Teamwork at its Best! 

As we all know, Rotary not only impacts our communities and the world, but also allows us to meet new friends to work together in various projects.  The most recent collaborative project in District 7850 involves six clubs and checks off the SEVENTH and newest area of focus:  Supporting the Environment!  Three of the clubs involved, White Mountains, North Conway, and Ossipee are located in the Mt Washington Valley and the other three, Bristol, Lincoln-Woodstock, and Bristol are located in the Western White Mountains and Lakes Regions. Members from each of the clubs have been meeting regularly to organize two major cleanup projects covering two very popular scenic areas of New Hampshire – the Kancamagus Highway and Pinkham Notch.  

This cleanup initiative came from a conversation between Kelly Drew from the North Conway Rotary Club and Guy Lopez from the White Mountains (Berlin/Gorham) Club who were talking about how antsy they were with the unfortunate restrictions as a result of COVID-19.  They discussed what both clubs could do together and at the same time, continue to practice safe distancing.  Both clubs worked together for a small cleanup project at a park in Berlin the summer of 2020.  Kelly and Guy were thinking they could do something similar in Pinkham Notch – which was sandwiched between both regions.   Both decided it was a perfect place for a cleanup project.  To solidify the thought, they talked about a recent RI Director Dialogue zoom meeting hosted by Valerie Wafer that featured Past RI President Ian Riseley who is the current chair of Rotary’s Environmental Issues: The newest addition to RI’s Avenues of Service.  They knew it was a great idea. Within a half hour of that conversation, Jay Polimeno, from the Lincoln-Woodstock Club stopped by Kelly’s office to drop off boxes of the Rotary masks and Rotary pins.  Of course, a conversation ensued, and both discovered that we couldn’t stop at cleaning one Notch.  The energy and enthusiasm really started to flow.  Jay, being a Past District Governor, seized the opportunity and took the brainstorming idea we three had over the Kancamagus Highway to his home club in Lincoln-Woodstock.  He contacted the Plymouth and Bristol clubs to see if they would like to jump on board.  In no time at all, six clubs enthusiastically agreed to participate, and this became a multi-club project! 
Our first official Zoom “Cleanup meeting” was held the second week in January 2021 with Guy, Kelly, Jay, Bonnie (from the Ossipee Club) and AG Bob Young.  Committees were formed and an initial “game plan” was created complete with the ever-important “TO-DO” list.  Within a month, heads of Committees were established and participants ballooned from 5 to 20!  As weeks went by, the email list continued to grow and the tiny idea grew into something really special.  Friendships were formed, laughs were a norm, and most importantly, projects were transformed from conversations to ACTION.  We knew we were PEOPLE OF ACTION, but not only were we witness to it, but we were active, effective participants.  Progress was immediate as committee heads were leading their own meetings and reporting in during our regularly scheduled Zoom meetings.  Minutes of each meeting were distributed throughout the participating clubs and the district.  The district’s current District Governor/Governor Track, Past District Governors, Assistant Governors, and members throughout the district were quickly on board!
When the first Cleanup event date arrived at the Kancamagus Highway, we had talked with the Department of Transportation, local police and sheriff departments, Park Ranger stations, newspapers, radio stations, TV stations, restaurants and stores.  In-kind donations came in and participating clubs pitched in $200 per club to support expenses.  We tapped into all areas of members’ expertise to put this together.  Before we knew it, we had gift bags for volunteers complete with sanitary wipes, gloves, safety vests, trash bags and plenty of food and water.  Volunteers were not only from Rotary clubs but included other community members who also cared to preserve our wonderful scenic areas!  Passers-by honked horns, clapped, and extended thumbs up. Some even stopped by the side of the road and personally thanked us.  It was a wonderful show of support! In just a few hours a group of 55-60 people managed to successfully clean the ENTIRE 34 miles of the Kancamagus Highway, with 85 bags of trash left as a testament to their efforts.   
We realized we were on to something big and didn’t stop there.  Within two weeks, we were planning our second project at Pinkham Notch.  Since we knew by then what had to be done, the planning process became much easier.  Again, new contacts were made in that area and coordination of logistics needed to be tweaked – it being a smaller area to cover.  We decided to all meet in one location and hold a cookout following cleanup.
Our plan is to conduct a Kancamagus Highway and Pinkham Notch Cleanup on an annual basis, but also to share our processes with any other Rotary Clubs or Districts who wish to implement road cleanup initiatives in their areas.  More friendships will be made and best of all, our scenic areas will be a bit tidier so that they can be fully appreciated by visitors and locals alike!