When Bruce Summer was 15, he got his first job as a dishwasher at a Howard Johnson Motel on the New Jersey Turnpike. Over the next few summers, he served food and drinks to HOJO guests at poolside, ran a snack bar and later managed the restaurant’s night shift. Next, he served as a lifeguard and pool host with Holiday Inn.
Through it all, Summer learned the value of service. “I liked the idea of serving people and dealing with a different group of people every day; every day was different,” said the newly elected Lewes-Rehoboth Rotary Club president.
That experience prepared him for his eventual careers in hospitality management and ownership of a liquor business and a 23-year association with Rotary, whose motto is “Service above self.”
Summer attended Hofstra University and received a bachelor's degree in personnel management administration. His lifeguard job with Holiday Inn turned into a 17-year career during which he became general manager of a 200-room property in Alexandria, Va. He managed properties in Virginia and Maryland, opening new ones and renovating others.
In 1986, he decided to go into business for himself and bought Town and Country Liquors in Easton, Md. During the 20 years he owned the buisness, Summer realized the community was helping him and it was time to reciprocate. He served on the boards of Habitat for Humanity and Court Appointed Special Advocates and was a member of the vestry at his church.
Summer joined Rotary in 1990. He served as president of the Easton chapter from 1999-2000. When he moved to Lewes, it was a natural move to join the Lewes chapter. The Rotary Club of Lewes-Rehoboth Beach has been serving the community since 1929. Now 48 members strong, Rotary provides the opportunity to connect with the community and work with others in addressing community needs while strengthening leadership skills.
“I think it’s important to contribute,” said the 64-year-old, who moved here with his wife, Carol O’Driscoll. They have been married for six years and have five children between them and three grandchildren. “Carol got a nursing job in the area, and I had just sold my liquor store, so we said, 'Why not?'” He currently works part-time as a server at A Touch of Italy restaurant in Lewes and also sells real estate.
Summer claims the Rotary’s values are what attracted him to the group and kept him involved over the years. He cited Rotary’s 4-Way Test as the glue that holds the club together: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned? These questions brought a resounding "Yes!" from members when planning activities this year.
Flags for Heroes
In May 2013, Lewes-Rehoboth Rotary's Flags for Heroes Program sold 350 flag sponsorships and displayed the flags over Memorial Day weekend at Cape Henlopen High School. “People bought sponsorships to honor a family member or friend who served in the military. I think anyone who saw the flag display was impressed,” said Summer.
“We could have sold more, but we ran out of flags. This year our goal is 500 flags, and we would like to make it more of a Memorial Day event with guest speakers, an honor guard and a band. The more flags we sell, the more scholarships we can offer.”
Proceeds from this year’s sponsorship enabled the Rotary to give out $6,000 in scholarships and donations: $1,000 each was given in scholarships to two Cape Henlopen JROTC graduates for college; $1,000 each was awarded to two veterans attending Del Tech Georgetown’s Aviation Maintenance Technology Program. And $2,000 was donated to the Lewes Fire Department for its ambulance fund.
Other successful Rotary events were the chicken barbecues held in the spring and fall at the club’s pavilion on Savannah Road in Lewes. In their eighth year, the events raise from $2,000 to $3,000 annually. This year’s proceeds will purchase a shelter box, which includes everything a family of four would need to survive a natural disaster like a hurricane or flood. Each costs about $1,000. The club bought one in 2012, and it was sent to a Haitian family following a hurricane.
Summer said the club has three main goals moving forward. First, members want to continue to do good work in the community. Second, they want to raise awareness of the Rotary in Lewes and Rehoboth. Third, they want to increase membership with the influx of professional talent relocating to Sussex County.
“Many of the people moving to this area are retired business leaders, doctors, nurses, tradesmen and teachers. We’re looking for people who want to get involved and make a difference. And the Rotary is a great place to put those skills to work contributing to the community. It’s a great way to get involved and meet people, too.”
For more information on the Lewes-Rehoboth Rotary Club, go to