Greencastle-Antrim civic clubs help others with limited personnel

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot

The times are a-changing, and Greencastle area service clubs are feeling the pinch because of it.

Membership in civic organizations is down, and the staunch supporters of the groups are talking about how to survive and grow, or at least pool their resources, to continue to best serve the community.

Joann Williams, secretary of the Lions Club, called for a social in September to discuss the situation. A member of Rotary had suggested the Lions merge with them for meetings and programs, then split for business sessions. The Lions decided all of the groups should join the discussion to see how they could help each other, since membership was dropping in them all. Kiwanis and Exchange Club attended the social, too. A representative from the Lioness Club was also present, though it has a strong roster.

“Everybody wants to stay their own club,” said Williams. “They are part of national organizations and don’t want to lose their identity.”

However, each acknowledged they needed more hands with their service projects.

The overall picture

The Lions were chartered in 1944, and the peak membership of 80 was probably in the 1970s, Williams said. Today 20 people are active.

The main activities are handing out treat bags after the Christmas parade, sponsoring the Easter egg hunt at Tayamentasachta, honoring the male Student of the Month at Greencastle-Antrim High School, donating to food banks, and doing other things to help people as they become aware of a need.

The membership was older, Williams continued, so some tasks were getting harder to do.

“It is a different type of society,” she said. “Both parents work. Kids are more involved in things. People help but don’t necessarily want to be part of the organization.”

At Rotary, member Duane Kinzer said 14 people were active, but at one time there were over 40. The club holds a spaghetti dinner each Saturday of the Rescue Hose Company Minstrel Show, with the proceeds each year directed to a different beneficiary. It has included Besore Library, Tayamentasachta, and the Boy Scouts. The group planted Rotary Grove at Antrim Township Community Park. It joins the Waynesboro club for “Battle of the Minds”. The popular ham sandwich sales at Sidewalk Days faltered once its main volunteer moved away. Kinzer favors joint civic meetings so restaurants can have a good number of customers at the meals, and speakers have a large audience.

The Exchange Club has 12 active members. It creates customized books for first-graders at the primary school, and each Christmas gives presents to families needing assistance. In 2015 they purchased and delivered gifts for 70 families. The club also sponsors the Halloween parade, and passes out free flags on Veteran’s Day.

President Brian Davidson saw time commitment as holding back busy people from joining.

“The clubs are changing,” he said. “We do what we can with the members we have, and make it fun. We do a lot for a small club. We uphold the values of the national organization but tailor it to our community and make it our own.”

The latest group

Kiwanis is the newest club in town. It formed in 2011 and topped off at 20 members. Today there are five.

President Brian Bailie attributed that to “the economy in a strange way.” He said clubs all had dues, and that while people wanted to help, they had some concerns about that cost, and out of pocket expenses.

The main Kiwanis projects are sponsoring activities for children, donating money to local causes, ringing the Salvation Army Christmas bell, and helping a family at the holidays.

Member Paul Politis got in on the ground floor and has worked on the annual blueberry fundraiser. It grew from 80 pints the first year, to 220 pints in 2015. But they need more help with that project.

He observed, “People still help when asked. They aren’t less caring, but they don’t seem to join a group. I hate to see us die, but you have to be realistic.”

Bailie hopes the joint talks help the clubs become more efficient, with less duplication of effort.

“We all have our own initiatives carved out, and we don’t step on toes. To do a better job, we need good ideas from each other.”

Davidson and Williams both see education as key factors to drawing members. People just don’t know the clubs exist.

“They need an awareness of the organizations in the community and all the things we do,” said Davidson. “It is a marketing issue, too.”

The committee is working on short- and long-term goals, and ways to team up on community projects.