Colleen Garrett: ‘Like-minded people who want to help the community’

Rotary Club is looking to bring in new blood to continue their community giving.


They meet every Wednesday at the Portuguese-American Club in Oak Bluffs. They munch sandwiches from Mo’s Lunch, and typically hear from a guest speaker such as U.S. Rep. Bill Keating, Sheriff Bob Ogden, or Suzann Bellincampi from Felix Neck. (Full disclosure, I’ve been a guest speaker several times.)

The Rotary Club of Martha’s Vineyard is a service organization — raising money for student scholarships, exchange programs, or just to help out families in need on the Island.

In recent years, their numbers have shrunk due in part to the pandemic, but Colleen Garrett — a Rotarian board member in charge of the club’s newsletter — wants you to know that Rotary Club is a great way to give back, learn a little about your community, and meet friends you might have never met before.

“We could use some more new blood,” Garrett mentioned in an interview with The Times.

Garrett joined the club in 2006. The year before she participated in a group study exchange with Brazil, sponsored by the Rotary Club of M.V. She responded to an ad in the newspaper. She had worked with Brazilians on the Vineyard during the summer, and with J-1 students in her job with human resources at the Killington Ski Resort in Vermont during the off-season.

“When I applied, I said I wanted to see the disparity,” she said. In Brazil, she learned that Rotary, which is an international organization, is a big deal, particularly with the business community.
“It was cool, because you’re with a family eating their food and doing their routine,” she said. “Brazilians were very up-front about showing their struggles.”

They visited a dental clinic for those with AIDS, an orphanage, and a water treatment plant — many of the venues selected to match up with the vocations of individuals on the exchange. “That whole month was very eye-opening. I saw the impact that Rotary can have on day-to-day people,” Garrett said.

Recently, Nina Ferry Montanile, head of adult and technology services at the Oak Bluffs library, shared her story. “She was one of our ambassadorial scholars,” Garrett said. “We funded her to go on an exchange in Australia as a peace fellow, and she came back to M.V. She came and spoke to us about her opportunity.” 

These days the Rotary Club teams up with M.V. Community Services on a golf tournament. M.V. Community Services does the public relations for the tournament, and Rotarians are the boots on the ground. “This year, even though the turnout was less, each organization still got $17,000. For us that’s 17 grand we can give away for scholarships, when the food pantry needs something, or when the Boys and Girls Club needs a new printer,” Garrett said, noting just some of the organizations that benefit from Rotary.

And that’s why they do it.

“It makes you feel good knowing you can help and be part of the solution, and being with people who are all different ages and affiliations but when you’re all together … We have a common goal,” Garrett said.

Garrett said she also values the friendships she made. For example, she likely never would have met John Rancourt of Vineyard Propane, she said. “You have a different circle of friends,” she said.

She also shared a clipping from the Martha’s Vineyard Times about a couple of Rotarians who met, fell in love, and were married. Poliana Bellan Wilson first came to the Island on an exchange program through Rotary, where she met Adam Wilson, and they eventually married.

Garrett also shared a story about Donna Foster’s father, Herb. Herb Foster was no stranger to Islanders, and he was a guest speaker numerous times. Donna became a friend of Rotary and participated as a volunteer at events. “So when she needed volunteers for the Hebrew Center speaker series, I was happy to help out,” Garrett said.

Rotary has moved around through the years, but is now located at the P.A. Club. You don’t have to get lunch at Mo’s (but how can you resist?), and it’s a great location for parking: “It’s not like downtown Edgartown, where you can’t find a parking spot.”

And now Rotary is making it easier for folks who leave the Island in the off-season to stay in touch via Zoom. “If you have a workaholic tendency, this can get you out, and it can expose you to things in the community, like, ‘Wow, I haven’t been to Featherstone in 20 years, or I haven’t been to Misty Meadows.’ It’s also giving you an opportunity to meet these people and see what’s going on,” she said of the guest speaker series.

Rotarians can get fined at meetings. A few years ago the fine master was keen on issuing fines of $1 to men who wore shorts with no socks, she said with a laugh. But the club also does what it calls “happy dollars,” where you can make a donation to share with your fellow Rotarians. “You can share that you made the last boat, that the crocuses are up, or that you have a neighbor with cancer, so keep her in your thoughts,” Garrett said.

Looking for a way to give back, Garrett joined the Rotary Club: “You’re with like-minded people who want to help the community.”


Interested in Rotary? Rotary of Martha’s Vineyard is holding an informational membership meeting on Jan. 18 at the P.A. Club from noon to 1 pm. RSVP by Jan. 13 to either Leo Convery at or to Tom Rosenthal at


  1. Way to go Colleen. First meeting of the year is January 18 at the PA Club. Come on in and see what Rotary is all about!

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