Service clubs still vital to communities
Recently I read an article that asked if service clubs were relevant in the 21st century. The story pointed out a variety of negatives including diminishing membership and lack of community interest. My answer is simple: service clubs are absolutely essential to communities and serve vital needs in many areas. In fact, we need service clubs more than ever due to increasing problems.
First, service clubs have changed in the last few decades. Originally, they were designed for network for businesses and were an all-male bastion. While meeting new people is still a part of clubs, the primary emphasis now is “service” carrying out projects that help communities or individuals. Since the middle 1980s, service clubs started recruiting and accepting women members. At first, like with any new concept, there were those who protested, however time has proven them wrong. Now women hold leadership roles in all service clubs and have been a vital addition.
Service clubs have been around for about 100 years. All of the major organizations came into existence in the first or second decade of the previous century. The original purpose in all cases was to help individuals and companies increase business through networking. That concept changed in the 1920s and 1930s and the emphasis became service and working to help communities.
Rotary International was founded in Chicago in 1905. The Optimist Clubs started in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1910, while Kiwanis was started in Detroit in 1915. The Lions Clubs were born in Chicago in 1917, and the Business and Professional Women were started in 1919.
This area is served by all of those clubs, and I probably missed some. Fortunately, both Bonner Springs and Basehor have active, vital VFW posts, and there are other service groups including PEO, some faith-based organizations and youth groups, such as 4-H and the Boy Scouts.
The article was correct about one thing – service clubs are losing membership. In the past couple of years, the Basehor Kiwanis Club folded, as did the Bonner Springs Masonic Lodge. I have heard a variety of reasons that range from financial to lack of time. Young families are often deeply involved in youth sports programs that take up most weekends. By the time you add in the workload necessary to maintain a house, yes, time is extremely scarce.
But if you look around our communities you see many, many worthwhile projects conducted by service clubs. For example, the Bonner Springs Optimist Club established and operates the Kerry Roberts Basketball League. The Bonner Springs Rotary Club has many worthwhile projects including conducting a major fund-raiser for Vaughn-Trent Community Services, co-sponsoring the Mayor’s Banquet during Tiblow Days and the Christmas in October project. The Lions Club does outstanding service in the area of sight and vision for those who need assistance.
The Kiwanis Club has changed its name to better represent its membership. The organization is now the “Edwardsville-Bonner Springs Kiwanis Club.” The club conducts a wide variety of projects including sponsoring the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast during the Edwardsville Days celebration and gives dictionaries to third graders.
The service clubs all give scholarships to worthy high school seniors. Now the clubs are conducting joint meetings to look at ways cooperation can be increased to better serve the needs of the area.
You can probably tell that I’m a big believer in service clubs. I have served as president of three major clubs in my career, and I believe they are all equal when it comes to service. While fellowship and socializing remains a major part of clubs, the emphasis is now service to the community and world.
I really hope to see the local clubs grow and prosper. If you are interested in joining a service club, I can get you the information about meeting times and contacts. You’ll have fun and serve the community, too.