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Local Rotarians do their part during the pandemic

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For more than 75 years, the Freeport-Merrick Rotary has lived by one motto: “Service above self.” And although the pandemic has hindered the club’s usual fundraising efforts, members have continued to extend a helping hand to those who need it most.

“It’s a small club . . . but we do what we can with what we have,” said Vice President Marc Rigueur.

According to President Florence Marc-Charles, the Freeport-Merrick Rotary was the first club in its district — which encompasses the whole of Long Island — to move meetings onto Zoom. The virtual sessions enabled members to discuss how to meet the community’s needs in the new normal, and also how to fulfill their own.

“It provided a forum where people could express what they were struggling with,” Marc-Charles explained. “It helped us stay together and allowed other people to join.” She added that during the peak of the pandemic, the Rotary saw an increase in membership.

One of the club’s newer members, Jordan Pecora, of Rockville Centre, joined because “It became more apparent that [help] was needed,” he said. “I was in a place where I could give back, so it seemed like the perfect fit.”

The club has focused on stocking local food pantries to ensure people affected by the pandemic can get the proper nutrition they need. By allocating their own resources, the Rotary made charitable donations to Long Island Cares’ Harry Chapin Food Bank, the Salvation Army Food Pantry in Freeport and the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District Community Cupboard in Merrick.

Back in April, members raised money to purchase 600 face shields, which were distributed to local hospitals and clinics to combat an acute shortage of personal protective equipment. Marc-Charles added that the club also distributed PPE to workers at Cedarmore Corporation’s weekly farmers market, which provides jobs to local youths.

The Rotary supports the community’s children in many different ways. For Christmas, the club pledged to help 22 children whose families have been displaced and are living in shelters due to the pandemic. Each child (aged 5 to 8) will receive a gift card to “buy what they want and need,” Marc-Charles said.

Rigueur noted the Rotary’s global reach, as well. This year, the club is contributing $4,000 to the Gyaboland Liberia School Furniture Project to outfit underserved classrooms. “When you’re a Rotarian, you’re not just doing good for the community — you’re representing an organization that’s doing good for the whole world,” he said. “There’s no limits.”

Through the work of the Rotary, “I have truly learned to love and appreciate the community,” said Marc-Charles, who lives in Queens Village. “Freeport has become my second home, and I’m happy that our club has been involved in so many important activities for the community.”

The Freeport-Merrick Rotary meets via Zoom every first, third and fourth Thursday of the month at 7:30 p.m. Those interested in joining can visit freeportmerrickrotary.org to find out how to become a member.