Rotarians cancel May breakfast for financial reasons
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and for the last seven decades, local Rotarians have been driving home that point. Meeting each week for breakfast to discuss ways to improve the community, the Rotary Club for the last five of those decades has welcomed the spring with its annual May breakfast.
Until this year.
Rotary President Jim Perry recently confirmed the 49th annual May breakfast will not be held this year for financial reasons. He says the cost of food, along with declining attendance and the rental fee associated with Melrose Avenue School, has forced the board to make the tough decision. For the last 20 or so years, the breakfast has been held at one of the Jamestown schools.
“We regret where we stand,” said Jim Traer, a past president of the Rotary who sits on the board. “But we have to sit out this round.”
Hourly dues to rent school facilities began in 2010. Since then, the price has gone up: The fee currently sits at $100 per hour. According to the School Committee, the money pays for custodial services and energy bills.
For the breakfast, the Rotary Club pays for food, tablecloths, napkins and flowers. Along with selling $10 breakfast tickets, the event has a raffle as another way to fundraise.
After an April 5 letter addressed to School Superintendent Marcia Lukon disputing the fees, Rotarians attended the school board’s April 11 meeting to discuss a potential compromise. Along with members of the Conanicut Island Art Association, officials of the two organizations said the price was too steep, especially since the nonprofits pumped a portion of the proceeds back into the schools.
School board members sympathized, agreeing to include a 60-percent reduction in usage fees for nonprofit entities. However, the decrease would only take effect in the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1.
Perry thinks the club might be able to revive the breakfast at Melrose Avenue School with the lower fee, but talks for the 2014 event are still in its infant stages. He said he appreciates the School Committee’s willingness to work with the Rotary Club, and the group has not yet discussed alternatives.
“The facilities are so good,” said Perry. “It’s perfect for the breakfast. It’s probably the best kitchen around.”
According to Traer, just because the breakfast doesn’t make sense financially, that doesn’t mean community service has stopped. The next event for the club is its annual awards night at the Jamestown Tavern where Rotarians honor students for their essays.
“It’s a lovely activity and it brings about 100 people to the old Portuguese club,” he said. “We want to continue to do things for kids, whether it’s to fund individual students with special needs, or to help kids who have certain desires like studying abroad.”
Traer said he isn’t sure what the future will hold for the May breakfast. “I hope we come back,” he said. “Maybe in a different setting, but we don’t know yet. All I know is that the club has been here for decades, and we will continue to work for the community.”
Perry is optimistic that the May breakfast will return in 2014. “We’ll revive it next year,” he said. “I just look at this as a one-year hiatus.”
Perry said there are 20 current Rotarians, including state Rep. Deb Ruggiero. He said interest in the May breakfast has been diminishing over the last couple of years.
“Maybe we aren’t publicizing it correctly,” he said. “We have a year ahead of us to think about it.”
The Rotary Club meets every Thursday morning for breakfast at 7:15 at the Lionel Chapel Guest House on Lincoln Street. The breakfast is a social event as well as a time to talk about upcoming projects. Guest speakers are also a staple at the weekly breakfasts: Next month, for example, state Treasurer Gina Raimondo will address the club.