, and happiness. Loneliness kills and the quality of our relationships matter.” When we asked members of our club what they missed during the pandemic the number one response was that they missed catching up with people they met through Rotary. Put another way, they missed their friends in the club.
Rotary 14, just like the other Rotary, civic and service clubs in Lincoln and around the world switched to online meetings early in 2020. While some organizations may have lost members during the quarantine, our club has actually grown. In addition to weekly online meetings, we’ve conducted virtual coffee sessions, virtual happy hours and even a virtual holiday party. While our members have remained involved, they’ve told us that they’re ready to get together in-person again. We asked members what they looked forward to when we do meet, they overwhelmingly said reconnecting with people they haven’t been able to see during the pandemic. In other words, they’ve made friends with others in the club and they miss the personal connection.
While it’s clear that people need and want in-person connections and meetings, what we’ve discovered is that for those clubs which switched to online meetings there are some aspects members want to continue. When we asked Rotary 14 members about those things that we  did during the pandemic that should continue, nearly 80% mentioned the benefit of having guest speakers from outside our geographic area who addressed our club virtually, suggesting that this is something that should be continued. Nearly 70% mentioned the benefit of having international guests participate in virtual meetings. There are Rotary clubs in 140 different countries. Some members even suggested continuing to have a virtual aspect for club meetings so people who were ill, those who didn’t have the time to travel to an in-person meeting and even people who might desire a connection to a geographic area even though they live in another city could attend.
Eric Drumheller, Club 14’s President during much of the COVID quarantine noted, “I think our club members will be even more appreciative of one another. I also believe the pandemic has increased our awareness of how we can make a positive impact within our community and around the world.” While Rotary 14 doesn’t have a date in mind when we’ll be together in person, once we do meet in person, we plan to continue our Facebook live streaming and we’re talking about how to incorporate international guests in our meetings. In addition, our club plans to make use of online presentations to virtually host speakers from across the country and even around the world.
Rotary 14, ( as the club is known, is not only Nebraska’s largest service club, it stands among the largest Rotary clubs in the world. Rotary International includes 1.3 million members meeting in nearly 30,000 clubs world-wide. Rotary International is the only service organization with a seat at the United Nations. Because of this international connection, Rotary 14 works with clubs in the Dominican Republic, South America, Europe and Africa to foster projects focused on education, health, community development and improving the environment.