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Old 05-25-2011, 11:22 AM
 
220 posts, read 488,839 times
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Since I'm a new resident in this smallish city (11,000) I've been invited to several local club meetings lately.

Over the years I've found that these clubs - whether it be Rotary, Kiwanis, Women's Federated, Altrusa, Optimist, Junior League, Ruritan, Masons, etc. etc. etc. - are the backbone of small communities. These are the people who raise and donate funds to the schools, libraries, kids ball teams, hospitals, scholarship funds and etc.

I've also observed that membership in these clubs is dying out. The members primarily consist of men and women in their 70s and 80s, with a small number of people in their 50s and 60s, and rarely anyone younger.

Fraternal and sororal organizations have been the backbone of small town life in America since the early 1900s. I wonder what the future of small communities will be when clubs like these close due to lack of membership? Will the boomers and subsequent generations support their communities in the same way as the older men and women have? And will small rural communities that are becomming seasonal homes for wealthy in-comers have any such groups to support them?

In the teensy community I used to live the only organization that was still active was KSKJ, which is the Slovenian heritage organization.

Here the most active group seem to be Rotary.

What are your thoughts on this issue? What fraternal organizations or clubs still exist in your area? Which are the heart and soul of your small community?
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Old 05-25-2011, 01:59 PM
 
Location: Washington State
130 posts, read 184,688 times
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The heart and soul of my community is high school sports and the local diner.
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Old 05-25-2011, 02:30 PM
 
Location: Middle America
17,837 posts, read 15,309,885 times
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High school activities, for sure...sports, yes, are a big one, but the community in my hometown also actively comes out for plays, musicals, band concerts, etc. as well. The madrigal dinner held at Christmastime always sells out. Pretty impressive for a not particularly artsy community...I attribute it to very talented band and choir directors.

Fraternal organizations and clubs are definitely a presence, but they also tend to be rather cliquey, and draw from a particular echelon of the town's population...the erstwhile movers and shakers, mainly the Chamber of Commerce members...many of them the biggest gladhanders and d-bags around. Membership in Rotary, Kiwanis, Optimists, Jaycees, Business & Professional Women's Club, etc. is most prevalent amongst these types. They're not dying out in my hometown area (and I do know, because I worked as the editor of the local paper, and thusly covered all their events), but they'd be doing a lot better if they weren't so selective about who they issue invites to, and if they weren't so invested in making sure that their members are all doctors, dentists, bankers, and attorneys, and all had country club memberships.

By contrast, the American Legion and VFW, both veterans' groups, tend to do a LOT for the town, and don't tend to be in it for plaques and recognition, unlike the Chamber of Commerce types.
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Old 05-25-2011, 09:31 PM
 
Location: South Dakota
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Contrary to TabulaRasa - and in my personal experience in a town of around 15,000 - I have not found the various organizations at all selective. They recognize the importance of their work as the core of the community. Community theater, lodges, churches, service clubs, all will respond to anyone interested in membership with wide open arms as they recognize aging membership and dwindling numbers need boosting. My local Masonic lodge has a cross section of members ranging from metalworkers and welders to doctors and lawyers to factory line workers and teachers to students. Likewise the community theater draws from all walks of life as do the service clubs.

I guess it just goes to show that every place is different. I don't doubt that some communities are elitist; as it happens that's just not something I've ever experienced.
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Old 05-26-2011, 01:35 AM
 
Location: Southern California
3,116 posts, read 4,023,871 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lily0fthevalley View Post
I've also observed that membership in these clubs is dying out. The members primarily consist of men and women in their 70s and 80s, with a small number of people in their 50s and 60s, and rarely anyone younger.
I agree that these clubs and organizations are less popular than they were in the past - that's definitely true! But I think it's also safe to say that those clubs have always appealed more to senior citizens than to younger people.

I participated in several speech contests when I was in high school, put on by a couple of different service clubs, and the members were all senior citizens - and that was years ago! And my grandfather had never been a member of a club, until he retired, and then he joined several.

More recently I attended a Rotary meeting, a business I was involved with was a member - and since the members were all business leaders in the community they were mostly in their 50's, with a few in their 40's, and then a few senior members.

So maybe the aging membership of these clubs isn't a sign of their decline? And maybe as more of the Baby Boomers start retiring, maybe some of these clubs will get some new members?
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Old 05-26-2011, 02:57 AM
 
Location: Colorado
554 posts, read 753,690 times
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Where I'm at, within 3 square miles we have The Elks Lodge, The Lions Club, and a brand new motorcycle club. Plus we have the brand new high school that really is the heart of our town. Two old, rival high schools were torn down and merged under one roof. Then if you go about 2 miles South, we have the VFW too. I'm actually very surprised the Elks and Lions are still around. And I guess I don't have any thoughts on the issue since I don't know anyone that belongs to any of the clubs. The bikers look interesting though.
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Old 05-26-2011, 03:22 PM
 
Location: Sebeka, MN
2,978 posts, read 2,873,685 times
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My town is a whopping 711 in population. Groups tend to be a huge and vital part of our culture. First up the Sebeka C&C (civic and commerace) is the back bone of the community. The Lyons are there too in effort. Our Local American Legion is a great place to congregate, be it for a beer or to play Bingo or have a meal. The meeting rooms are free of charge for the most part.

It's a small community but these groups are vital to our way of life and the community's overall well being. All are welcome and encouraged to participate.
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Old 05-26-2011, 09:04 PM
 
Location: Tejas
1,816 posts, read 1,762,251 times
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Hmm. Let's see. The construction workers. The camo wearing hunting crowd is big. The big-diesel-truck-lovers group. Some horse people (mostly crazy barrel racers who think you have not ridden a horse until you have broken at least three ribs). The swamp buggy group is big too. The "let's race around the neighborhood on ATVs group" is also popular. The "let's go to the grocery store without t-shirts" group is popular too. But I suspect that it intersects with at least one group I mentioned above. Also the "litter your own 'neighborhood with empty beer cans and vodka bottles" group.

Finally, the "we are unincorporated, f u" group seems to rule it all!
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Old 05-27-2011, 01:31 AM
 
Location: Colorado
554 posts, read 753,690 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ognend View Post
Hmm. Let's see. The construction workers. The camo wearing hunting crowd is big. The big-diesel-truck-lovers group. Some horse people (mostly crazy barrel racers who think you have not ridden a horse until you have broken at least three ribs). The swamp buggy group is big too. The "let's race around the neighborhood on ATVs group" is also popular. The "let's go to the grocery store without t-shirts" group is popular too. But I suspect that it intersects with at least one group I mentioned above. Also the "litter your own 'neighborhood with empty beer cans and vodka bottles" group.

Finally, the "we are unincorporated, f u" group seems to rule it all!
LOL! I can only guess what deep Southern state you're talking about. I've never even heard of a "swamp buggy" before! And anyone walking around town in "camo wearing hunting" gear is usually swarmed by the S.W.A.T. team before they can yell, "deer season!". That's hilarious, thanks for the smile.
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Old 05-27-2011, 06:55 AM
 
Location: Tejas
1,816 posts, read 1,762,251 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pierce2011 View Post
LOL! I can only guess what deep Southern state you're talking about. I've never even heard of a "swamp buggy" before! And anyone walking around town in "camo wearing hunting" gear is usually swarmed by the S.W.A.T. team before they can yell, "deer season!". That's hilarious, thanks for the smile.
Yeah, that is the reality in some neighborhoods in Florida. I am not sure but I think it would win the "trashiest state" contest any time . If it wasn't for the ocean...
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