Posted on May 05, 2020
Rotary Club of Needham Newsletter May 5th, 2020
Due to the coronavirus pandemic and mandatory social distancing, most of our volunteer opportunities and community support activities have been postponed. In response, we've continued to fund local and international charities. We've maintained our regular club meetings on Tuesdays at noon. But, to keep everyone safe, our meetings have moved on-line. 
In Our Community: 
We celebrated Ron Sockol's 90th birthday by singing an enthusiastic version of "Happy Birthday!" 
In the Needham Community:
The Scholarship Committee (Andy Winig, Bill Paulson, Chuck Buyer and Lois Sockol) has completed their review of this year's candidates and the winner will be announced at our next meeting.
Speakers: 1.) Sandy Robinson, Needham Community Council (highlighted within the photo below) and 2.) Cara Soulia (photo bottom right) and Kristen Collins for "The Front Steps Project"
Sandy Robinson, Executive Director, updated us on the condition of Needham's Community Council (NCC) during the coronavirus quarantine. On March 15th, Governor Baker closed schools and banned meetings of groups larger than 25 people. Since then, most NCC programs have been shut down, except the Food Pantry. With jobs lost to quarantine, demand for food has soared: the pantry served 354 households in April 2019, but in April 2020, they served 615. To maintain social distancing, the pantry changed to curbside pickup on Mondays and Wednesdays and to delivery on Fridays. People can schedule a pickup using "Signup Genius" or by phone. Volunteer participation has been reduced to a minimum to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus, since many volunteers are over 70.
While the cost of serving more people has increased, budgeted revenue has taken a hit from the closure of the Thrift Shop. The Thrift Shop typically accounts for about a third of a year's revenue. To plug this hole,  NCC has been working to re-open an Online Thrift Shop with curbside pickup within the next two to three weeks. Sandy characterized donations as "generous" and NCC's current financial condition as "OK", but she's worried looking out about four to five months from now. Regarding financial support, she urged: "Don't forget us!"
Sandy mentioned three ways we can help the Food Pantry during this crisis. We can  donate: 1.) "deposit" cans and bottles, 2.) Katsiroubas Cares Produce Boxes, and 3.) direct donation to NCC. Jeff Dineen has collected deposit cans and bottles at the Needham Transfer Station for years, donating the proceeds to provide milk at the Food Pantry. Social Distancing shut that program down.  But Jeff has adapted to quarantine, now he collects deposit cans and bottles in two barrels located at the end of his driveway at 1625 Great Plain Avenue. The Katsiroubas Brothers Wholesale Fruit and Produce business operates from Boston, and the family lives in Needham. Their "Katsiroubas Cares Produce Boxes" contain three to five items from each category of fruit, vegetables and greens with a retail value of $45-$60. For a donation of $25 to cover the cost, Katsiroubas Brothers will deliver a produce box to Needham's Food Pantry. To order a produce box: To donate online directly to Needham Community Council:
Here are the first words that you read on "The Front Steps Project" website:
"It feels like the world has stopped, doesn't it? Yet, we are very aware that we are still here in our community with my family, neighbors and friends. The purpose of this project is to bring us together virtually when we might feel isolated. We aim to highlight the faces of our community during a time when we might not see them in passing at the grocery store, coffee shop, on the train or at the gym. Participating in this project is also an opportunity to step up to help those who need it most right now."
Professional photographer and Needham resident, Cara Soulia wrote: "My friend (Needham resident) Kristen Collins came up with an idea to photograph our neighbors and Needham residents on their front steps. People would love the fresh air and maybe they'd donate to a local non-profit to join the fun." On March 18th, Cara snapped the first pictures of Needham families on their front steps. Within 24 hours over 100 families signed up. With the help of photographers Topher Cox and Caitrin Dunphy, they photographed 400 families within a week. Hundreds remain on the waiting list. In exchange for the professional image, the families are asked to donate $15 to the Needham Community Council, helping to plug the budget hole carved out by the coronavirus. The Front Steps Project has raised over $26,000 for NCC so far.
​​​​​​​After posting their pictures and mission to social media, Cara and Kristen were asked if they minded whether their project was copied in order to raise money for local charities. They established a website,, and they published bullet points there on how to get started. As a good news story in a dark time, they attracted lots of attention with articles in: People Magazine, CNN, ABC News, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and Boston Magazine. Photographers across the country and the globe were inspired to start their own The Front Steps Projects. As of April 16th, over 400 photographers replicated #TheFrontStepsProject in their communities, raising over $1,000,000 for food pantries, hospitals, animal shelters and more.
There are 100 families on the list, waiting for a photo. The list is currently closed, but is expected to reopen for a limited amount of time. Cara and Kristen will post the reopening on The Front Steps Project Facebook page.
For more information:
Next week's speakers: 1.) Dr Jeff Giles, Highland Animal Hospital, and 2.) Sarah Baird, Let There Be Light, International
Dr Giles will speak on animal care in the era of COVID19. Sara Baird will talk about addressing the basic lighting needs of vulnerable, off-grid communities in sub-saharan Africa.