By Pat O’Donnell, public image chair for Rotary District 5710 (Kansas, USA)
The 45 Rotary clubs in my district have come together to support Heart to Heart International’s disaster relief efforts in Texas and Florida. Immediately after Hurricane Harvey devastated the gulf coast of Texas with over 51 inches of rain, followed by the damage caused in Florida by Hurricane Irma, our Rotary members opened their hearts and checkbooks to help.
Rotary clubs have been involved with Heart to Heart International based in Lenexa, Kansas, USA, since its inception in 1992. Many of their founders and some of their board members are Rotarians so there is a natural connection and interest in supporting their mission.
Initially, our district governor Adam Ehlert asked that each of the 2,400 Rotarians in the district give at least $ to be matched with district funds. To date, $38,293 has been collected and an additional significant amount given directly through Heart to Heart’s website.
Members have also been involved in assembling and packing hygiene kits for distribution to those involved in both disasters. Nearly 30,000 kits have been distributed in the affected areas and the need continues. In Houston, Heart to Heart plans on providing medical care for the next two to three months until regular providers are able to reopen their own clinics. Some of the medical volunteers are on their second tour following a short break at home. These services are provided at no cost to patients.
Likewise, in Florida, Heart to Heart is the only organization providing emergency medical care to residents and responders in the area of Big Pine Key.
Rotarians and other volunteers collected donations at a recent T-Bones baseball game series at Community America Ballpark. Baseball fans including comedian Bill Murray (part owner of the visiting independent professional league baseball team St. Paul Saints) contributed to the effort.
Rotary’s motto of Service Above Self is exemplified by Heart to Hearts’ excecutive director of disaster response, Sue Mangicaro, whose own condo in Naples, Florida, was flooded while she was responding to the Texas disaster. According to the CEO of Heart to Heart, “She has not yet taken time to go home and deal with her own loss; instead continuing to lead our medical response on the Florida Keys.