The President’s End of Year Letter
From Rik van Hemmen
Dear NMHA members and friends,
At the beginning of 2020 we had planned a rather typical year with our roughly monthly events consisting of our usual combination of cold weather meetings at Bahrs, Grover House BBQ, Family paddles, longer tour boat excursions and support of the Clearwater Garvey and Sea scout Ship 5.
Throughout the year we also planned to have steady work parties at the Grover House to further advance the construction of the bathroom, galley and boardroom, and coordinate with independent improvement projects by scouts and other volunteers.
We also planned to run River Rangers like we have done for so many years.
Then COVID started to rear its head and we were faced with making adjustments.
Since NMHA is essentially an outdoor organization, we had a little more flexibility in making program adjustments than organizations that rely on close indoor contact. The board performed a lot of research on state COVID regulations and COVID transmission science and quite a number of NMHA programs survived COVID restrictions although often with quite extensive adjustments.
Our indoor meetings were turned into ZOOM meetings, River Rangers was able to take place as a sanctioned outdoor activity and careful management and spacing allowed continued work on Grover House with small work parties.
We even managed to have a canoe building event in the open under tents with proper social distancing, a reduced-capacity birding trip, and a trip around Staten Island with Classic Boat Rides’ Mariner.
Not all programs could be made COVID safe. One of our biggest frustrations had to be our decision to cancel the Garvey public sailing season since 6 feet separation COVID rules could not be achieved in a cockpit that is only 5 feet wide.
But for every door that closes there are doors that open: the lack of Garvey sailings probably provided us with the time to start an oyster restoration petition. To date we have 750 signatures, but we are far from done and in the next months will continue to exercise our social media to exceed 1000 signatures and maybe more.
We have also received tremendous unexpected support from Lynn Fylak who has moved mountains providing us access to government and foundation grants. Her hard work is starting to pay off and hopefully we will see even more successful efforts in 2021.
A special mention should be made of River Rangers. Our COVID redesign of the program fulfilled a very urgent community need for parents to get their kids in safe summer outdoor programs and the entire program filled to capacity within days of its announcement.
All in all, NMHA’s level of activity was comparable to 2019 despite COVID. Undoubtedly luck plays a factor in disease transmission prevention, but the fact that there was no COVID transmission through NMHA’s programs is a great source of pride to me, and hopefully also to all the people who worked so hard at making a success of NMHA 2020.
Learning is central to NMHA and during 2020 I noticed there are four types of COVID responses:
I have seen people, businesses and programs that have been seriously COVID affected due to no fault of their own.
I have seen people, businesses and programs fail due to a lack of imagination, community, sense, and reliance on science.
I have seen people, businesses and programs succeed by simply being in the right place at the right time, and
I have seen people, businesses and programs succeed by being flexible, innovative, and reliant on science and risk assessment.
As a community we have to help the first category as much as we can, while we celebrate the last category as the American Way. NMHA’s motto is Discover Engage Sustain, while this motto never expected to encounter something like COVID, I doubt there could be better a motto to fight COVID, and I am extremely proud to think of NMHA as a category 4 program thanks to its committed volunteers and members.
While there is a light at the end of the COVID tunnel, we will still be in it for a significant part of 2021. For 2021 NMHA intends to rely on its 2020 strategy and motto in continuing to provide COVID safe programs as long as needed and to smoothly transition to post COVID operations when the all clear is given.
That means we plan to have River Rangers, family events, presentations and maybe a late summer garvey sailing season, and maybe some Classic Boat Ride excursions (whose generosity with the use of Mariner cannot be overstated) and towards the end of the year hopefully we will have many, many, happy face-to-face meetings at Bahrs. In the last few months we have also had assistance from our newest board member Bob Markoff, who will focus on membership and income management and we hope to streamline the whole membership process and achieve some membership growth in 2021.
If COVID has you down, get involved with NMHA, we can help each other even at a distance.
Finally, at the end of this truly strange year, I want to thank our front-line workers, our NMHA volunteers and members and send my sincerest best wishes to those who have been particularly hard hit during 2020.
Rik van Hemmen.