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06/13/2023 12:12 PM

Joan Winters: Serving the Community with the Rotary

As a member of the Old Saybrook Rotary Club, Joan Winters helped organized the club’s local Rotary Day of Service. Photo courtesy of Joan Winters

On May 20, volunteers came out to clean the public beaches of Old Saybrook, Old Lyme, and Westbrook. The event was part of the Rotary Day of Service organized locally by Old Saybrook Rotary Club member Joan Winters.

Two years ago, Joan was looking for ways to get involved in her new town.

“After getting my feet wet the first year, I was looking for something to do, and I like helping people,” Joan recalls.

Joan, a retired orchestra teacher, says her students sometimes performed at Rotary clubs, so the idea of checking out the local club stuck in her head.

“I really fell in love with it, and here I am,” Joan says with a laugh.

According to the Old Saybrook Rotary Club website, “Rotary is a worldwide organization of men and women who are business and professional leaders. Rotary provides humanitarian services, encourages ethical standards in all vocations, and helps build goodwill and peace in the world. Approximately 1.2 million Rotarians belong to more than 31,000 Rotary clubs located in 166 countries.”

In her own words, Joan describes the club as an entity that gives back funds to different community-minded events.

“We’re there to raise funds so we can give it back to everyone else.”

Joan was one of the organizers of the Rotary Day of Service for the Old Saybrook club. “It was an unprecedented event,” Joan says.

The idea behind the event was for hundreds of clubs across five states and two countries to give back to the local community through some form of community service.

For the Old Saybrook club – which includes residents from Westbrook and Old Lyme in addition to Old Saybrook – that service took the form of cleaning up the public beaches.

“As a walker, you see a lot of trash on the side of the road, and then at beaches, there’s always trash,” explains Joan.

Even though the day of the planned cleanup featured a lot of rain, Joan proudly notes that the event drew not only Rotary members but volunteers from the community as well as students from Westbrook High School’s Interact Club and Old Lyme High School’s Environmental Club/Community Service Club.

“We were lucky to have the volunteers we did. Kathy Ledwith was another organizer with me. The hardware stores in Old Lyme and Old Saybrook and Ocean State Job Lot and Tractor Supply donated gloves and bags for us, too, which was great.” Joan says.

In particular, Joan says she was impressed by the number of people willing to pitch in when asked, either by donations or by coming down to the beach and helping out, especially since the event was held on a Saturday.

“It says a lot when people come and show up in the rain,” Joan says. As for the hardest part, Joan says there really weren’t any difficulties except for the weather.

Joan originally grew up in Massachusetts but has lived in various towns in Connecticut as an adult, including Old Saybrook, for the last three years.

“I love the beach. I grew up going to the cape and Hampton beach,” Joan says of what initially drew her to Old Saybrook. “We also loved Pizza Works and coming to Old Saybrook to check out the stores and things,” she adds.

Prior to retiring, Joan spent nearly 40 years as an orchestra teacher in the Waterford school district. However, retirement was not the end of Joan’s music career. For close to 30 years, she has been a professional violinist and a member of the Eastern Connecticut Symphony.

“I still do a lot of playing even if we’re not in season. Weddings and choral groups,” she explains.

“Music is one of my passions. I don’t do much reading; my reading is orchestral scores. Being exposed to different literature, that’s my favorite part,” Joan says. Additionally, she says she’s been fortunate enough to play with some big-name artists, such as Josh Groban.

In her spare time, Joan can be found exercising and spending time with her husband, two kids, and five grandchildren, “It’s been a nice blend of trying to keep life fulfilled.”

As for her favorite part of her new hometown, she says it’s the community she’s met. “I like the feel of the community; people are very involved here. I get the sense people are happy here,” Joan says.