PROBUS: President’s Year End Message…….

1) Thank you for your patience and persistence. I understand it has not been easy conducting our chapter meetings and board meetings on Zoom for a year! Not meeting face-to-face has not been as rewarding, fulfilling and productive, but at least we have had a way to conduct our business meetings and continue our good work.

2) As I look back on the 2020/2021 Probus year, I am reminded of the following facts. Despite nearly all of our events and traditional fundraising activities being cancelled, we forged ahead. We strove to reinvent ourselves. We focused our collective energies on what we could do, not what our limitations and roadblocks said we couldn’t do. We opened our minds to the benefits of partnering with other like-minded non-profit organizations. Our board of directors felt very strongly that inclusivity, diversity and social justice should be more than just bumper sticker feel good slogans. Our board felt that social justice is not only a topic concerning respect for all races, but also a topic concerning respect for the IDD (Intellectually & Developmentally Disabled) community. This past year our board has worked to position Probus as champions of social justice for all people, despite their challenges in life.

3) We have spent much discussion time in meetings and behind the scenes planning how best to grow our board, bring in new and vibrant board members with distinct and needed skillsets and a dedication to our mission. We are trying very hard to attract new board members who have recognized marketing and promotion skills. We are seeking board members with strong community ties and connections to funding sources. Likewise, we are brainstorming ways to find new board members who can open doors to the group homes and associated network of service providers.

4) Bandwidth, Appeal Letter & Signature Event…..First Bandwidth. As you know, Probus Greater Hartford is a small non-profit comprised of all volunteers. I appreciate the ideas and the enthusiasm you all have shown over the last year! When members, board members or officers suggest ideas for a new fundraiser or a new event or a new initiative, that is a great thing! Without new ideas we become stagnant and complacent. Without new ideas we become boring and formulaic. Please know that the board considers your new ideas and appreciates them. Some new ideas, such as the recent filming of a video of a cooking demonstration at Mark Goldberg’s home will bear fruit. Once the videographer has edited the piece it will be shared with some local group homes in Middlesex County to entertain and inform their IDD residents. Mark and his team will also deliver the rhubarb sauce that was made during the filming to the group homes to put onto desserts Probus will provide them with! Unfortunately, other ideas brought forth to the board cannot be implemented. Often times, it boils down to the simple fact that we don’t have the bandwidth to tackle that new idea/project. Due to our small size, some board members and committee heads wear a lot of hats and not every new idea for a project, event or fundraiser can be given the full and immediate attention which it deserves. We can’t spread ourselves to thin. Please know that the board and I take all suggestions seriously and give a lot of thoughtful consideration to prioritizing what is on our collective plate.

5) I am very encouraged by our maiden voyage into doing an Appeal Letter solicitation! Since last Fall, when our Fundraising Committee Chair Ed Pelltier brought forth the idea of our doing an old school, hardcopy appeal letter sent out to prospective donors via snail mail, we spent a lot of time crafting the verbiage of the appeal letter and worked hard on the presentation of it on our new letterhead. We included a newly updated Probus brochure, a new business card and a postage paid return envelope, all professionally printed. The bottom line was that we collected $2,___.00 via mailed in and PayPal donations! As we compile a larger database of prospective donors and do more of these appeal letters, this total will certainly grow.

6.) Probus Greater Hartford needs a signature fundraising event! Something we can hang our hat on and something which the Greater Hartford community can look forward to supporting. A landmark annual event, which over time becomes associated with our non-profit, will serve to put us on the map with other charities in the region. It will have significant promotional and P.R. value and create a sense of “all hands on deck” amongst our ranks to make the signature event successful. It will over time raise more funds for Probus, in an efficient manner, than our previous smaller fundraisers. The board is already considering some signature event options, so stay tuned and get ready to volunteer when asked to do so!

7) We have made wonderful strides with the upgrading of our Probus website! If you haven’t gone to the site, I invite you to spend a little time at The site has taken longer than anticipated to get a proper makeover, but I am here to tell you that it looks a hell of a lot better than what it looked like in the recent past! It was static and not too exciting. Thanks to the ongoing efforts of our Digital First Ad Hoc Committee, it has come a long way. It is more dynamic and creative now. I have seen a flurry of content being written for the website recently, but we need any Probus member who would like to take a stab at writing a feature article to step forward and the Digital First Committee will be happy to give you a writing assignment. It will not be daunting, and in fact it will be fun and in no time at all you will see your words up on the Probus website, helping to inform visitors to the site about our activities and our mission! Perhaps you have photography skills or some ideas for design elements for our website. Please reach out to Dr. Bob, David Hoff, David Maslin or myself with whatever you can bring to the table!

8) 2021 has seen our non-profit move into the final phases of our 2 year commitment to the Hartford Foundation For Public Giving’s “Building on Success” program, encompassing a major grant and a series of workshops and collaboration with our assigned Hartford Foundation consultant Roosevelt Smith. We recently received $5,000 which represented the 2nd installment of our $10,000 total grant from the foundation. We are also engaging in a 4 session Strategic Planning workshop via Zoom which is very helpful as we chart our course and shape how we want Probus to look like and operate over the next 3 to 5 years.

9) No doubt, the past year has been tough for us all. We are transitioning on many fronts and trying to lay the groundwork for some very positive and inspiring things to come. I personally appreciate the advice many of you have given me over the past 12 months. You’ve emphasized to me the importance of building relationships with people as having great merit. You’ve given me advice at various times on how to prioritize things and not sweat the little things too much. You’ve given me encouragement and at times we’ve butted heads and debated what the best approach is to certain governance issues. I truly appreciate all of the feedback you have given me as I tried to navigate a tricky year with your help. Please stay engaged with Probus and check your emails this Summer. Even though our chapter goes on a summer hiatus, we may be seeking volunteers for a Special Olympics Connecticut bicycle event this June, we may be sponsoring a Yardgoats game with the group homes this summer, and of course on August 22nd we will be hosting our Annual Picnic at Camp Courant in Farmington.

Charles Dobrow, President, Hartford Probus