Posted by Shelly Duben on Jul 18, 2019
Shelly Duben (that’s me!) has taken over as president of the Rotary Club of Bracebridge-Muskoka Lakes, as Sandra Winspear has just finished her term. This club of 32 members has been proudly serving the Bracebridge and Muskoka Lakes communities since 2001.
Over the years, the club has been involved in many successful projects. For several years, the club was known as the “Teddy Bear Club” because of the success of their sale of teddy bears to support the Rotary Foundation. The club also organizes and runs the Santa Claus Parade for the Town of Bracebridge, bringing smiles to the faces of children and adults alike every December. Another major project that has had a positive impact in the community is the Interval House renovation project. Interval House is the local women’s shelter. Club members wanted the women and children who have to stay at the shelter to have a comfortable, “homey” room to stay in during their difficult times. Over 3 years, Bracebridge-Muskoka Lakes Rotarians completely renovated the 10 bedrooms at Interval House. The rooms were painted; new flooring was installed; new dressers, rocking chairs, wall hangings, lamps, curtains, and bedding were purchased for each room. Last year, the club also installed new carpeting in the children’s playroom and put new cabinets into the kitchen. According to staff members, the transformation has been amazing and gives the women a bit more dignity while staying at the shelter.


Last year, club members wanted to start a new hands on project where they could help people in the community directly. Members took on one of the “Out of the Cold” dinners each month where they determine the menu, buy the groceries, cook the meal and serve it to people who come in to the Salvation Army Church for a hot meal and companionship. They are planning to continue this project as member engagement was quite high. They will also continue with their “Student Led Service Projects” where students from local schools apply for funding for a local or international project which they then implement with the support of a mentor from the club. The club is just finishing to rebuild of a community bench in the downtown area in Bracebridge. The bench was scheduled to be demolished, but the club got permission to rebuild it and make it a comfortable, shaded place for residents and visitors to rest and get shelter from the sun.
This year, the club has big plans for projects in the local community. They have just ordered a concrete permanent ping pong table for Annie Williams Memorial Park – a park that the club has been supporting for many years. Outdoor ping pong tables become permanent installations in parks and provide children and adults of all ages with an inexpensive, physically active form of recreation. The tables also create the opportunity for healthy social interaction as people gather to watch a game being played. Rotarians are also working with the Town of Bracebridge to install an outdoor water fountain and bottle refilling station in the same park. This will help cut down the amount of waste created when park visitors bring in plastic water bottles for their picnics and events. Club members also want to encourage residents and visitors to use their bicycles more in the area so they are installing bike racks in various locations in Bracebridge and in Muskoka Lakes. Another new project involves the club “adopting” a large family in a remote area in Nunavut where groceries and necessities are extremely expensive. One of the president's "pet projects" is "Pay It Forward". Each week, one member is given $25 to "pay it forward" by doing something to help someone or improve something in the community. The following week, the member reports back to the club on what he/she did. So far, member engagement is high and members of the community are benefitting.
Internationally, the Rotary Club of Bracebridge-Muskoka Lakes is the lead club on the Rotarians Enhancing Learning of African Youth (R.E.L.A.Y.)-Zambia project. Six club members travelled to Zambia in March 2018 as part of the R.E.L.A.Y. team. The club also supports Youth Exchange and “shares” a student with the Bracebridge Club. Members have just bid farewell to Alessandro Scarantino from Italy and look forward to welcoming Vincent Anderson from Denmark.
In order to do all of these projects, the club needs to raise funds, of course. The major fundraiser is a fun themed gala each spring. Last year’s theme was “Woodstock – 50 Years – Peace, Love, Music” and the costumes were great! Members are in the process of selecting the theme for this year. Another big fundraiser is the club’s Beer for a Year raffle which is going on right now. See a club member to get your ticket!
If you are in the Bracebridge area, please visit this active club. They meet most Tuesday mornings at 7 AM at the Quality Inn at 300 Ecclestone Drive, Bracebridge. On the last Tuesday of the month, however, you can join members at 5:15PM for their cocktail meeting at Club 1, Riverwalk Restaurant at 1 Ecclestone Drive.
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