I would like to start out by thanking Past Grand Knight Tom Raulinavich for leading our Council this past year. Tom was instrumental in leading us through two difficult years, first, filling in for the late PGK Russ Taylor, until PGK Angelo Massaro took over to complete Russ's term, and then having to deal with the onset of COVID-19, and the restrictions placed upon us. During the 3 months we were not able to meet, Tom was in contact with his Officers and held a couple of virtual meetings to ensure we could hit the ground running. They say bad things come in threes, and if that is true, I'd hate to think what that means for the upcoming year...
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank PGK Chuck Clayton, who decided to retire from Officer life. Chuck has been an Officer of this Council for the past 18 years. He has always been a voice of reason during Officer's Meetings, and was the defacto expert on Council By-Laws and rules/procedures for our meetings. Chuck was always there to provide advice when needed. I have learned a lot from Chuck over the years, and look forward to his continued advice and friendship, even as he steps down as our Advocate.
COVID-19 continues to impact our country in a major way. New Jersey has been hit hard, with more that 171,000 cases and over 15,000 deaths. While painful, the restrictions put in place have helped turn the tide here. Do not become complacent. At present, there is no vaccine, and no cure. The virus is still out there, and if we aren't careful, New Jersey could see a resurgence in cases like what is happening in the south and west of our country.
Our Council has been hit. A number of our charity fundraisers have had to be cancelled or delayed, including the Annual Charity Golf Event. The Golf event is THE major fundraiser from which we hand out donations to the various organizations at our Annual Picnic. On the Club side, with the building closed, Hall Rentals have been non-existent. Hall Rentals provide the majority of the funds that keep the our Council Home running. Cash reserves have taken a serious hit, as bills and insurance have still had to be paid. Thankfully, through the foresight of the Officers and Members responsible for building our Council Home, we don't have a mortgage to pay on the building.
The upcoming Columbian Year will be a year of change. As you know, changes have been made to the Degree Ceremonies, which are now “All-in-One”. I was informed last week during a webinar that the new Ceremony is available on-line now, and even on-demand, anytime, day or night. Personally, I liked the old Ceremonies, and the lessons each one taught the new members. The one aspect of the new Ceremony that I do like, is that families can now be a part of this significant event in a new Brother's life.
Another change coming this year will be to the monthly meetings. The new guidelines have not been finalized by Supreme yet, but we were given a head's up during the webinar. The Business Meeting will now be call the “Membership Meeting”. We were advised that during the Membership Meeting, the reading of Receipts and Vouchers, Treasurer's Report, Financial Secretary's Report, and Report of the Fourth Degree will not take place. With minor exceptions, this sounds like our current Social Meeting. The items not done at the Membership Meeting will be done during what they are calling the “Monthly Officer's Business Meeting”. The reason given was to make the Membership Meeting more enjoyable, and that “all members need not be exposed to business details”. I will be discussing with the Officers whether we want to change to these new guidelines once they are released. Personally, I think the membership should be aware of the financials of the Council.
As of this writing, we are still under the restrictions of Governor Murphy's Executive Orders. Our meetings will be held in the Rental Hall, and will follow the rules of Executive Orders 152, and 156 (current Executive Orders can be found at: https://nj.gov/infobank/eo/056murphy/). The room will be set up to ensure social distancing is met, and all attendees MUST wear a mask. Social Meetings will be cancelled until the restrictions in indoor dining are lifted. That was supposed to happen on July 2, but due to spikes in COVID-19 cases across the country, that has been delayed. Hopefully, that restriction will be lifted by the August Social Meeting.
If you are not feeling well, please skip the meetings. For those of you who don't know, I have a condition with my lungs that places me in a high-risk category. I ask that you all follow the rules contained in the Executive Orders. In the past, I have spent a week in CCU at CentraState, and it is an experience I hope I never have to repeat.
My thanks to PGK Brian Curran, who organized a Blood Drive on Monday June 29th with Vitalant. The goal was to collect 30 units. Vitalant collected 31 unites of whole blood, 6 units of double red cells, 4 units of platelets, 1 unit of plasma, for a total of 42 units. This in turn will help 105 patients. With the success of this drive, we will be scheduling monthly drives, towards the end of each month.
We face challenging times ahead of us, as we settle into a new “normal”. We will need to find new ways to raise money, and increase membership, but I am confident that together, we can accomplish this. I thank you for this opportunity and privilege to serve as Grand Knight.
I hope that you and your families are healthy and safe!
Bob Westrich, GK