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American Rotarian visits to help with tulip planting

·3 min read

The Niagara-on-the-Lake Rotary Club had some help from an American counterpart for its annual End Polio Now tulip planting on Friday.

Tom Gerbasi, assistant district governor for the Lewiston, N.Y., and NOTL clubs, crossed the border early Friday morning to help out with the planting.

“It’s been a real pain-in-the-butt to get over the border,” Gerbasi said as he helped his fellow Rotarians plant tulip bulbs at Simcoe Park.

“Eight o’clock in the morning I had to go get a COVID test on Wednesday. They sent me the results at 11 o’clock (Thursday evening).”

Gerbasi, a retired pediatrician, said being a member of the Rotary Club gives him the chance to be somebody else.

“I was locked into this role (as a pediatrician). I was the grandfatherly teddy bear kind of guy,” he said.

“Rotary allowed me to do something different. They sent me to Brazil to check out medical missions — I’ve been all over.”

He said the international community of Rotary Clubs is one of its biggest draws.

“I get to meet people I would never have known. I know people from Jamestown in New York up to Hamilton,” he said.

“And the best thing is I can go anywhere in the world, from Brazil to South Carolina, or where my daughters live in Boston and I’ll always meet a bunch of friends if I show up at a Rotary meeting.”

Gerbasi said one of his biggest passions is advocating for autism education.

“Just a little bit of understanding would help. It’s the whole business of educating about people with developmental disabilities and getting them accepted into the whole diversity and inclusiveness conversation.”

As a dad of two hardworking professional women, he said he is always fighting to break the glass ceiling for women.

“With Rotary, there’s really no glass ceiling. (District president) Patricia (Murenbeeld) is a great leader and she’s a big contributor to the Niagara-on-the-Lake community.”

Some 15 Rotarians gathered at Simcoe Park on Friday to plant tulip bulbs to raise money for the fight against polio.

Lord Mayor Betty Disero was among the planters and presented the club with a plaque commemorating Oct. 24 as World Polio Day.

She said she was proud to be a member of the organization.

“(Rotary) means friendship, it means charity, it means service above self — the Rotary motto,” Disero said.

“And it means making sure that everything we do is fair for everyone concerned and in the best interest of the community.”

NOTL business owner Laurie Gunton said the work Rotary is doing to eradicate polio is even more important in the face of the global pandemic.

“With COVID around right now we can sort of relate how serious polio could be without vaccines,” Gunton said.

The tulips being planted were bred specifically in the Netherlands for the End Polio Now campaign, Murenbeeld said.

About 600 tulips were planted in the garden beds in the corner of Simcoe Park at Queen Street.

More tulips will be available for purchase next summer, said Rotary spokesperson Jolanta Janny.

Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report

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