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Young professionals giving back to community through Rotaract Club

'A lot of people see great value and a ton of potential in our community and there are those opportunities to have fun while giving back'

“Rooted” is all about the people and places that make us proud to call our community home.


A strong community is built upon the investment the youth put into it. The Rotaract Club of North Bay-Nipissing are completely invested in giving back to North Bay and area and finding new ways to do it, during a pandemic.  

Vice-President Alex McDermid says, “For the first few months during the Covid-19 pandemic, we were just trying to keep the club afloat because if we were not going to be out in the community and organizing events and raising money, then really we’re just a social club at that point.”

McDermid says the club is made up of young professionals aged 18-40 who want to give back to their community.

“In July, we were able to host very distant meetings, which was a little strange but it was also a breath of fresh air because you got to see people in person. We ended up going back online because we really did have to consider the health and safety of people. From that point though, we started looking at what kind of projects we could do from a distance,” says McDermid.

“One of our members Val Edmunds, came up with the idea to do Halloween goody bags for the “Quarantrick or Treat” fundraiser.”

The group put together treat bags and delivered them to households around the region with the proceeds going to area food banks.

“It was a success as we gave out 185 bags to 76 different households and raised over $500. We were able to raise money and give back to the community by donating it. But it was also a success because it was the first project that we had since COVID-19 and it reminded us that we are an active club and we are going to make it through this,” says McDermid.

“It was a big moment for the club because during the summer we had to cancel the Up the Creek Without a PADDLE event. This is a project that the club had started doing since its inception in 2009 and it’s the only project that is still going over 10 years later. That hit us pretty hard because it’s the very first time we hadn’t been able to run the event and so we ended up trying to promote PADDLE (Providing Adults with Developmental Disabilities Lifelong Experiences) through our social media, but it also gave us a chance to think about how we could be creative this year, in 2021. We don’t know what lies ahead, we’re hopeful we’re through the worst of the pandemic.”

Another event that didn’t get to happen this past year was the annual Poutine Pints and Plaid event, which McDermid says has become a real staple in the community.

“A lot of people see great value and a ton of potential in our community and there are those opportunities to have fun while giving back. When I first started, we did a couple of Gala events and we found that we were really attracting a crowd that fit an older demographic and we decided to really change things up and do something different. That was when the idea for Poutine, Pints and Plaid started to come together,” she says.  

“We were finding a way to contribute to the community and raise money for a really good cause. This is one of the events that I’m definitely most proud of. It’s something that just keeps growing year after year and it is a collaborative effort. Some of the fundraisers are done with one or two people leading and everyone else chips in, but Poutine, Pints and Plaid really takes the whole club to put together this event.”

McDermid first joined the club in 2011.

“When I had moved back to North Bay, I had just finished my undergrad and I was looking to network and meet people who were in a similar stage of life. My father is a Rotarian and he mentioned the Rotaract Club to me and I thought that I would go and I didn’t really know much about the club and so I distinctly remember thinking that I should dress very business appropriate, considering I was thinking about the whole networking angle, and when I showed up, it was very casual. It was all young people and it was laid back and fun,” she says.

McDermid adds that this hasn’t just been beneficial to her personal life, but her professional life as well.

“Even though it’s a group of young, working professionals, we do dig in to make contacts and learn about different business opportunities in the community,” she says.  

“We connect with other Rotaract Clubs outside of our area. I was on a contract job when I first came back to North Bay and just through mentioning what my field was to someone in another Rotaract Club, they were able to connect me to someone who helped me build my profile a little bit more and help me land a full-time job in North Bay. It is interesting to see the impact we have in and around North Bay, but we also have a great opportunity to learn and help people from other areas as well. There is a lot of benefit to being around people who are building their careers and in a similar stage of life as you and making those connections.”

But people in that age range also have major life events happening including starting families and McDermid says they are always looking for new members to join.

“We were starting to get to a point where a lot of our core members were starting families or changing jobs and just had a lot going on in their lives. We were just starting to have those conversations of ‘how do we recruit new people?’ and that’s when Covid-19 hit,” says McDermid.   

“We had a plan to do a membership drive and we had all of these great ideas that really required people to hang out together in close proximity. All those ideas got put on hold. It’s become a different type of leadership role now as we’re trying to navigate these waters that no one has ever really been a part of while trying to add people to our group.”  

 McDermid says through social media they have been able to bring new people into the club.

 “That includes Emily Ryan, who will be our President starting in July,” she says.

“I think the thing that makes us unique is the fact that we get to set our own rules and our own fundraisers. If someone joins our club and is super passionate about a certain cause, we will work together to find a way to make something happen for that cause. Even if we have other projects going on, we can change the beneficiary of those projects. We get to do things that can help out what we feel is important for us.”

McDermid adds she’s proud of the fact the club has stuck together and grown over the last year. 

If you have a story idea for the Rooted series, send Matt an email at [email protected] 

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Matt Sookram

About the Author: Matt Sookram

Matthew Sookram is a Canadore College graduate. He has lived and worked in North Bay since 2009 covering different beats; everything from City Council to North Bay Battalion.
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