To the Editor:
As the current president of the Bar Harbor (MDI) Rotary Club I get to see, first-hand, Rotarians volunteer their time and efforts on projects both within our community and beyond. Sometimes those projects have immediate, satisfying effects like the Park Street Playground revitalization or the Bar Harbor Kids Book Festival.
Sometimes those projects have a more distant impact. For many clubs, it can be harder to gather community support for needs halfway around the world.
That’s not how it works in the Bar Harbor community.
This past weekend, Rotary organized our annual Purple Pinkies Against Polio Day, where Rotarians and MDI High School’s Interact members paint people’s pinkie fingers purple for $1, mirroring the process that children undergo to keep track of vaccinations.
The money is matched 2-1 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and all of it goes to vaccinating children against polio, a horrifying disease that can cause paralysis and death. Since 1988, the year Rotary got involved in a global partnership to combat the disease, the occurrence of polio has decreased by 99.9 percent.
Local Rotarians had a plan to go to three sites that were donated by businesses. Then things went wrong. One restaurant that was going to host the event had to close for the entire weekend because of staffing issues.
We told the public. We brainstormed, and Tim Rich’s Independent Café immediately volunteered space. The Blue Door offered to host another event in the future. The Thirsty Whale Tavern hosted an event, generously giving up an interior table during lunch hours. The First allowed us to use their outdoor space. The Mount Desert Islander and WNSX, the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce and the Bar Harbor Merchants Association all quickly shared information about the changes of venues. Hannaford gave us balloons for better visibility.
Our day was literally saved by the kindness and generosity of this community and its business owners, allowing us to have this event, even though the benefit is for children halfway around the world.
The few cases of polio that are still occurring are all the way in Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan. The empathy, problem solving skills, and kindness of both the media and these local businesses was exceptional and something that we can all be proud of and try to emulate, particularly in a time of discord.
All of us at Bar Harbor Rotary would like to thank all of you for being an inspiration and helping us make positive change in this world.
President, Bar Harbor (MDI) Rotary