Rotary District 6980 2020 May Newsletter

special announcement from rotary international

This past week the District Governor line received guidance from Rotary International (RI) on our Rotary response to the COVID-19 crisis. Some of this guidance was from informal text messages on WhatsApp from the Zone Directors. Other guidance is from the meeting minutes of the RI Board of Directors’ meeting on April 21-24, 2020. Highlights of the RI Board’s meeting minutes are attached. Since the situation is evolving, the RI position may change over the next few months, but we want to give you guidance that immediately impacts your planning and operations as a club as it does for us in the planning and operations as a district.

We are sending to you in leadership first, so that you can digest the information before you are fielding questions. This is already a time of transition in leadership, and it is imperative that outgoing and incoming leadership work together and be aligned. Our next steps collectively are vitally important for the Rotarians we serve and the communities that we serve. Rotary began in 1905. We have weathered many storms as an organization because Rotarians are leaders that follow the 4 Way Test and the motto Service Above Self. The six areas of focus guide us to think through disease prevention and treatment and economic and community development for our Rotarians and our communities.

After every storm, historians and statisticians show us that Rotary is stronger for its ability to evolve. Let that be our assurance that if we collectively think through our COVID-19 response now, we will evolve in ways we could not have imagined. The current guidance to districts and clubs from Rotary International is below. The full body of information that we received is attached since we all need to work together to digest this information.

Important Points for Rotary Clubs:

From Zone Directors via WhatsApp

RI is strongly discouraging all in-person meetings through December 31, 2020

Beginning in July, the club and district insurance policy more than likely will NOT COVER COVID-19 related liability

From the International Board of Directors’ Meeting Minutes

“The health and safety of all participants in Rotary programs, meetings, and events is of paramount importance.”

“No in-person meeting or event shall be mandatory for any Rotary participant who may feel uncomfortable attending because of the pandemic.”

“All conveners and organizers of Rotary meetings are strongly encouraged to consider all health concerns in deciding whether to hold in-person meetings.”

“All conveners and organizers of Rotary meetings shall fully comply with all health and safety rules in effect in that location.”

“Governors are strongly encouraged to use virtual meetings for club visits that occur during calendar year 2020.”

Due to the staged approach to lifting the stay at home order in the State of Florida, clubs are not currently meeting in person. Based on the above RI guidance, clubs are encouraged to suspend meeting in-person through the remainder of this calendar year. Clubs are required to follow local government health guidelines on in-person meetings and social distancing. Another factor to consider when resuming in-person meetings is that our liability insurance will probably not cover pandemic/communicable diseases upon renewal in July.

Since we will be meeting virtually for some months, we encourage each club’s board of directors to implement an appropriate adjustment to the dues/meal cost structure to reflect changes in overhead costs. We encourage you to be very thoughtful about your club's chosen projects and how you raise funds. Be sensitive to the organizations you support and your Rotarians.

It is fair to say that we will not return to our pre-COVID-19 approach to Rotary meetings and events soon. Therefore, we ask all clubs to establish routine, regularly scheduled virtual meetings. Look for innovative ways to maintain connections with the community and club members during this time. We do have evidence in clubs already that engagement is high when virtual options are offered. Virtual meetings will likely be more attractive to young professionals in our community.

Virtual meetings, while different from the usual for most clubs, offer some real advantages: reduced cost, no commute time, possibility of booking speakers from around the world, while maintaining strong connections with your Rotary friends. This reduced time and cost and enhanced flexibility should appeal to many that previously couldn’t work Rotary into their schedules. Please schedule your virtual meetings and speakers for the next several months and invite potential and former Rotarians to your meetings. Let’s GROW Rotary and offer the friendship, fellowship and magic of Rotary to our friends, family and colleagues.

We have been responding as a district to COVID-19 for several weeks with resources because of your generosity and the investment of the Rotary Foundation. We must respond further as our communities need us. As district leaders, we will help provide guidance as we work through these processes together.

Rotary International President-elect Holger Knaack recently stated, “Don't try to get your club back to normal. Create a new normal to allow you to go forward in a new world.”

Yours in Rotary Service,

Cindi Cioci, District Governor, 2019 – 2020

Mike Vernon, District Governor, 2020 – 2021

Rotary international convention
Rotary Youth Service Month

Co-authored by

Fred Jones, Rotary Club of Winter Park, District 6980 Youth, Services Chair, 2019-2020.

Don Harris, Rotary Club of Lake Mary, Youth Services Chair, 2020-2021

Q: What is one of the best things Rotary does?

A: Youth Services!

May is Rotary’s Youth Service Month! Throughout the month, Rotary members and younger members of the Rotary family, including Rotaractors, Interactors, and RYLA and Rotary Youth Exchange participants, celebrate the service, leadership development, connections, and FUN of Rotary’s programs for young leaders.

Rotary clubs channel their commitment to service at home and abroad through five Avenues of Service, which are the foundation of club activity. Youth Service, one of the five, recognizes the importance of empowering youth through leadership development programs.

In addition to reviewing our youth services programs we want to stress three main initiatives for the Rotary Year 2020-2021.

Our District Youth Services is a 501c3 Charitable Foundation

Our District had the foresight and vision in 2010 to establish a non-profit entity for youth services. We have recently changed the name to align with Rotary International guidelines and to incorporate the word “Foundation” into the name to help more accurately describe the structure of our organization. Our Youth Services is now “Rotary District 6980 Youth Services Foundation, Inc.” and the letter with the Amended and Restated Articles has been filed with Florida Dept. of State, Division of Corporations.

We will be emphasizing the Foundation this year and letting our clubs and Rotarians know that this is a wonderful choice to include in their charitable giving.

We will be working to help Youth Services become more self-sustaining via fund-raisers and charitable giving in addition to the present support provided by fees, Rotarians, Clubs, and the District.

We also want to increase the number of volunteers working with our youth. After you have a chance to learn more about our programs let us know where you would like to get connected with youth services!

What Youth Services does our district offer?

INTERACT Rotary Youth Leadership Academy (RYLA)

Rotary Youth Exchange Rotaract

Rotary Youth Exchange is one of many youth leadership development programs offered by Rotary.

For our high school exchange students, the opportunity to live with one or more Rotarian families in a foreign country is a powerful way to gain global understanding and promote peace. Through Youth Exchange, students learn a new language, discover different cultures and customs, and make friendships that last a lifetime.

The objectives of the Rotary Youth Exchange program include:

• Instilling international understanding and goodwill in students

• Creating positive change by empowering youth

• Making lasting connections for host clubs, host families, communities, and the students involved

The current global pandemic has had a serious impact on everyone around the world. The need for positive Youth Programs and mentoring is still as great as it ever was. Rotarians around the globe are trying to find ways to continue their work while keeping themselves and the students in the programs safe and healthy.

One of the challenges we faced this year was that our students that were already in the exchange program had to get back to their home countries earlier than planned amid travel restrictions. We started the year with 22 inbound students and 18 outbound students representing 17 countries. We presently have 8 inbound and outbound still on the exchange all of whom by early June should be back in their home countries.

We have recently received guidance for the Youth Exchange program for next year.

There will not be a traditional long-term exchange for our Rotary year 2020-2021. The RYE Committee is supporting a potential ½ year exchange beginning in January for our students. We have 7 outbound and 6 inbound signed up for 2020-2021. They may have the option to participate in the ½ year program if it comes to fruition or they will be able to withdraw with a full refund, or to participate in the 2021-2022 long term program. There are still some logistics to be resolved for the ½ year program, but we are optimistic. More details to follow.

Our Short-Term Youth Exchange program, STEP (also known as the summer program) is proceeding on a virtual basis with great enthusiasm from our participants. Our youth can still participate. We are accepting applications until May 15 for this program.

We need more volunteers involved with our youth exchange. We have a vibrant and very active RYE committee, but we need volunteers ranging from committee members to Youth Exchange Officers. We especially need help replacing two key positions. Lania Crouch has a new career opportunity and is retiring from her position as RYE District Chair after nearly 8 years of wonderful service to our youth, our clubs, and our District. We also need a RYE Inbound coordinator to help with the 6-7 inbound youth that will hopefully join us in our district next year. Sandra Prieto has been outstanding in this role for us but needs to pass on the reins. Please wish both Lania and Sandra well and we look forward to seeing them both at Rotary and Rotary events in the future. Please reach out to Don Harris to discuss either role.


Interact is a service club for high school youth who want to connect with other young people and have fun while serving their communities and learning about the world. Clubs, which meet at their school or other local facilities are sponsored by local Rotary clubs.

Our District Clubs supports 29 Interact Clubs. Traditionally we have our Interact conference in November. That may be delayed. Please make sure that your club is staying engaged with your interact Clubs as they are finishing their 2019-2020 school year and planning their 2020-2021 school year.

Please reference the four ways to celebrate Youth Services month at the end of this article as some ways to stay engaged.

Rotary Youth Exchange - Elena’s Long Trip Home

“Rotary Connects the World”

Larry Dolan, Rotary Club of Leesburg Sunset, D6980, FL, USA

In September 2019, my daughter Elena was full of anticipation and a little bit of anxiety as she prepared for her Rotary Youth Exchange in the country of Slovakia. Most Americans are either not familiar with Slovakia or confuse it was the country of Slovenia. It used to be part of what was once known as Czechoslovakia. After the Iron Curtain came down, it split into two nations: the Czech Republic and Slovakia. As an Assistant Governor for District 6980 in Florida, I have seen many youth exchange students return and most were just raving about their experiences. So, while my wife and I would miss her terribly, we didn’t want to stand in the way of her getting this unique opportunity. Through use of WhatsApp, we got almost daily briefings from her and we could see how this experience was shaping her character. In January 2020, we begin to hear the first rumblings of coronavirus in Asia. At the time, we didn’t think it would touch our lives because that’s a large continent away. Then in January, Elena went on a ski trip in the Italian Alps. Shortly after she returned to Slovakia, she had a bout with the flu. After four or five days she recovered, and we didn’t think much else about it. Looking back at it, we now think she may have gotten COVID-19. It was after that episode that we began hearing of the massive outbreak of the virus in Italy.

In March, the youth exchange officers sent an email saying the State Department recommended that all Americans citizens visiting abroad return to the US. This put us in a bit of a difficult situation. If we brought her home, she could catch the virus in the airport or on the airplane. If she stayed in Slovakia, she would be quarantined in her home which would detract greatly from her experience and she was at risk of catching the virus if she went out. Next, we heard from the US Embassy that it was closing on April 30. That tipped the scales for us. We did not want her to stay in a country that had no active embassy. We did not know at the time deciding to bring her home, was just the beginning of her saga.

By that time, there were very few airlines flying from Europe to the US because of the presidential order. That also meant very few European airports were still open. We finally found a Delta flight from the nearest open airport, Vienna, Austria. This flight would go to Amsterdam, through Atlanta, Georgia, and then on to Orlando, Florida. Well, the first hurdle to cross was getting her to Vienna, because they had closed the borders for security reasons. So, while the embassy assured us that they can get Elena across the border, they could not assist her host parent, a Slovakian national, who would drive her. So how are we going to get him across? What we did not know was that behind the scenes, the host’s Rotary club was calling the Rotary clubs in the border town at the crossing into Austria. They sent the mayor of the crossing town to meet Elena at the border. Even though he didn’t speak a word of English and she didn’t know any German, he knew what his assignment was: he escorted her at the border to a cab on the Austrian side and paid for her cab ride to the airport in Vienna- roughly a 45-minute trip. We believe that they chose the mayor for the task because he had the ability to get her through without being questioned too vigorously.

Meanwhile, we had heard reports that in the Amsterdam airport passengers were being scanned for temperature and anyone that showed signs of a fever would force the entire flight to be quarantined. Of course, we were praying that didn’t happen to her. I mentioned this to a member of the Leesburg Florida Rotary club, who is from the Netherlands. His response was that if that happened to give him a call and he would contact his brother. I asked, “how was his brother going to help”? He responded that his brother happened to be the chief of police in Amsterdam. Imagine my surprise! I told him that I hoped we did not have to prevail on his brother. But I appreciated that we had that option, if need be.

When Elena arrived at the Vienna airport, she attempted to pay the cab driver and was told, to her surprise, that the mayor had paid the fare already. As a cab sped off, she noticed that the airport looked abandoned. It was around 8 o’clock in the morning and she could not see a soul in sight. She started to become nervous because here she was in a strange city where she did not speak the language and it appeared to her that they had shut down the airport without our knowledge. She tried to call us, but it was around midnight in Florida. We were sleeping and did not answer the phone. She decided to check all the doors, found one that was not locked and proceeded to go to her gate. It was one of only two gates in the entire airport that were still open. As she got nearer to the gate and saw more people, she became less anxious. It was an odd sight to her though, to see this huge airport with less than 100 total people in it. She got on her flight with no incident and proceeded to Amsterdam. As she exited the plane, she found that they were indeed scanning people. Apparently, no one exhibited a fever because she was not detained. And we did not have to bother our friend’s brother - the chief of police . During her two-hour layover in Amsterdam, we discovered that her flight from Atlanta to Orlando had been canceled because there were not enough passengers. We tried frantically to get another flight for her, but the best we could do was get her on standby. Rather than put her through that, we decided to make the 6-hour drive from The Villages, Florida to the Atlanta airport. Needless to say, she was as happy to see us as we were to see her. During the drive to Florida, she said, “I was glad that I went, but I’m even more glad to be home.” Instead of the 10 months abroad that she had anticipated, she was still able to get in 7 wonderful months. Some of the changes we noticed in her are that she is more responsible, she is more appreciative of what she has, and she is indeed more worldly. She also has a decent knowledge of Slovak, although she is by no means fluent. My wife and I were on pins and needles until we got her home into her bed. After the mandatory 14-day quarantine required of international travelers, she has exhibited no Corona Virus symptoms at all. We still do not know if she already caught the virus during her trip to Italy or if she never had it at all. We are just glad that she is a healthy 17-year-old girl. This experience reinforced to us the value of what is truly important in life, and the huge value of having Rotarians, that we never even met, who stepped forward to help her when the need arose. We will always be grateful to them and we have come to genuinely see that Rotary does indeed “connect the world.”


As we enter the last quarter of the Rotary year, we find ourselves in a different world. Your contributions are needed more than ever as The Rotary Foundation has been given $25,000 Disaster Recovery Grants to each district. Our application is on the wait list as TRF has used the first $1 Million dollars to this cause. So please give to TRF now.

Please be safe and follow directions of your community. “Service above Self” our Rotary motto is so fitting for this time of our lives. Help your community and neighbors.

Congratulations to Bradley Giedd, President of RC of Altamonte Springs, and Thomas Weinard, RC of Altamonte Springs, for becoming members of the PAUL HARRIS SOCIETY. Sorry we cannot be there to pin your chevrons on. Paul Harris Society members agrees to contribute $1,000 every year to TRF. If you are interested in joining, please contact John Rabley, jarabley@comcast.net for more information. There are several options available for this contribution.

Be Safe

Thank you

Jo Weber, PDG


Rotarians in our district staying connected:


Orlando Fire Chief, Benjamin Barksdale and some of the the Fire Station 1 team inspect the 38 dozen “thank you cookies” from The Rotary Club of Orlando. The cookies were distributed to all the Orlando fire stations as a small token of thanks for the work EMT and fire fighters have done, especially during the Corona 19 pandemic.

Rotary Club of Avalon Park - Feed Firehouse 85 service project.
Bill Umansky the masked wonder.
2020-2021 training assembly
Welcome Newest Member of Rotary Club of Lake Buena Visita Lynn Roeder

The Rotary Club of Leesburg

Monday 4/27 the Leesburg City Commissioners proclaimed that May 4th will be UN Anti-Bullying Day.

We have moved the day to October 2nd if possible, because schools are closed now.

The proclamation is to Pledge Against Bullying (for their anti-bullying efforts) at the Leesburg High School and the Leesburg Rotary Club.

The Mayor of Leesburg (left top picture, sitting between the two flags) read the proclamation.

Hope to get the actual printed proclamation in a few days.

We are honored for this recognition.

Jim Rietz is working on improving the recording, so we will include this with the other materials going on the Aurora Space Flight in December 2020 (was well as the Moon Mission flight in 2022).

Below is a link to the youtube video that was taken at the Leesburg City Council meeting this evening, where the Leesburg Rotary Club and Pledge Against Bullying were recognized.

The anti-bullying is growing fast.

The Pledge Against Bullying originated with the Leesburg Rotary Club, about 2.5 years ago.

We are now preparing for the Space Flight launch at SpacePort America in NM for take-off and return of our stage ONE rocket.

In 2022, we are launching the Moon Mission flight from Cape Canaveral.

This is all a part of our Anti-Bullying programs in participating schools.

On Wednesday, we will receive a Letter of Recognition from the US Congress.

We are working with Blatantly Honest Foundation to get more recognition from larger Sponsors.

Other Rotary Clubs are now involved as well.

Kind regards,

Dave van de Velde

Rotary Club of Leesburg

Full Video Below

Short Video Below

looking for a speaker during these zoomy times? check out the options below!

A statewide project of the Rotary Clubs of Florida


Website: www.rotaryscampflorida.org


Rotary’s Camp Florida, a 501(c)3 corporation, is a statewide project supported by Rotary Clubs throughout Florida and is located on 22 acres of lakefront property in Brandon. Creating a “barrier-free” facility for children with special needs was the goal of Florida Rotarians, and currently the camp hosts user groups that support children and adults with Cancer, Muscular Dystrophy, Epilepsy, Tourette’s syndrome, Down’s syndrome and many other challenges.

Liz Fields has been the Executive Director of Rotary’s Camp Florida, located in Brandon, FL, since April 2014. If you need a speaker for your club, Liz is available via Zoom. Learn about the camp and the wonderful things that are happening and see the difference your Rotary dollars makes to children and adults with disabilities.


Executive Director, Dr. Phil Hoffman, 407-823-1393

Debra Lowe is the Zone 34 Senior Major Gifts Officers for the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International. Listen in as she shares with the Rotary eClub of Florida what giving to TRF does to Connect the World.

The Rotary eClub of Florida was honored to have Veronica Rocha, MBA of California speak at our meeting. She is an Analyst, Consultant, and Scientist. Rocha spoke on women in STEM

If you have any great speaker suggestions that your club has used please let me know! thevillagesrotarypr@gmail.com - stephanie

Just for Fun!

upcoming events:
The Rotary Club of Orlando is holding their “100th Year Club Meeting” on Tuesday, May 12, 2020 at NOON. Orlando Mayor, Buddy Dyer will present a proclamation and many historical documents will also be shared with the attendees.
Created By
Stephanie Fernung


Created with images by Antwon McMullen - "A beautiful timelapse shot of fireworks near the Chicago River at Wolf Point in Chicago, USA" • Yury Zap - "routine word watch" • tonktiti - "Copy space of tropical palm tree with sun light on sky background." • Pang Yuhao - "This is the day we graduated, with lots of feeling and lots of tears. We came from different country, different provinces, and this might be the last time we will see each other. I am happy that I met you awesome people, and I hope everyone will continue the life journey with flying colors. Cheers." • jojjik - "Panoramic autumn view of Strbske pleso lake. Calm morning scene of High Tatras National Park, Slovakia, Europe. Beauty of nature concept background." • Roman Kraft - "untitled image" • Jacek Dylag - "Vienna" • Frank Vessia - "plane toy over a world globe" • stockphoto-graf - "gold fish change move retrun separartion family teamwork concept jump into other bigger bowl isolated background" • Rob Sarmiento - "Courtesy: Mindful Of Entertainment https://whoismo.com" • Tina Floersch - "Colorful House Plants" • Eric Limon - "Wedding tent at night - Special event tent lit up from the inside with dark blue night time sky and trees" • Artur - "Text sign showing 100 Years. Business photo showcasing Remembering special day for being 100 years in existence" • IrisImages - "Happy Mother's Day Calligraphy with Pink Roses Over Rustic Wood Background"