The fabric of the lake community is woven together by its civic organizations and clubs. During the past six months these groups have thrived by using technology to maintain the close relationships they have built over the years. While technology has helped these organizations stay active, all are looking forward to getting back to something that more closely resembles the old normal.
“We have stayed active by meeting on Zoom and moved forward within the rules,” said Steve Wheeler, director of public relations for the Rotary Club of Smith Mountain Lake. “Now we are meeting in person in a restaurant within the rules and protocols required. We still use Zoom for people who choose to stay at home or if people are traveling, they can still join in.”
The Smith Mountain Lake Lions Club and the Smith Mountain Lake Chapter of the Antique Boat Club also meet online with Zoom. The online meetings even allowed members who live hours away from the lake to attend meetings.
The Moneta Lions Club halted meetings in March and continued club business via phone until they could meet in person.
“Because our fiscal year ended June 30th, a new officer slate was developed by committee and phone,” said Delmer Bailey, president/treasurer of the Moneta Lions Club. “We did a restaurant dinner meeting, our charter night, in late June, using face masks and social distancing for the induction of new officers.”
The pandemic put an immediate stop to in person meetings and as it wore on annual events fell by the wayside too.
“Our fundraising has definitely been impacted,” Wheeler said. “We have for 11 years had what we call “Night at the Races.” It is video horse racing it’s through a company in Florida that rents the DVD to us so there is absolutely no knowledge of the outcome of which horse wins which race. We normally have 300 people there. We probably give away between $5,000 and $7,000 that night. This year we can’t do it. The company that rents to us is closed until people can have large gatherings again.”
The Smith Mountain Lake Chapter of the Antique Boat Club has also been forced to cancel multiple events this year. “We usually have a mini boat show at Bridgewater in June and a larger boat show at Mariner’s Landing in September and we’ve had to cancel both of those,” said Dave Olson, president of the club. “We donate the proceeds of the large boat show to local charity organizations, so that will hurt somewhat; that we won’t have that money to give back to the community this year.”
Bailey said the biggest impact on the Moneta Lions Club during the pandemic has been on its fundraising efforts. “Our largest fundraiser, a golf tournament had to be delayed from April to October. Other events where we raised some funds, like the Antique Boat Show were cancelled,” he said.
Jay Furick, president of the Smith Mountain Lake Lions Club, said they have canceled two major fundraising events due to the pandemic. Their annual junior golf tournament and reverse raffle could not be held and Furick said more things could be canceled later this year.
“This school year, we don’t think we will be able to do our annual eyesight testing for every schoolchild in Franklin County,” Furick said. “We did hold our annual picnic event in August where 35 of us all sat in a picnic pavilion, wearing masks. We had a great, tasty picnic together.”
The SML Lions Club continues to find ways to serve. “We started a new in-person service project to renovate the facilities of the Hope to Walk prosthetic center in Blacksburg and we have been working there every Tuesday for the last eight weeks,” said Furick. “Our board meets monthly as a group of 10, using social distancing and masks and we are planning on a full fall and winter schedule.”
The Rotary Club of SML has continued its service as well by participating in roadside clean ups while maintaining social distancing and wearing masks. “We were able write some checks to some local organizations that needed help like the Scruggs Fire Department needed a lot of PPE,” said Steve Miller Rotary Club of SML’s past president. “We were able to help with that. Roadside clean ups and doing other small projects helps keep the members engaged.”
The pandemic may have cancelled events, but it has not impacted the spirit of these organizations. Membership of the Antique Boat Club has remained steady. Bailey said they have lost five members over the past six months. “Two for health reasons, two because their business was picking up and needed more attention and one who wanted a more direct contact with clients than we have.”
Olson said the club still has cruises on the lake regularly. Usually a half-dozen boats or more come together every few weeks for a cruise.
“The Rotary year goes from July 1 to June 30 so for the year 2019 to 2020 we actually grew membership for the first time in three or four years by two members,” Miller said. “A lot of Rotary Clubs are having trouble with membership, but our club is tight. We have built strong relationships and that has kept us going.”
Furick said the motto of the Lions Club is “we serve” and there is still a need in the community whether there is a pandemic or not. “We right now have eight folks who are interested in joining our club,” he said. “Our future is bright. Our leadership team is strong. We enjoy being part of the world’s largest service organization. Not having lots of financial donations to parcel out to other local organizations makes us continually refocus on how we serve those in need.”