When you’re a Rotary club with enthusiastic members, a ton of goodwill in the community and the skills and ability to help address the needs of the needy, then Covid-19 Alert Level 4 complicates things.  The biggest limitation is that it means that your members cannot do projects out in the community, not the least because any of the older age group especially need to stay strictly at home in their bubble.  That need to isolate completely creates its own problems such as it they cannot go out, just how are they going to get food to feed themselves or prescriptions to stay healthy? A dilemma.
So, what to do?  Here is a story that shows Rotary at its finest.  A Rotary that cares and uses its skills to overcome apparent barriers and make things work so that those needing a helping hand … get it!
Just before the Lockdown was announced Rotary Satellite Club of Orewa-Millwater members Georgina and Gary Richards and Paul Conroy (the Rotary team) responded to a community post on the Gulf Harbours Facebook page for interested people to attend a meeting to discuss what could be done to support the community in the face of Covid-19.  The initial intention was to see if there was any real interest in doing something and no real planned structure had been considered. Impressively, the community response was significant and continuing to escalate so that within 24 hours it became apparent that much more organised approach was needed or the original initiative would be overwhelmed.  What is now known as the ‘Gulf Harbour / Army Bay United Against COVID-19 Support Group’ began to take shape.
While the Rotary team were all from one club there are three Rotary clubs in the Whangaporoa area, so the approach was that the Rotary involvement was on behalf of “Rotary” and not one club singled out.
The Rotary team approached the initial organiser offering to set up a structured approach to managing the response and to do so under the “Rotary” brand because of the awareness, credibility and trust in the community for Rotary. They saw a need for a defined committee to be developed with clear leadership that would develop the structure needed to gain official support, develop the teams needed to deliver the services proposed and to manage the communications between the committee and the community.  Within the Group, the committee is known as the Unity in the Community Committee, supported By Rotary
Long story short, the Rotary team was asked to oversee and manage the project due to their experience as Rotarians.
The first task was to formulate a committee which consisted of the following 
  • communications lead - responsible for communications via social medial
  • administrator -responsible for collating data base from expressions of interest received via social media (volunteers) 
  • project coordinator - responsible for oversight of project and first point of call for recipients
  • Health and safety Advisor - responsible for H & S of volunteers and recipients in line with government Covid-19 recommendations
  • Police liaison - responsible for communications between group and police the Group applied for and was granted essential service status)
  • In addition to the Police, working relationships and support were established with the District Health Board, Age Concern and the Whangaparaoa Response Group
  • team leader advisor - responsible for communications between team leaders, managing issues/concerns
The process of developing the organisational structure was rapid.  The next step was to create role descriptions/expectations and volunteers who were suitable to fill these roles were identified and assigned within 48 hours from expressions of interest collected at the earlier interest meeting.
Within the first 72 hours a Group and Rotary branded leaflet was created, printed and distributed within the area and within 96 hours started receiving the first responses.  Since then the Group has been fielding requests daily and periodic leaflet drops continue to ensure those needing assistance are aware, they can receive it.
The Rotary team operates from home as they are in the “stay at home” age range.  They are coordinating 50 (much) younger volunteers.
All volunteers are identifiable using badges and follow the guidelines given to them to stay safe, including strict physical distancing guidelines meaning zero face-to-face contact with those they are providing the service to.  To this end all volunteers sign an agreement as to conduct, especially in adherence to Health and Safety guidelines and reporting. A register is maintained to keep track of all volunteers including dates of joining and leaving.
Important among the volunteers are the Team leaders who have defined geographic areas to manage (streets) that includes dropping leaflets to all addresses and managing volunteer assignments allocated to them.  Each Team has a group of volunteers assigned to it and the Team Leader maintains contact with his/her volunteer group on a weekly basis to ensure they are up-to-date with any news or instructions plus contact all volunteers at least weekly to check on their well-being and address any issues or concerns they may have.  This regular contact is important as the Group does not want to lose the volunteers due to lack of engagement, especially when the time of need for the service is unknown.
Requests for assistance are mostly for essential grocery shopping to a maximum of $50 from vulnerable people who are unable due to age or for whom it is unwise for them to leave their homes  There is also the occasional need to provide support for other reasons such as collecting prescriptions.  These calls are made to the primary point of contact, Georgina, from people responding to the leaflets, referrals from the DHB or Age Concern, particularly people being released from DHB care who lack adequate food and / or support.
The following is the methodology upon receiving a request from recipients of this service.
  • phone call made to team leader 
  • request sent to team leader via text for distribution to volunteer
  • shopping completed and signed for at supermarket
  • the shopping receipt is copied (eg. photgraphed) and sent to admin support for invoicing
  • shopping is dropped off with the shopping receipt 
  • recipient is emailed with invoice 
  • recipient pays by internet banking 
The Group has an arrangement with the local Four-Square supermarket whereby there is an account against which the volunteers perform the shop that is replenished by the internet payments from the recipients. For people who do not have internet banking they are phoned from the supermarket and advised of the cost of the shop, recipient then leaves money in letterbox for pick up by volunteer when shopping is dropped off. 
The invoice sent to the recipients includes an ability for the recipient to donate if they wish to the Group and a few have been able and willing to do this.  It is proposed that donated funds be used for a project in the Gulf Harbour / Army Bay area with the scope of that project to be decided by the volunteers in the Support Group.
The recipient of the service provided is contacted after the service cycle is completed to check they are happy with the outcome and to answer any queries and if necessary, refer queries to the DHB or Age Concern to provide additional assistance as needed.  For those that are using the service they often express relief that there is “someone out there that cares” about them.  For the volunteers, the ability to help these people who really need a helping hand is a source of tremendous satisfaction.
Georgina reports, “We receive a lot of calls and messages from the community, expressing how grateful they are that our group is available should they need us. We are very aware of our Rotary image and are actively promoting this in our community, using clear Rotary branding on badges that volunteers wear, and on any literature being used.”
Georgina did a shopping drop off on Wednesday 8 April to a lovely couple, who have bought their shopping three times now through the Rotary team and asked if it was OK to take photos.  Georgina asked them for feedback that they would want people to know about their experience with this service…
They said: " We are safe because of you helping us!" 
Georgina felt deeply touched and was offered a hug – but, of course, because of the social distancing, she said, “I will claim that hug when we are all cleared,” and added, “ I have to admit it is awesome that we can still display humanitarian service during a time of adversity – and, as a side note, we received a $2000 donation from this couple, so a very special couple indeed.”
The Rotary team can see the potential for a number of these volunteers becoming Rotarians and have already had discussions about forming a Rotary Satellite Club, likely linked to the Whangaparaoa Club. This is amazingly good news, on all fronts. High and very positive visibility of Rotary; attracting people in strong support of Rotary; laying the groundwork that will make it easy to increase Rotary membership - especially in the age demographic where Rotary needs it most.