Proactive retirement leads Rotarian couple to ‘service above self’
By LINDA CHION KENNEY
Getting set to take the next steps in their Rotarian leadership roles, Debbie and Mike Meegan are living by example their shared belief that an active retirement tied to volunteerism and community support is good for the planet and the people who live there.
“Retirement isn’t a time to sit under your laurels or to be concerned about the gravity of situations, other than attempting to do something to be proactive,” said Mike Meegan, who in July is set to become president of the Global Rotary Club of Brandon South, which since its inception, long before COVID-19, has been meeting via Zoom.
“If you think you work hard as a leader in a corporate entity or as a power broker in business, retirement is twice as busy,” Mike Meegan said. “It’s a full-time job and diverse, and it keeps you young. It gives you an opportunity to put service above self.”
Indeed, “service above self “ is the driving mantra of Rotary International, as any Rotarian knows, including those active in the 36 clubs in District 6890, which encompasses Hillsborough, Hardee, Highlands and Polk counties.
On track to serve as District 6890 governor is Debbie Meegan, past president of the Rotary Club of Brandon. She served as the first female president for the 50-year-old club in 2018-19.
Following her terms as club president, district governor nominee-elect, district governor nominee and district governor-elect, Meegan is set to serve as district governor in 2022-23. It’s the same year Jennifer Jones is on tap to make history as the first female president of Rotary International, which serves 35,000 clubs worldwide.
“She is just incredible,” Debbie Meegan said. “A wonderful, wonderful person and an extremely capable leader. I love seeing inclusivity and diversity in terms of women’s roles all over the world.”
Meegan said she is a firm believer that women lead by example and the work they do. “Women change the world,” she said.
Back home in Hillsborough County, Meegan retired in late 2020 from a position she had held since 2002, as executive director of the Brandon Outreach Clinic. Founded in 1989, the clinic today is known as the Outreach Free Clinic and Resource Center. It serves all of Hillsborough County and rests on the shoulders of long-time and early supporters and volunteers, including Dr. Stephen Parks, Bill Wolfe, Julian Craft, nurse practitioner Maureen Kapatkin and many others.
According to Debbie Meegan, the new name better reflects the clinic’s overall mission, which is not only to provide medical services to people who work but still can’t afford health care, but also to help them avail themselves of available social services.
“We help them enroll for food stamps and Medicaid and provide them guidance to help with rent and utility assistance,” Meegan said.
Meanwhile, the health and medical professionals who work for the clinic do so on a volunteer basis. This includes doctors, surgeons, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists and occupational therapists.
“Our largest population is for primary care for age-related and lifestyle-related comorbidities, including diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, asthma and cardiac concerns,” said Meegan, about the clinic that is now led by director Allison Hendrick. “Chronic disease management is the largest thing we do.”
To ensure a seamless transition, Meegan said she put off her retirement for several years, which included as well time to address the beginning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At the same time I was running a parallel part of my life with Rotary, family and grandchildren,” Meegan said. “I knew when I retired that I wanted to be more involved in Rotary. I’m as passionate about Rotary as I am about the clinic in terms of serving and the good that they do.”
Rotary International last year adopted protecting the environment as its seventh area of focus, which joins the list with promoting peace, fighting disease, saving mothers and children, supporting education, growing local economies and providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene.
To receive Rotary grants, projects must be affiliated with one of these focus areas.
“Our biggest responsibility as district leadership is to support the clubs in whatever capacity they need,” Debbie Meegan said. “Our job isn’t to tell them what to do. It’s to say, ‘How can we help.’”
According to Mike Meegan, who has also served in District 6890 positions, it’s a fitting role for his wife of 32 years, whether it’s at home, as grandmother to their 14 grandchildren, as a Rotarian leader or as an ongoing supporter of the Outreach Free Clinic and Resource Center in Brandon, at 517 North Parson Ave.
“I’m thrilled that in retirement she has found a cause that is equally important to her as the work she did locally to help people with their health issues, including diabetes and secondary illnesses,” Mike Meegan said. “It’s just amazing the head count of lives that have been and will be impacted.”
For more, visit the clinic at www.theoutreachclinic.com. Call: 813-654-1388. For Rotary club information, visit www.BrandonRotary.org and www.rotary.org.