By Bob Hyde, Rotary Club of Miami Brickell and Miami Brickell Passport,  Florida, USA

Marcy Ullom

About two years ago, Marcy Ullom and her husband sold their longtime home in Miami and relocated to Brevard County, Florida. That took Marcy away from her Rotary Club of Miami Brickell, but also well above District 6990’s northern boundary. She attended a few club meetings near her new home, but “nothing clicked” and she “missed her peeps.” She considered what to do.

With the COVID-19 pandemic at its height, many clubs had switched to meeting virtually – including Miami Brickell. Marcy began thinking about the benefits of virtual meetings, and an idea sprang up. With a few more Brickell Rotarians, she began an informal, weekly Zoom gathering. The nucleus of a new Rotary Club had come into being.

After meeting unofficially for a while, the members of that small nucleus got the idea to found a new club. Someone suggested creating a satellite of the Miami Brickell Club under Rotary’s “Passport” designation. The Brickell Club accepted the proposal on 1 July 2021, and the district soon followed. The newly christened Miami Brickell Passport Satellite Club, now known less formally as the Rotary Club of South Florida Passport, held its celebratory installation breakfast online on 24 August 2021. Charter President Antonio Piniheiro served as chair.

The benefits of meeting virtually soon bore fruit, with speakers from around the world visiting the new club. RI President-elect R. Gordon R. McInally spoke to the club from Edinburgh, Scotland, and Past District Governor Lynette Stassen joined another meeting from Cape Town, South Africa. Rotary Club of Lviv International Past President James Joerimin was the speaker on another day, taking part from New Jersey (of all places!). During his official visit in late July 2022, District 6990 Governor Michael Kesti thanked club members for their enthusiasm and praised their early success.

One sign of that success is the $25,000 Disaster Response Grant the club secured from The Rotary Foundation to purchase water purification tablets for the people of Ukraine. Club member Larry Siegel formed a relationship with the Rotary Club of Lviv International and followed up on every detail of the grant process. When the grant was announced, club members gave Larry a standing ovation – no small achievement in a virtual meeting!

Led by President Catherine Yaque of Seville, Spain, the club has a diverse mix of veteran Rotarians and (much) younger graduates of Rotary Youth Exchange. A typical meeting involves members from a variety of countries – Brazil, Croatia, Belgium, Spain, Australia – and features lively discussions that bridge the club’s generation gap (and occasional linguistic ones). Visiting Rotarians have praised the club for breaking away from the traditional “meet, greet, and eat” format and stressing Rotary’s service essentials.

Rotary International has set a high priority on increasing diversity and inclusion in membership and bringing in younger leaders, especially under President Jennifer Jones. District 6990’s satellite passport club represents a tiny snapshot of Rotary’s future and proves that future is bright indeed.

Download a guide to passport clubs and check out other membership resources to learn more about flexible club formats.