Rotary gave BI a shot in arm during COVID

As a member of the Bainbridge Island Rotary for 23 years, Tom Lindsley has been involved in a lot of great projects.

But none is probably as satisfying as the work he and the club have done during COVID-19.

Not only have 70 of the club’s 125 members volunteered at vaccination clinics, it also has donated $50,000 to local nonprofits and $45,000 to three local childcare centers to help them all survive the pandemic.

Lindsley, who chaired the club’s COVID response committee, said the group has been especially amazing during this time. The normal time it takes for a project to go through the funding process is a couple of months because of their extensive evaluation process. But from beginning to end during COVID it took 10 days.

“We took extra time to move more quickly,” he said, adding instead of volunteering a few hours a week members put in 10-15 hours. “It was a miracle” if you know Rotary, he joked.

Lindsley said some Rotaries are basically check-passing clubs, but the one on BI is hands-on. “We go out and do the work,” he said. “We’re very active. This Rotary Club is unique in the Northwest.”

Anne LeSage, the city’s emergency coordinator, asked the Rotary for volunteers to help with the vaccination clinics.

“It was a blast,” Lindsley said, “because everybody was happy to be there.”

He added BI didn’t have a lot of resistance to getting the shot, unlike other areas of Kitsap County.

“This is definitely not Trump country,” he said with a laugh.

Rotary also wanted to help local businesses. So it bought supplies like masks for customers of downtown retailers when COVID first came to town and people didn’t have them.

“We were worried about them surviving,” he said of local businesses.

As for nonprofits, Rotary worked with Bainbridge Community Foundation. “They were in position to better act quickly,” he said.

And with childcare, the funds were given to those in need. “I’m not sure if it was their saving moment, but it helped,” he said, adding all the childcare and nonprofits they helped are still going today.

What made Rotary’s effort even more impressive during COVID was it didn’t have as much money to work with.

For 60 years, Rotary has made the majority of its money through its annual Auction and Rummage Sale. In normal years recently it has raised $500,000, Lindsley said. But during COVID, they could only do it online. They were only able to bring in about $100,000.

He said the rummage sale was much smaller. They normally have clothing 4-6 feet deep in the “pit” at Woodward Middle School. “Some things you just can’t do online. We were scrambling as we’d never done it before.”

As a result, most of their funds were spent locally for helping with COVID, rather than the national and international programs it normally helps fund.

“We were struggling,” he said. “We had to use it carefully.”