So, what goes into wrangling together the dozens of members of a very well-known local civic group and encouraging them to sell to friends, neighbors and the general public 1,000 dozen roses, or, obviously, 12,000 individual roses, especially considering the rose sale is easily said civic groups largest fundraiser of the year?
The 2019 Portsmouth Rotary Club rose sale is being chaired by Samantha Comer, with admittedly a big assist from former sale chairperson Sonie Hash. Both said what makes the sale work is a great deal of effort and organization.
“There’s lots of different elements that all have to come together,” Hash said.
She should know. Hash has chaired or co-chaired the Rotary’s annual rose sale seemingly more years than not, since the 1990s. She admitted she tried to step away from the responsibility but found it was handed back to her in the early 2000s. At that point in time, Hash said some aspects of the sale just kept changing.
“It was just too confusing for folks,” Hash said.
Comer got involved partly, she said, because she worked with Hash at the Southern Ohio Medical Center for many years. She said the two get along very well and Comer has been working with Hash on the sale for the past four years.
Hash said one problem the local Rotary faced this year was their longtime rose supplier was no longer available. Luckily, she said, they were able to find a new supplier in the Akron-Canton area. But, of course, that meant there were some new logistics to work out.
For one thing, Comer noted, the new supplier cannot mail roses to individual customers as the previous supplier did. Comer said that change has cost the Rotary a few customers, though apparently not too many.
While the Portsmouth Rotary rose sale is a long-standing tradition, Hash said she’s not clear on how many other Rotary clubs do rose sales. There is even some debate as to how long the Portsmouth club has been selling roses. The best guesstimate appears to be at least since sometime in the early 1980s.
Hash said it was probably much easier to sell dozens of roses back then than it is now. At the time, potential customers were unable to simply walk into, say, Kroger’s or Walmart and simply grab a bouquet of roses or other flowers. Simply put, the Rotary sale has more competition nowadays.
Speaking of competition, wanting to avoid competition with local florists is the reason the Portsmouth Rotary never has held its rose sale in time for St. Valentine’s Day. Hash said a lot of people wonder why Rotary roses are not available in time for that particular holiday.
Hash said keeping track of sales and who is to receive roses is probably one of the biggest challenges of the annual sale. She talked about sitting on her floor with piles of sticky notes in the early days. Now, Hash said information is input into a database, but somebody still has to actually complete that inputting.
Another challenge, Hash mentioned is convincing Rotarians to take part in the sale. She reported many are somewhat nervous or hesitant to approach their friends and neighbors and ask them to buy a dozen roses.
But she also contends getting up the courage to approach potential customers is probably the most difficult part of the sale process. According to Hash, many people are pleased to help out the Rotary, knowing their dollars will go to support various civic and community activities.
Both Hash and Comer noted the Rotary sees many repeat customers year after year. Hash also talked about how several Rotarians seem especially gifted at selling roses or are especially committed to selling roses.
On one other front, Hash mentioned needing Rotarian volunteers to deliver all those roses come the delivery date of March 13. Hash said luckily for the Rotary, SOMC has long donated use of one of their warehouses to store the roses prior to delivery.
Although the actual number of dozens sold varies year to year, Comer and Hash both talked about regularly aiming for selling 1,000 dozen stems. Comer said the annual sale raises between $8,000 and $10,000.
Where does that money go? According to the Portsmouth Rotary Club website, the organization supports six $1,000 college scholarships for graduates of Scioto County high schools. The organization purchases sets of books for classrooms around the county as well. They support the SOMC hospice, the Southern Ohio Performing Arts Association, various programs of the South-Central Ohio Education Service Center, the Red Kettle Campaign of the Salvation Army and a host of other charitable undertakings.
The 2019 Portsmouth Rotary Club rose sale continues through Feb.22. Roses are $23 per dozen and will be delivered to the address of your choice in Portsmouth, Sciotoville, New Boston and parts of Wheelersburg. If you are interested in picking up some flowers and helping out the Rotary, contact any Rotary member you happen to know. You also can call Comer at (740) 352-4085 or Hash at (740) 727-1648.
For general information on the Portsmouth Rotary, visit their website at www.portsmouthohiorotary.org.