By Nathan Rizzo, Rotary Club of San Antonio, Texas, USA
I have been a member of my club for two years, but it was in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that I learned what it truly means to be a Rotarian. When my state of Texas went into quarantine, our club president, Brandon Logan, set up a ‘virtual happy hour’ on Thursday evenings. It was amazing to see all of the friendly, smiling faces of my fellow Rotarians. We spent an hour catching up; and then our conversation turned to service, and what we could do to help during the pandemic.
Our club had adopted a local elementary school, the Martin Luther King Academy, for the 2019-20 Rotary year. We had already created a Rotary Reading Room at the school to provide a quiet place for the students to read and do homework. We also made improvements to the campus through a program we call Kingdom for Kids. We knew we could not abandon the school during this time of need. When we reached out to the school principal to ask how we could help, her answer was succinct. They needed:
- Access to food drives
- School supplies.
It was in organizing an event to meet those needs that I learned about the power of Rotary. Our club had connection with the San Antonio Food Bank and the United Way. Within a week, we had a project confirmed and scheduled. We had offers of trucks, boxes, and anything else we needed to run the food drive, and it all came from our members.
Three weeks later, we had 60 Rotarians, 10 other volunteers, and staff at the school ready for our first Saturday delivery. The plan included sorting food pallets dropped off by the San Antonio Food Bank in the parking lot of the school, creating separate stations for individual food items. Volunteers would then drive by each station while other volunteers loaded the items into vehicles.
We had a well-thought-out plan. But then 250 cars showed up, more than double the number we anticipated. Fortunately, our club has so many outstanding leaders that we were able to pivot in a short period of time and rearrange the drop off site, repacking food to feed as many families as possible.
Each family received meat, vegetables, fruit, non-dairy milk, bread, flour, and other staples. Through our third distribution, we have delivered over 100,000 pounds of food to serve approximately 5,000 people.
I knew our club was more than just a “lunch” club but I was amazed at how quickly we were able to come together to serve our community in such a meaningful way. I truly believe that when Rotarians unite in a mission, we can do anything.