Posted by Tom Talbott

(Photo L-R: Bob Martin and President Don Zillman.)

Chair Bob “Belichick” Martin had to scramble when our scheduled speaker was unable to attend due to a family illness.  In the wings was ace reliever and soon-to-be outgoing Club President Don Zillman. “Next Man Up” performed with his usual dexterity, providing a year in review, his observations and commentary, and opportunity for club participation.

Don began with a reflection on a week of notable anniversaries....100-50-25. It has been 100 years since the end of WWI. Don, in his role as a Maine Law professor, recently co-authored a comprehensive book on the war and that time period; 50 years equated to Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 funeral, as well as  Don’s own 50th wedding anniversary to his wife, Linda. (Congrats!); 25 years represented Don’s tenure in the Portland Rotary.

Don’s pre-member perception of Rotary was one of silly songs and funny hats. He was wary of any club that would have him as a member, invoking that famed Marxist expression. (Groucho not Karl) He found out quickly that he was way off, noting that joining Rotary was one of the best things he’s ever done. 

Riffing, he spoke of how Rotary has changed since he joined. In 1989, women were first admitted to Rotary.  How attendance requirements were relaxed to accommodate today’s culture. He referenced how we’ve always been driven by service initiatives and activities, but how incredibly broad and diverse the programs have become. However, some important things stay the same, notably the “Service Above Self” motto and the “4 Way Test.” 

Above all, it’s been the lifelong friendships. To define that, Don said if “20 years separated us, and then someone was to call to get together, the answer would be ‘heck yes!’. 

Today, the club is as vibrant as ever.  Our club was recognized by the District for over 6000 hours of volunteer service this year, local to international.  From the Dominican Republic to Kosovo…where next?  Yes, we have fundraising in order to make financial contributions to help others, but it’s the “hands on” memorable moments where the impact is truly felt. 

Don began to reference some of the highlight programs. CHE – Childhood Hunger and Education, now in its 5th year. Summer reading to young children at North Deering Gardens. Preble Street meals. Locker Project for food-insecure children. The club began to chime in….

…St Vincent DePaul Thanksgiving Dinner, The Veterans Lunch on Veterans Day, Maine Outdoor Challenge with the Boys and Girls Club, the new “Cornhole Championship” for Maine Girls Academy, mentoring at Portland HS and Deering HS, mentoring at Long Creek Youth, Student Scholarships.  

Don interjected that one of the goals of the club was to continue to grow and develop club membership, including the increase of our club’s diversity. He sought ways to help “Friends Who Rarely Attend,” aka Club Members who have difficult schedules, perhaps by giving them a forum to address the club about their work.  He also paused to reflect how Rotary is a place to come to share different opinions and have different views, but we embrace it and welcome it. 

With that, Don opened the floor for reactions. PP Bowen Depke started by thanking Don for his year of service as Club President, which was met with a round of applause. Bowen added that CHE was set up as a 3-5 year plan with arrangements to review, so in the name of truth, we should ask If that vision is still in focus. Dave Small brought forth that we need help on Thursdays in July for summer reading.  PP Russ Burleigh told us that his wife Joan needs some more yarn for her 10th annual knitting project in order to reach her mark of making 150 pairs of kids mittens. Justin Lamontagne gave us good news that his wife had beaten breast cancer, and that he was excited about helping out on the “Making Strides” event in October at Fort Williams Park. PP Peggy “Queenie” Wescott told us how she too had defeated breast cancer earlier this year, and now proudly had a new license plate KYNRSUP. Anagram! “Keep Your Knockers Up”.  Good news shared by Elise Hodgkin, who had lunch with PP Loretta Rowe. LoRo, who has been fighting cancer, is hopeful to return to the club in a few months. Let’s hope so! Katie Brown said the summer Locker Project was in full swing and help was needed with product distribution. Rusty Atwood referenced that we need to reach out to some of our members who have drifted away due to busy schedules, and welcome them back. PP Don Lowry encouraged makeups at other clubs. Dick Giles reminded us of the 800 water filtration systems we helped to implement in the Dominican. PP Peter Goffin reminisced about how Don Z had a previous chance to be club President, back in the Winterfest days, but took a Rotary time-out to be the Dean at Maine Law School. Joe Reagan expressed his appreciation for being invited into Rotary, and has also enjoyed attending other club meetings. PP Dick Hall touted the reactivation of Youth Exchange. Bob Clark spoke of the spirit of volunteerism that is shared between the Rotary and the Boys and Girls Club, with special thanks to PP Kris Rosado who inspired and developed the Maine Outdoor Challenge. 

In closing, Don championed the phrase “How much can get done when no one needs to take the credit?” Well Don, we salute the great job you did this year, but hey, you still have two more weeks to go!