(This group photo of the Weyburn Rotary Club was taken for the 100th anniversary of the club, before COVID-19; photo by April Zielke, Weyburn Review)
The Weyburn Rotary Club has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as most every service organization and club has been, and there are many discussions underway about how to proceed in the “new normal” society is finding itself in now.
The Weyburn club has been a proud part of the city’s community for over 100 years now, and are looking at how to continue providing support of community groups and organizations with their motto, “Service Above Self” to remain as its core belief.
Longtime member Doug Loden took over this month as the new club president from Nancy Styles, and he had Ken Thiessen, a former president of the Regina Rotary Club and member of the Learning and Development committee on the district executive, join the club meeting on Thursday evening via Zoom.
He showed a couple of videos from a Rotary conference, and invited discussion from club members about what this could mean for the Weyburn club.
Among the changes due to the pandemic is cancellation of some of the club’s fundraiser events, including the golf ball drop in September, which has been done in conjunction with the Estevan Rotary Club for the past few years, and the chocolate nut trays, which has been a Christmas staple for many years now.
The club has been meeting via Zoom since April, also due to restrictions imposed due to the pandemic, and many club members have indicated they would like to continue this even once in-person meetings resume again. One of the benefits of the Zoom meetings is being able to have speakers from anywhere, such as CFL player Brendon LaBatte, MLA Dustin Duncan from his office at the Legislature, and a former exchange student from her home in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Loden noted that Thiessen has an interest in helping Rotary Clubs throughout the district to stay active and to consider what changes may be necessary in these times.
“He’s very interested in helping Rotary Clubs, especially with the virus. The whole world is in a bit of a turmoil and is doing things in different ways,” said Loden.
He passed on the recent decision of the Weyburn club not to hold their chocolate-nut trays this year due to the difficulties around the pandemic.
“It’s unfortunate, but this is not going to get better. It’s going to get worse,” said club member Gary Anderson.
In initial discussions, the club wanted to be able to still do it, but members realized the trays are meant for sharing in a group setting (friends, work, family), and COVID restrictions would preclude that.
The first video Thiessen showed featured a speaker who used an analogy of how cows and buffalo handle storms, pointing out that cows turn away from a storm whereas buffalo face into the storm and get through it more quickly.
Thiessen then asked generally if club members thought they were more like a cow or like a buffalo in how they approach storms in their lives, or a storm like the pandemic.
“We’re in the middle of a storm now, let’s not pretend that we’re not. It takes stamina to keep going,” said Thiessen, suggesting those who are like the buffalo should be sensitive to those who are like the cows in terms of how they handle change.
He also noted that the Regina club has seen their attendance go up since going to Zoom rather than in-person meetings.
Club member Brenda King said Weyburn’s numbers have dropped somewhat, and attributed some of this to computer fatigue as many groups and organizations have gone to Zoom or similar apps in order to hold meetings.
Bob King suggested that Saskatchewan residents seem to be more like cows, but pointed out they are also like the buffalo. He said one strong example of this was they led the world in bringing universal medicare through the leadership of Tommy Douglas.
Brenda added that with the cancellation of fundraisers, Rotary members may be looking instead at giving of their time and service rather than of raising money as one way to still help out.
Raising the profile of who and what Rotary is could be a good outcome to this, added Thiessen, as through service in the community more people can learn about what Rotary does for people.
“We’re exploring different ways we can help others in the community,” said Loden, asking, “Do we get a buffalo badge for that?”
The second video shown was of author Jim Collins, who wrote about Vice-Adm. James Stockdale, who was held as a prisoner-of-war in Viet Nam for seven years.
From talking with Stockdale, Collins was told that fellow POWs who had trouble handling imprisonment were those who were unrealistically optimistic. They would be sure they were going to be released by that Christmas or the following Easter, and when they weren’t, they died of a broken heart.
The “Stockdale Paradox” encourages people to be optimistic about a good outcome to their situation — but be prepared for the worst.
As the author said, “It's not about choosing which side to take, but instead learning to embrace both feelings in opposition to one another and realize they're necessary and interconnected.”
It also encourages people to have the courage to face the “brutal facts” of their situation realistically, so people know what they need to change to adapt to their current circumstances.
“Rotary is facing this. What are some of the brutal facts you need to face as a club?” Thiessen asked, noting that for many clubs, membership is one of those facts.
Some clubs have a youth arm, known as Rotaract, and there are discussions about having members of Rotaract transition into the main club, bringing their energy and enthusiasm to the main club so they can continue to be active and relevant in the community.
“Even with COVID, nobody can give us with any certainty how long this is going to go on,” said Thiessen, pointing out that the most successful companies are those that face the brutal facts they are facing, and determine what they need to change to meet those facts.