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MICHELE MCKINNON: Finding new ways to give

Chigozie Okolie as been named the Sydney-Sunrise Rotary Club's Rotarian of the Year. CONTRIBUTED
Chigozie Okolie as been named the Sydney-Sunrise Rotary Club's Rotarian of the Year. CONTRIBUTED

Well, it’s been a bit of a topsy-turvy world the last few months.

When this year began, I think it’s safe to say that no one would have predicted what was in store, nor how profoundly each aspect of our daily lives would be affected.

We are now getting used to the new normal. In this ever-changing world, sometimes it helps to look for the constants — like Rotary International.

The Sydney-Sunrise Rotary Club has been affected by the pandemic, like so many in our community.

One of the first casualties was the Rotary Ribfest. It has become one of our area’s most popular events and one of our biggest fundraisers.

In fact, since its inception, more than $64,000 was raised for the Rotary clubs of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and more than $300,000 for both the Hospice Palliative Care Society of Cape Breton and the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Foundation.

Losing this major fundraising event was necessary, however, it will be felt by all Rotary clubs in the municipality. That’s why we are looking so forward to welcoming everyone back in 2021.

Our other major fundraising endeavour is our Play Your Number Lottery. In the interest of our collective health and safety, we suspended the lottery.

This lottery has allowed us to contribute to food banks in our area and the Whitney Pier and Undercurrent youth clubs, just to name a few.

The Sydney-Sunrise Rotary Club has been affected by the pandemic, like so many in our community.

About $500 was raised weekly, allowing the Sydney-Sunrise Club to give to many worthy organizations in our area. Naturally, the loss of this revenue will certainly impact our ability to give back to the community. However, we will find ways to do so. And, we are looking forward to starting up the lottery once again when it is appropriate.

Over the last several weeks, the Sunrise Club has been meeting via Zoom. We agreed to conduct research to ascertain where our available dollars should be directed for maximum impact in our new world. We are also looking at partnering with other organizations to ensure our resources go as far as possible.

Our club was still able to help out Loaves and Fishes in downtown Sydney over the last several weeks. First, by donating the money members would usually spend on our weekly breakfast meetings and by volunteering to hand out meals to clients at the door.

We also teamed up with the Salvation Army to distribute potatoes throughout the city and we joined the Sydney Rotary Club in a cleanup of Rotary Park.

We will continue to look for projects that will benefit the community, whether they can be undertaken over the long term, or done in a day.

Finally, we took the time to honour one of our own.

Each year, the club recognizes one of our members for outstanding service to both the club and the community. This year, we are very proud to honour Chigozie Okolie as our Rotarian of the Year.

Okolie led the mattress project earlier this year, providing free mattresses for international students at Cape Breton University. He was also instrumental in working with the Rotaract Club at the university, providing opportunities for young people to engage with their community.

The award is presented with sincere appreciation and recognition of distinguished service, loyalty and devotion to the ideals of Rotary.

So, in this world of change, (and make no mistake, some things have to change), we take comfort in the consistency of the ideals of Rotary, which is all about putting service above self. That is a nice way to build our community and our new normal.

Michele McKinnon has returned home to Sydney to retire. She is the chair of the Sydney-Sunrise Club’s public relations committee and is a proud Cape Breton Rotarian.

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