A 2009 online article noted that “Service clubs are a uniquely American institution that began in the heartland, though they are now found on both coasts, as well as in virtually every country in the world. …
“The questions of the 21st century are: Does anyone care more? Is it cool to belong to a service club? Are these organizations too old, too Midwestern, too goofy to matter today?
A handful of local service club members recently gathered in the Observer boardroom to answer these questions.
Their answers, broadly, were: Yes, people care; yes, it can be cool to belong; and maybe they’re too old, but not necessarily too Midwestern (perhaps Southwestern) or too clunky to still matter.
The common denominator of service club members is to make their community a better place to live. Clubs need more members, but how do you get them in this pandemic world?
“There is a huge need for community service,” said Dan Brown, president of the City of Vision Civitan Club. “We just have to figure out how to get that service there. How can we attract people and how can we make them known? »
City of Vision Citizen Club
Brown – with Civitan since 1988 – is also Civitan’s international president. Today, his City of Vision Club has 30 members, below its pre-COVID peak.
At a service club leadership conference in Orlando, Fla., in November, Brown and said up to 50 service organizations from around the world participated in a roundtable.
“The top four issues (that we face) were the same for all organizations,” he said. “No. 1, aging membership. No. 2, trying to attract younger members. No. 3, non-dues revenue; basically your (membership) dues don’t pay your overhead for the organization. And you have to find other ways to do it, and fourth, develop a new concept to attract young people.
Brown said attracting new retirees could improve membership, but young people don’t have time: “They have 2.3 kids doing 6.2 activities and they don’t have time to do it. , but they still want to volunteer – it’s important to them.
“So we have to come up with a concept that will meet their needs,” he said, and he explained this new concept.
“I call it the ‘Civitan Club of the Future’. It’s based online – probably something like Microsoft Teams – a central platform that includes video conferencing, email, messaging, document storage, and scheduling. The younger ones seem to want instant gratification: “Hey, this week, Saturday, I have a few free hours. Let me check my schedule and see if there’s anything I can work on this Saturday.
Brown said, “Their most valuable asset is time; it’s not finances or anything else. It’s time, and we need to figure out how we can meet those needs.
This can increase membership and participation in projects, but loses the original club strengths of friendliness and bonding. This may take some getting used to, especially for long-time club members.
Worldwide, Brown said, there are 20,000 adult Civitans clubs and 10,000 junior and campus Civitans.
“We had a junior club at Rio Rancho High and many others in the Albuquerque area,” he said.
Citizens primarily focus on helping people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Among their local projects is Special Olympics.
“Civitan’s three principles are service, knowledge and camaraderie. It’s like a three-legged milk stool — they’re all equally important,” Brown said. “If one leg is shorter than the others, what happens? You rock, so the brotherhood part definitely missed last year. Our opportunities to help the community have dried up.
“At the time I joined, it was common – especially for banks, accounting firms and law firms – to require their employees to perform community service,” said Brown said. “They would pay their dues, they would allow them to have two hours off a week to go to lunch (meetings) and pay for their meals, but you don’t see that anymore.
“People are working 50 hours a week or more, and they don’t have the time or the opportunity to take time off to go to a meeting,” Brown said.
Rotary Club of Rio Rancho
Rotary International is a global network of 1.4 people who want to come together and take action to create lasting change.
Locally, Rotary provides support grants to A Park Above, Boy Scout troops, ReadWest, and the Dick Hillier Tutoring Program, a reading program for elementary students in which teachers are paid overtime to help after school.
Rotarian Earl Waid is also proud of a recent project, a student art exhibit and sale where 30 children from elementary to high school sold their art.
“We’re going to do another one in May,” Waid said. “You won’t believe what these kids can do. So that’s the big problem. »
A Rotarian since 1995, Michelle Frechette said, “One of the best continuities I have in Rotary is my young adults who have been international exchange students.
For example, ROTEX – Rotary Exchange students – was recently highlighted by asking exchange students to talk about the countries they have visited as part of this soon-to-be-launched program.
“ROTEX is one of our biggest resources in this district to help, at least, keep the trend of bringing these elders back to us, so we recruited a few members from that,” she said. .
Rotary members were so desperate to maintain the aspect of camaraderie that they met outside in Haynes Park for a time because pandemic restrictions prevented them from meeting indoors.
“During COVID, we had a weekly meeting all the time on Zoom – it’s not the same,” he said. “Once the Governor said you could at least go to a bar, we would have these meetings afterwards and we would have a ton of people from the club coming in, just to talk to each other.”
“All my close friends are Rotarians now,” Waid said. “I think we all think the same way, basically. We want young people to join us; that’s why we have our satellite club.
Jerry Reeder, president of the Noon Rotary Club, said, “It basically helped me get more involved in the community. Working for public schools, the things I’ve done have been one-dimensional, so it’s helped me see things in more dimensions.
The more than 46,000 Rotary clubs around the world work together to promote peace; fight disease; providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene; saving mothers and children; supporting education; develop local economies; protect the environment; and get involved.
“We also support nonprofits,” Waid added. “There was a time when we (gave) more than $40,000 a year to different groups; now it’s closer to $20,000.
Rio Rancho Kiwanis Club
Kiwanis’ mission is to “serve the children” and this includes sponsoring Kiwanis Key Clubs in high schools in Cleveland and Rio Rancho; Key clubs help develop leadership skills and encourage service to the student community.
Often, Key Club members join Circle K Clubs when they enter college.
“Hopefully we’ll reconnect them to Kiwanis, but what happens at this point in their lives is they find new jobs,” said lifelong Kiwanian Dave Heil, also concerned about declining service club membership.
But, he rationalized, “there’s a lot more competition for people to get involved in things today than there were years ago.” When Kiwanis started and Rotary started, in the early 1900s or late 1800s, when you were going to provide service to your community, you were showing up to meetings, so there were fewer social media.
“Today there are all kinds of programs you can get involved in to serve your community. It’s not just the service clubs.
“Service clubs (today) kind of have this heavy connotation, that it’s usually about older people.”
For Kiwanis, it is not the quantity of members but the quality of members that determines success.
The Kiwanis Club of Rio Rancho works with other Kiwanis clubs to purchase school clothes for children in need. Heil is the main organizer of Sunday is Funday, a local event that attracts volunteers from other local service clubs.
Proceeds from this event are donated to youth programs.
Kiwanis participates in the Sandoval County Juvenile Justice Program to help at-risk children earn the credits needed to graduate with their class
“We started working with tutors and paying the tutors,” Heil said.
Another Kiwanis project that Heil is proud of is “Buy Rio Rancho: “It’s been a Kiwanis project since it started about seven years ago.
Heil said COVID and the times have played a part in dwindling membership numbers — down to 14 now.