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Local civic clubs hindered by pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold months ago, many local service-oriented groups and organizations faced unique challenges when it came to keeping their members and community safe.

Tom Milar, president elect of the Kiwanis Club of the Greater Picayune Area, said almost everything changed for the club because of the pandemic.

“It was 100% affected,” Milar said.

The Kiwanis Club was forced to cancel the Special Olympics and the upcoming golf tournament that had been planned before the COVID-19 outbreak.

To stay in accordance with social distancing guidelines, the club was not able to hold any meetings for months. The first meeting held since the outbreak was last week.

Anything that was organized by the club during the time it was not meeting had to be done over text and email. Because the club focuses on people with special needs, it was forced to take extra precautions due to some of the people the club serves being at a higher risk for contracting the virus or developing complications due to the virus.

Despite the challenges the club faced, Milar said it is picking back up and moving on.

“We’re gonna move forward and live wiser,” Milar said.

The golf tournament organized by the club has been rescheduled for July and the Special Olympics has been rescheduled for March 2021.

Courtney Knight, president elect of the Exchange Club of Picayune, will officially take the role as president on July 1.

Knight said months prior to the pandemic the club sponsored girls attending Pearl River Central High School by taking them to buy dresses, jewelry and shoes for the upcoming prom. The prom was subsequently cancelled due to COVID-19.

“It’s kinda come to a halt,” Knight said.

The club was also forced to reschedule its annual poker run for a date sometime in the fall.

In the meantime, the Exchange Club has been working on COVID-19-related community service projects. The club donated several gallons of hand sanitizer to daycares in Pearl River County because sanitizer has become expensive and is in short supply.

“We didn’t hold any meeting for six to eight weeks,” Knight said.

The club gradually started meeting again by holding outdoor meetings to maintain social distancing.

Knight said the club has been recently meeting at local restaurants to support local business in any way it can.

The club is currently focusing on getting what was postponed in the works once again.

“We are trying to do events in-line with regulations,” Knight said.

Christy Goss, past president of Picayune Rotary Club and current member of the public relations committee, said when the pandemic began everything was forced to come to a halt.

“It was completely shut down,” Goss said.

Goss said the club was forced to stop all community outreach to ensure that the community and club members were safe.

A golf tournament that was planned had to be canceled along with other events.

The Drawdown, one of the club’s biggest fundraisers, was put on hold. The funds from the Drawdown are donated to the community, but since the event was canceled this year, there weren’t any funds to be donated.

Goss said the club has not yet resumed in-person meetings, but the members are meeting weekly over Zoom. The club has not met in person since March.

Goss said it is still uncertain when the club will meet in person and resume regular activities.

“It’s difficult to serve people remotely,” Goss said.

Despite the challenges, she remains hopeful.

“I think things will be starting back up soon,” Goss said. “We will just have a new normal.”