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Million Mask Challenge


Deirdre Dubato, president of the Rotary Club of Rocky Point, said that when she first heard of the Million Mask Challenge just after Christmas, she knew her club had to get involved. 

Along with other Long Island-based rotaries, the Million Mask Challenge is inspired to help people in need of masks within the community.

Earlier this month, 40 rotaries from Brooklyn to Montauk gathered in Hicksville to retrieve a batch of masks to distribute to schools, food pantries and shelters. 

The Million Mask Challenge — originally created by Rotary International — began when The Rossi Family Foundation donated hundreds of thousands of masks to the local chapter, in hopes that along with the donation, more masks could be acquired and reach a million people worldwide.

Dubato said that since they gathered in early January, 14,000 adult masks and 1,000 kids-sized masks were brought to different organizations.

“Every soup kitchen, food pantry and school district are having issues finding masks,” she said.

So, they decided to help out by donating to local spots that were in need. The 1,000 children’s masks went to the North Shore Youth Council and to Blessings in a Backpack — which helps students in the Longwood Central School District. 

And it won’t stop there. Dubato said that as long as they keep gaining masks, they will continue to distribute them. 

The Rotary Club of Rocky Point covers the Rocky Point, Miller Place, Shoreham-Wading River, Middle Island and Longwood School districts.

Dubato said they’re always looking for new members. 

“If giving back to the community is your goal,” she said, “Then you are welcome.”

The Port Jefferson Rotary Club is just one of many rotaries across Long Island with the goal to donate a million masks worldwide. Photo from Bob Huttemeyer

The Port Jefferson Rotary Club joined other Long Island-based rotaries to help people in need of masks earlier this month to gather and distribute masks to people who need them in their local communities. 

In a campaign called The Million Mask Challenge — originally created by Rotary International — the Port Jeff Rotary joined 40 other rotaries from district 7255 to gather their share of masks. The goal is to distribute a million masks to those in need worldwide. 

According to Bob Huttemeyer, program coordinator of the rotary, the district that includes Long Island, Brooklyn and Queens, gathered in Hicksville on Wednesday, Jan. 13 to pick up almost 4,000 masks. They also ordered 5,000 more. 

Huttemeyer said that as of right now, they distributed the masks to 24 different local organizations and groups who could use extra masks. 

“Everyone was excited to fill a need,” he added. “We were happy to bring this to the local community.”

The rotary, like the others across the island, devote their time and services to helping the community. Huttemeyer said that throughout the pandemic, they raised more than $12,500 to donate to Open Cupboard Food Pantry.

“If there’s more to be had,” he said, “We’re there to help.”

Huttemeyer said that the local rotary is an organization that brings so much to the community and will continue to gather and distribute masks to meet the one-million mark. He added that are always looking for new members or donations. 

Right now, the Port Jefferson Rotary is holding small, in-person and hybrid meetings at Café Spiga in Mount Sinai on Tuesdays at 12:15 p.m. 

To make a donation to the Port Jefferson Rotary, you can mail a check to PO Box 461, Port Jefferson, NY, 11777 or visit portjeffrotary.org.

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Hope Kinney standing in front of the Rotary Club truck in Hicksville about to receive 4,000 masks. Photo from Hope Kinney

By Chris Cumella

The Rotary Club of Stony Brook is lending aid in a community-involvement project designed to help those in need of face masks to receive them.

Hope Kinney, president of the club and branch manager of Investors Bank, oversees the Rotary and plans to distribute masks to organizations in the area that include local businesses, schools and more.

The Million Mask Challenge has been orchestrated by Rotary International, an  organization designed to aid in community outreach and assistance. Stony Brook Rotary is just one of 35,000 clubs globally with over 1.2 million members. With the clubs’ combined efforts, the goal is to distribute a million masks worldwide.

“We picked up our supply of 4,000 masks [recently] when the Rotarian groups of the New York area met together in Hicksville,” Kinney said. “We’re going to give to the local library, the churches, temples and anybody else in the community that is interested.”

The main focus for distribution plans to revolve around local businesses that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and those people who are more at risk. 

According to Rotary’s vice president, Jeannette Merola, the process will be door-to-door style. Through the efforts of 20 volunteers, deliveries will be made to those in need in St. James, Setauket and Stony Brook as soon as Saturday, Jan. 23.

“I have 1,000 masks in my room ready to go,” Merola said. “This whole thing is meant to encourage and foster the ideal of community service and to give back.”

The Rotary Club of Stony Brook meets every other Thursday at 12:15 p.m. at Stony Brook’s The Bench. The Million Mask Challenge is one of many volunteer opportunities offered. Kinney has encouraged those interested in visiting the club’s website at www.stonybrookrotary.com, showing up to meetings and asking any questions.

For some members, the Rotary is a constant commitment for the sake of others. This includes Dan Berger, outreach and public relations manager, who has worked as the team’s PR for the past 14 years following his days first volunteering with the organization as far back as the 1980s.

“One of my great early memories was one of our fundraisers at the Stony Brook horse show next to Old Field Club,” Berger said. “I spent the day making hot dogs and hamburgers for people — it was a lot of fun.”

The Rotary Club of Stony Brook shares the goal of aiding those in the community while remembering those who were part of their past deeds. It has been some nine months since the passing of George Rehn, who devoted 40 years to Rotary and served as district governor and president of the club.

Kinney was appointed president of the club in July and has made an effort alongside her colleagues to keep Rehn in heart by helping the community with campaigns such as the mask challenge.

“He lived and breathed being a Rotarian,” Kinney said. “He always had nice things to say about everybody, and he would be very proud of us and the achievements that we’re working toward.”