An article in this past Thursday's News-Topic - the local newspaper for Lenoir, North Carolina - set me to thinking about civic clubs and the impact they have made on our culture, and unfortunately on their demise. Yes. Demise.
The article written by journalist Kara Fohner under the headline Optimist Park may be given to city opens with the phrase, "Because of dwindling membership..."
Wow. Just Wow.
My first thought, "Another one bites the dust."
Civic clubs such as the Optimists and Ruritans and Lions and Jaycees and Rotary, and even the PTA among others, have defined small town southern culture for the past few generations. Established originally to spearhead efforts to better their communities, the members of these groups worked endlessly and tirelessly to accomplish the impossible. They built ball parks and hiking trails and swimming pools. They organized volunteer fire departments. They sponsored scouts and sports teams and international visits. They encouraged community participation, each club working within the precepts of their individual organizations.
Yet society is changing, even in small southern towns. Volunteerism is more focused on specifics. Another quote from the article says it best, the current Optimist Club president speaking, "We've had people come and work for a while with us. As soon as their children got out of the age of whatever sport they were in at our club, they just disappeared..."
So instead of the few members struggling to maintain a large facility, the only alternative they see is to turn it over to the government. I can appreciate the logic in that decision.
Just last week the scout master from our community troop spoke about his final two Boy Scouts working toward their Eagle rank. Key word, final. There are no other boys interested in sticking to the goals and rigors of scouting. They have found other interests and are active in those. The discussion among the few remaining adults has been along the lines of what to do with the charter in case there is a renaissance of interest.
The local ball teams withdrew from the Little League organization several years ago and have developed their own association. The more accomplished players have joined "traveling teams" and left the others behind. Not all that bad a decision for the individuals involved, I might insert, but still. They left the others behind, those who need to learn from mentors, from those better players.
Even the school PTA members voted decades ago to leave the national Parent Teacher Association (because a part of the money raised locally would go to the coffers of the organization) and become an unaffiliated PTO, Parent Teacher Organization, keeping all money here in the community. Again, I can see the reasoning behind that decision. Why sell candy door to door only to hand over part of that profit.
But wait. Maybe corporate thinking has merit. One for all. E pluribus unum. Out of many, one. The word civic means citizen, so these are in reality, citizen clubs working for the communities.
The spirit behind civic clubs and organizations is a uniting force that cannot be extinguished. Civic clubs are too important to our way of life. The concept is not irrelevant to our times, it just needs a little updating. The demise must not be inevitable.
Catch of the day,