To most in Southwest Florida, Hurricane Irma is a thing of the past. However, some may not realize how much work still needs to be done. The Rotary Club of Bonita Springs' president, Jon McLeod, weighed in.
"Irma changed the way people in our area respond to a crisis," said McLeod, who enters his eighth year as a part of the club. "My
concern is the seriousness of a major hurricane making landfall in our
area will soon be forgotten."
The organization is working with Habitat for Humanity to help rebuild the Imperial and Dean area, which is the section
of Bonita Springs that was hit the hardest. However, it is
not as easy as it sounds, McLeod postulated.
"Trying to sort out those that are truly in
need is a difficult task," he said. This is something that has never been done in
our area. There is no manual on how to rebuild, how to work with local
authorities or even how to fund projects. We hear what can't be done,
but rarely do we hear what can be done."
The disaster has led a few local clubs to put forward an effort to create a Southwest Florida
chapter of Disaster Aid USA, an organization of rotarians that originated in West Virginia. The group came down to teach community members and philanthropists how to
properly clean and sanitize homes so they could be properly rebuilt.
hoping to have our own relief trailer ready to go by the 2018 hurricane
season," McLeod said. This preparation is just part of what the organization does for Bonita Springs at large.
The Rotary Club of Bonita Springs was chartered in 1978. Today, it has about 100 members ranging in age from mid 20s to the mid 90s.
"Our members have a wide range of experience - all with one common goal - doing our part to make our community (locally and globally) a better place," McLeod said. "Our members constantly surprise us with their generosity - and sometimes their antics."
McLeod's favorite, most impactful memory was a fundraiser for Gift of Life that he participated in back in 2014. The combined efforts of the rotary club and a few others raised nearly $250,000 to help children born with heart defects in El Salvador get the medical attention needed to live.
"Our club is dynamic and vibrant," he said. "My hope is we continue to build on the excitement we have now in order to continue to help your community. Leadership for the next two to three years is in place, which should allow us to continue to grow."
The club is on the horizon of its two largest fundraisers. The Lovers Key Nautical Market and Boat Show
takes place Feb. 9-11, and is located across from Lovers Key State Park
in Fort Myers Beach. The club's Reverse Raffle is scheduled for the first week in April, where the winner walks away with $15,000.
For those interested in joining the club, McLeod noted the process is simple, so long as you don't mind breakfast meetings. Meetings are every Wednesday
morning at the Bonita Bay Country Club
. Breakfast begins at 7 a.m. and the meeting ends promptly at 8:30.