By Heather Fraley
When the COVID-19 virus struck right during the heart of RMEF’s banquet season, RMEF supporters, staff and volunteers didn’t quit; they got going.
The overwhelming majority of committees have rescheduled their banquets for late summer rather than cancel after RMEF halted all events through May 10th in accordance with CDC guidelines. Some chapters are even considering creative solutions, such as holding their events outside.
Members continue to support RMEF’s mission. Long-time life members Dan and Patty Kreitman live part of the year in Honduras. They gave up their seats on an earlier flight back to the states to others who urgently needed to leave. They later caught one of the last planes out. When they got back home to Nebraska in early April, they still gave the sizable donation they had promised to RMEF.
“Our word means what we say, and regardless of the situation, we were going to make it work out,” says Dan.
That impressed RMEF development officer Jon Engebretson. “I think the unique thing about it is that they followed through with their commitment,” he says. “A lot of people would have said, ‘You know what, we’re going to wait a little while and see what happens.’”
Many people have also been supporting RMEF by sticking with their membership renewals as part of banquet tickets, and some are donating the cost of their meals, too, instead of asking for a refund for canceled events.
In North Dakota, the Sakakawea Chapter banquet was five days out when it was canceled.
Regional director Kris Lofstrom spent eight hours calling all 144 people who purchased memberships along with their tickets for the banquet.
The chapter offered refunds for meals and RMEF memberships, but every one of the 144 attendees save one chose to still pay for their membership, including all 20 of the $300 sponsor members.
“I think that’s tremendous, and goes to the type of people that are our members, not just committee members and supporters,” says Lofstrom. “In hard times, it was kind of nice to see a community step up.”
Standout volunteer Fred Simmons from Massachusetts held his own remote raffle via email, text and phone calls, with great success.
Through social media, members are still salvaging a little bit of the social connection they would have normally experienced at a banquet, while still pushing the mission forward.
Utah regional director Ron Camp has been reaching out on social media, holding raffles.
“What I’ve been most successful with is just trying to get something for people to look forward to, and do some raffles,” he says.
He’s had great support from regular banquet attendees, and he says he’s also had half his committee members buy chances in his raffles.
A participant in a raffle commented to a friend on the Utah page that he’d bought chances and lost. He added, “Still goes to a great cause, and that is what matters.”
RMEF is so grateful for all the hard work and creativity that people are putting into making sure the mission goes forward amidst all the other concerns they have in their lives right now. The dedication our supporters have to the cause is truly incredible.