It’s the end of another year — the Rotary Year! Our years run from July 1 until June 30, when new presidents and boards assume leadership of local clubs, governors begin to lead their districts, and a new president of Rotary International starts his or her year of service under their theme for the year.

The theme for Rotary year 2021-22 is “Serve To Change Lives.” It pretty much sums up Rotary’s mission of Service Above Self. Our Rotary Club of Marathon turns 60 years old this year, and we’re excited about the year gone by as well as the new Rotary year ahead.

Local Realtor Sam Williams served as president throughout the pandemic lockdown and our gradual reopening. He has done a stellar job guiding our club through what could have been a much more difficult year. His goal of attracting new members provided our club a shot in the arm, and we have several new younger members to provide some fresh energy alongside some of us old-timers.

Additionally, as many nonprofits have struggled raising funds during this trying year, our club has thrived with a successful golf tournament and a record-breaking upcoming July 4th celebration. A large majority of the money we raise goes to scholarships — for the past few years, we’ve given $45,000 a year to local students for their higher education, including sponsoring a complete full-ride Take Stock in Children Scholarship for a deserving Marathon High School graduate. We’ve been able to do that even through the pandemic year thanks to wise money management and the generosity of our community.

Our biggest fundraiser each year is our Independence Day Celebration at Sombrero Beach. In cooperation with the City of Marathon, the Rotary Club serves up burgers, dogs, beer, water and soda to all who come to our “little community party” at the beach. Because of generous sponsorships from local businesses and individuals, all money raised (including the vast majority of sponsor dollars) goes directly to our scholarship fund. We ask you to leave the coolers at home and come hungry and thirsty — buy a burger, send a kid to college!

Other fundraising events we do throughout a normal year are our golf tournament, co-sponsoring the Best of Marathon Awards with this newspaper, assisting with beer and wine sales at Key Colony Beach Day, and raffling off a “chest of cheer” at the Seafood Festival. As we get closer to resuming normal, you’ll see a lot of Rotarians volunteering time and talents to these events. We work with our high school’s InterAct Club to help clean Coco Plum Beach. And we’ll be serving beer at the upcoming Florida Keys BrewBQ July 17-18, so please be generous with your tips to your beer servers!

Our Rotary Club is also working with the city to upgrade and improve Rotary Children’s Park at the top of 75th Street. Marathon Rotary spearheaded the effort to create and build the park, and we look forward to volunteering in its recreation and rebirth during the city’s next fiscal year.

One of the main reasons people become Rotarians is that our club really is fun! In addition to the knowledge that as a Rotarian you’re giving back to our community, our weekly meetings really are a hoot. We have a fun and diverse group of people of different ages from different walks of life, and we enjoy these meetings. During the pandemic year, we met mostly via Zoom. Beginning in July, our club returns to live in-person meetings. During July, we’ll meet at the Hampton Inn here in Marathon — each Wednesday at noon.

Our incoming president is local broadband guru Duane Webster, and he and his board of directors look forward to our new Rotary year with a sense of optimism. As well as the local projects mentioned here, Rotary is an international organization. Through a concerted worldwide effort, and with the assistance of matching grant funding, Rotary has almost completely eradicated polio from the planet. Additionally, we come to the aid of other Rotarian communities in our own international district — local Rotary clubs provided assistance and relief to Grand Bahama Island after the devastation of Hurricane Dorian — just as other clubs came to our aid after Irma. Our District 6990 encompasses South Florida and some of the Bahamas, and the fellowship and cultural exchanges are wonderful.

If you would like to find out more about Rotary, you can always find me at a gig … or contact any Rotarian you’ll see on July 4th at the beach. Stop by a meeting, get to know us, and you just might find yourself becoming a Rotarian one day!

Catch John Wednesdays at Herbie’s, Thursdays at Sparky’s Landing, Friday on Facebook Live, Saturday afternoon at Boondocks, Saturday night at the Key Colony Inn, Sunday brunch at Bongos, and Sunday night at Havana Jack’s. Music wherever you get your streaming or downloads. www.facebook.com/john.bartus

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