For the past several years, the Club has written a "Year in Review" essay for our website because we want to remember the many good things that happened in the past twelve months.  This year, frankly, we are all having some trouble with the idea of remembering 2019-20; it is really a year most sensible people would probably rather forget.
 
First, there was the Kincade Fire in October, 2019.  It did not burn anywhere near Sebastopol, but at least one member's home in Windsor was threatened until the firefighters mounted a spectacular stand.  But, the fire led to an evacuation order literally at the same time our fall fundraiser, Tropical Escape, was about to start.  So, we forgot about the "Tropical" and just concentrated on the "Escape."  
And then there has been the coronavirus pandemic.  One third of our calendar was totally scrambled.  No more Friday meetings.  No more listening to speakers in person.  No more happy hours.  
 
But what this crazy time showed us is that we had resilience.  We did better than coping.  We did better than just staying on our feet.  We showed what a service club can really do for its neighbors and the community.  We found Zoom, which, in turn, meant we found the rest of us. We re-organized and planned what we could do to best meet the needs of our community. We took what money and volunteer time we had, and we put it to good use helping those who were truly slammed by the stay-at-home orders or the drying up of contributions.  Instead of making our usual community grants, we re-directed $30,000 to support local businesses and organizations that are directly serving those who are in special need.   We ventured out to help the Redwood Food Bank, and we even lent a hand to help complete the installation of the new Super Playground at Libby Park.  As this review is being written, we continue to work through how we can put "Service Above Self" for as long as the emergency continues.
 
The good news is that before the pandemic turned the world upside down, the Club was having a great year.  We rescheduled the Tropical Escape to January, 2020, and we grossed $113,000 to support education, youth programs, and community projects.  In fact, our fundraising was great this year for all the disruption.  Just two weeks after Tropical Escape, we held our annual Crab Feed. Over 550 people devoured 1700 pounds of delicious Sonoma crab, while listening to our favorite band, the Luv Rustlers, and looking at 400 entries from elementary and secondary students around West County, who participated in our "Crab Art" show.  On top of that, individual members gave over $58,000 to various projects, and Rotary International received an additional $52,000 from individual gifts.  In total, we raised over $200,000, despite all the challenges.
 
One great accomplishment this year was the Construction Corps.  The Sebastopol Rotary Education Foundation agreed to support the opening of a chapter of the North Coast Builders' Exchange's Construction Corps in West County.  The program exposes high school seniors to various aspects of construction with once-a-week meetings during their final, spring semester, longer meetings once a month on Saturdays, and a two-week boot camp after graduation.  
 
The SREF became interested in the Corp when it saw that the West Sonoma County Union High School District was no longer funding any program that would introduce students to careers in construction.  SREF recognized that such a program was important to the many students who want to head straight to work, or who want to eventually make some aspect of building their career.  SREF was uniquely capable of getting the job done.  The Foundation has now been in existence for several decades, and, over time, it has built up an endowment that is close to $1 million in value.   The purpose of that large endowment is to find large, important projects that require multi-year commitments - things that the Club and its traditional charitable foundation could not do given their dependence on annual funding.  
 
When the SREF Board was investigating its options last year, it immediately identified the Construction Corps as a perfect program to expose high school seniors to possible careers in construction.  There were already four Corps sites in the County, but nothing in West County.  To bring the project to our students would require a commitment of $35,000 a year for three years. SREF had the money, understood the value of the program, and made the investment. When SREF and the Builders' Exchange reached an agreement, both sides thought the program would attract somewhere between 15-25 students drawn from the three West County high schools.  In fact, when the program started, there were 27 West County students and four others who chose to come to Analy rather than one of the other Corps locations.  Although the program halted once the stay-at-home orders came into force, the Builders' Exchange is, as this is written, trying to salvage the boot camp for this year, and it is looking forward to re-starting next year.
 
Another major project the Club undertook this year was supporting the installation of a new Super Playground in Libby Park in Sebastopol.  The Club and the Sebastopol Sunrise Club jointly committed to giving $30,000 towards the playground.  The question was how to raise the money.  We did it by making and selling tamales.  During the spring and summer of 2019, Club members headed to Mario Ramos' lovely restaurant in Graton, Mexico Lindo, where Mario instructed them on the fine art of making tamales.  Thousands of tasty treats poured forth, to be sold at the Apple Blossom Festival, the Peacetown Concerts, and the farmers' market.  On top of that, Club volunteers have helped tear down the old equipment and assisted in the final installation of the new construction.  All that needs to happen now is for the coronavirus orders to be lifted, so that Sebastopol's kids can use this great new playground.
 
A final reflection:  If you read the rest of this website, you will certainly see how many of our programs and events were interrupted or cancelled because of the virus.  We hope that we can soon re-write all these sections because the emergency will have passed.  But, if it persists, so will we.  We have found ways to serve our community.  We have Zoomed our way to continued fellowship.  We may become a club that does not look, or act, quite like the old one, but, if so, we will come back more creative and committed than ever.  It is the Rotary way.
 
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