MERIDEN — An influenza pandemic that killed at least 50 million people had just ended in 1921. It’s also the year that the Rotary Club of Meriden was formed, and members will be celebrating the group’s 100th anniversary with another pandemic also as a fresh memory.
The club prepared for its centennial year, which begins on July 1 although the group was actually chartered in April 1921, with its annual installation dinner at Violi’s Restaurant.
Members appointed Donna Ditrio as president-elect to succeed current president Leslie Kogut when her term ends June 30, 2022.
The club showed its grit during the year of coronavirus, with members raising less money but shifting their efforts into more community volunteering to help offset the reduction, said Colin Mahon, the 50-member group’s immediate past president.
“It was a huge accomplishment for this club. We were strong through this year,” Mahon said.
“To do it this year in particular is especially important,” Kogut said. “When you think about it, the pandemic probably brought us closer together.”
The dinner kicked off the planning needed for Meriden Rotary, a local club of business and professional men and women that does local nonprofit charity work and fundraising, including scholarships and donations to the economically disadvantaged, as part of a world-wide organization of similar clubs.
As part of the dinner, the club recognized City Health and Human Services Department Director Lea Crown for her outstanding leadership in the community during the pandemic and Michael Barker of Bloomfield, a longtime Meriden Rotarian who was lauded by the state’s southern district Rotary clubs for his exceptional service to Rotary this past year.
The club probably raised about $15,000 less this year than last year due to pandemic restrictions. Its ’80s night dance, 5K road race and golf tournament were suspended, some of those for the second straight year, Mahon said.
So instead of fundraisers, group members did hands-on labor. Their efforts included passing out grab-and-go bags for workers at MidState Medical Center of Meriden, candy at Halloween and Easter and donating boxes of food to the United Way and Salvation Army. The group also did a cleanup of the Girls Inc. property.
“We tried to do one event a month,” Kogut said.
The group also transitioned to online public meetings. Planning of events over the next year that will commemorate the 100th anniversary and also aid Meriden will commence in the next few weeks. The club seeks new members. Anyone who is interesting in joining Rotary is asked to visit the group’s Facebook page, “Meriden Rotary Club, Connecticut, USA.”