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Yuma Rotary Club members (clockwise from back left) Doug Richey, Bobby Lambert, Lori Arney and Anibal Tofoya man their fundraising booth at Midnight at the Oasis earlier this year. Their club donated $1,000 to Arizona Community Foundation to support nonprofits affected by COVID-19.

Taking to heart the popular Mister Rogers quote to “look for the helpers” in frightening times, local Rotarians have looked within, typifying the traits of helpers in their own communities to provide some relief from the effects of COVID-19.

In April, Rotary International District 5500 — which houses Yuma, Somerton and San Luis — divvied up funds left from projects and events cancelled by the pandemic amongst the 50 clubs in southern Arizona. With $500 in hand, the clubs were asked, “What will you do to help your neighbors in this time of crisis?” The response in Yuma County was swift as Rotarians wasted no time taking action to avail their neighbors in need.

While Fort Yuma Rotary Club supported Precious Treasures Mission, Yuma Foothills Rotary Club helped Crossroads Mission repair a sewer system crisis that displaced about 99 women and children. To double its impact, the Yuma Rotary Club matched its gift from the district, donating $1,000 to the Arizona Community Foundation.

According to the club’s president Page Misenhimer, these funds were dispersed amongst 20 different nonprofits in Yuma County, via the foundation.

“With the extra unemployment rates and tight budgets many people are experiencing right now, there are lots of areas in need of help and it’s important to us as a club to be able to supplement that support to them,” said Misenhimer. “The Yuma Rotary Club has always been involved in the community and several of our members are affiliated with various nonprofits in the community, so this is not a one-time event. It’s a continuation of support.”

To meet needs on the medical side, the Somerton Rotary Club and San Luis Frontera Rotary Club provided vital personal protective equipment to local healthcare facilities, outfitting South County doctors and nurses with face masks, disposable surgical gowns and gloves.

“I’m just amazed by how quickly they responded, and that’s what unique about Rotary clubs — they can really mobilize quickly,” said district governor Ellie Patterson. “They decided right away what they wanted to do, and they did it. And I’m so glad, because with all that’s going on right now with COVID-19, these people can’t wait. They need the face masks right now. The demand has been so high.”

According to Patterson, none of these deeds were out of character for any of the clubs.

“That’s just what Rotarians do,” she said. “We’re all really involved and focused on helping our communities be better, stronger, healthier. And when the community needs help, Rotary responds. On a personal note, Rotary allows me to be the person I want to be — I want to make a difference, I want to help others and change lives, and that’s why I get so excited because I see all these Yuma, Somerton, San Luis Frontera clubs doing the same thing. They want to make a difference, and they would tell you that first off.”

The way that each of these groups continuously and selflessly “show up” for their communities year round, she said, is particularly heartwarming.

“Rotarians do so much and they don’t really expect anything in return, they just don’t,” Patterson said. “They move onto the next project or the next fundraiser. They all have such big hearts and they’re just so generous.”

For community members wishing to make a monetary contribution toward the Rotary clubs’ efforts, tax-deductible donations can be made directly to the individual clubs. Contact information for the clubs can be found in the district’s directly, available online at www.rotaryd5500.org/ClubDirectory.

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