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Destin Rotary, Kiwanis clubs go digital

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log
The Destin Log

Like everybody else since the coronavirus swept across our nation, area service clubs have had to make some adjustments.

Instead of those weekly or bi-monthly in-person breakfast meetings, the Destin Rotary Club and Kiwanis of Destin have had to make a few changes.

They’ve gone digital.

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After not being able to meet for several weeks, Destin Rotary President John Toombs said they had their first Zoom call meeting this week.

Toombs said they had fewer members attend the online meeting than normally attend their weekly meetings, but the Zoom call went well and they plan to have another meeting over Zoom again next week.

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“Not everybody is Zoom savvy ... including myself,” Toombs said, noting he had to figure it out himself to set up the call.

The Destin Rotary Club, which boasts about 60 members, usually meets every Tuesday at the club house at Regatta Bay in Destin at 7:15 a.m.

Toombs said, if Phase II of the governors plan kicks in soon and people are allowed to have groups of 50 people, they hope to be back meeting in person by May 19.

In the meantime, club members are emailing and keeping in contact through Facebook.

The mission statement of the Destin Rotary is “positively changing lives through service, across the street and around the world.”

And in order to do that, they organize various fundraiser and participate in events around town.

However, this year due to the coronavirus, a few things have canceled. But the sponsors still stepped up to meet the needs.

The most recent cancellation was their annual Crawfish Bash, which is usually held the first Friday in May. Toombs said they thought about rescheduling the event in the fall, but couldn’t find a good weekend.

“There are so many events going on in the fall and it was hard to find a weekend where it wouldn’t infringe on someone else’s event,” he said.

Even with the cancellation, Toombs said they were still able to get a little more than $20,000 in sponsorship's to split among the club’s designated charities such as Food For Thought Outreach Inc., Harvest House Destin, Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation and Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast.

“We actually made more with the event this way, than last year having the event,” he said, noting the generosity of the sponsors.

The next event that the Rotary would normally be participating in is the Smoke on the Coast, but that has also been canceled.

“It’s just one of those things and I know everybody is ready to get back to work,” Toombs said.

As for the Kiwanis of Destin, they have had their challenges as well.

The Kiwanis usually meet twice a month, the first and third Thursday of the month at Village Baptist Church in their coffee shop area, according to Charlie Clary, past president and now program chairman for the club.

“It’s a breakfast meeting,” he said, noting the church has been a great partner providing the space.

However, the service club hasn’t met in person since the middle of March.

“It’s been tough, for a couple of reasons,” said Ashleigh Voisin, Destin Kiwanis president.

"We really had to immediately back off of the physical meetings,“ she said due to the demographics of the club members being in the high risk group.

Plus the governor imposed a “shelter in place order.”

So like others they have gone to virtual meetings and sending out email blasts to keep in touch with members.

But by going digital they have been able to connect with other clubs in surrounding cities such as Pensacola that they might not normally connect with because of distance.

As for the Destin Kiwanis, Voisin is hoping to have their first in-person meeting the first Thursday in June.

“Even if it’s just a few of us that feel comfortable with it,” she said noting that others could join in via Skype or FaceTime.

The Kiwanis have a little more than 20 members with a mission “dedicated to improving the world, one child and one community at a time.”

Working along those lines, Voisin had hopes of the service club becoming more involved in the community, but the coronavirus has kind of squelched that for now.

“We were really trying to get a program going with Destin Elementary School to get a Kiwanis Kids program in there. And we want to be more active in community events,” she said. “I’m ready for this to end ... but I’m sure there will be plenty of opportunities we can get in on.”