The Rotary Club of Sooke is staying connected using Zoom to hold meetings. The group shows off masks made by Rotarian’s wife Linda Ferguson. (Photo contributed by Rotary Club of Sooke)

Sooke community groups keep in touch – from a distance

Sooke Rotary, Lions Club hold meetings online to stay connected

Technology has proven to be extremely useful in keeping community groups connected and current during the coronavirus pandemic.

Groups such as the Rotary Club of Sooke and Sooke Lions Club have adapted their usual in-person meetings to a virtual meeting platform responding to physical distancing measures set in place by health officials.

And even from afar the groups are managing to find creative ways to keep supporting the community, and stay in contact with club members.

“Holding virtual meetings online allowed club members to stay engaged and discuss ways in which we can continue to support those in our community that are having difficulty managing these challenging times,” said the Rotary in a press release.

“Our weekly meetings via Zoom are well attended as are our monthly board meetings. Zoom doesn’t replace the benefit that comes from face-to-face meetings, but it’s a workable alternative that will probably be with us for a while.”

The group noted that despite the mass amount of changes in operation, it’s still working hard to serve the community. However, fundraising has been a challenge, and it had to postpone the annual Rotary Auction Dinner, the club’s biggest fundraiser.

“At this point it is unclear if [the Rotary Auction Dinner] will be able to take place due to the current health guidelines. However, in true Rotary fashion two new fundraising initiatives came to the forefront in raising funds in support of our community,” said Sooke Rotary.

The group has come up with a couple of creative ideas to raise funds, such as Roger Temple repairing used bikes and selling them through social media, and Linda Ferguson, wife of Rotarian John Topoliniski, coming up with the idea to sell hand-sewn masks by donation.

“What started out as a small project has blossomed into Linda and her group of sewers trying to keep up with the demand. So far, over a thousand masks have been produced and have found their way as far south as the State of Washington and as far east as England. Linda, along with other Rotarians and friends of Rotary continue to cut and sew in doing their part to stop the spread,” said the Rotary.

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The Sooke Lions have been keeping in touch, particularly by email while also using Zoom to hold meetings.

The group has also struggled with fundraising, as most of its funds are made by holding a concession stand or beer garden at local events, but this year all events were cancelled.

“We are very careful about where we spend our money,” said Brian Phillips, Lions’ president. “All our members right now are watching the area to make sure no one is slipping through the cracks.”

The circumstances of the pandemic has resulted in the Sooke Lions missing out on about 25 to 40 per cent of its funding, Phillips said.

“Our resources are limited now, but the positives from this has been finding different ways of doing things now,” said Phillips. “Getting a collective going, everyone has taken on a roll, and more people are brainstorming to come up with ways to support people.”

The three groups – Lions, Lioness, and Harbourside Lions – have all been working together to ensure they continue to support Sooke residents.

Phillips said the Sooke Lions are keeping their focus on children, seniors, or anyone who is in a vulnerable situation in Sooke.

The three groups held a flag waving for essential workers event, raising about $500 which was donated to the Sooke Food Bank. When physical distancing restrictions begin to loosen, and Sooke begins to open again, Phillips said the Lions are hoping to hold a barbecue outside Home Hardware to raise money for those in need or to donate to the food bank again.

“It is important to stay connected with our vulnerable in the area,” said Phillips.

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