Service – What it Means to Me

 

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Wow, it’s true that time goes by more quickly as one gets older. And now that I’m a senior it really does fly! A year and a bit ago I retired from working life again, or rather I was retired. As much as I enjoyed working as a city councillor, I was not re-elected so I’m once again free to pursue a private life. Just before the election, I was asked to join a service club. I think the group felt I could be an asset because I was a councillor and had connections at city hall. I hope they’ve learned that I’m smart and knowledgeable and a good, eager member.

Here are the pros and cons of being in a service club. Our organization has what they call the “Five Pillars”. They are fight vision loss, fight childhood cancer, fight hunger, encourage diabetes awareness and help the environment. These can all be served at any level. from local to international, and all are worthy causes.

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Our club raises quite a bit of money which we then donate to charities who may not have the ability to raise as much or who need a boost in fundraising. We also have several hands on projects, some are easy and not time consuming, others require many person hours of work. Most of our projects are chosen to help our local community. Funds raised from the public are returned to the public in support of a local group or entity. If we raise money from the members solely, then that money may go to help our international foundation donate to needy projects around the world. This is a big plus when choosing a service club. Does it truly serve the community?

Belonging to a service organization is really beneficial to me personally. I like people and this group allows me to meet other like-minded folks and have some fun too. I get to meet and talk with members of the public. I get to put forward new ideas, that may or may not be used but at least they are out there. These are social benefits for anyone.

This type of group offers many benefits to those who chose to participate. In fact I’ve often wondered why there are members who join, pay the dues but don’t participate in any of our activities. This group has offered me a few new opportunities. We get the benefit of knowledge from those who have been with the club far longer. This isn’t always good, as you’ll see later, but it’s important to know the history of your group.

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For years many service clubs were for men only. Eventually the more forward thinking groups realized that women too needed to share that community spirit so women’s clubs were formed as off-shoots of the original men only organizations. Women were still not allowed to hold a higher office than that allowed in their local club. Though originally formed as a branch of the men’s associations. women proved to be equally adept at running fundraisers and putting in the hours need for actual service. And so most clubs began accepting female members and allowed them to move up the ranks both locally, in their districts and even internationally. There are still some of the old guys networks that refuse to allow women, but they are quickly becoming obsolete. That said there are still a few women’s groups also that don’t want to amalgamate but they are soon to be eased into becoming one big club. By belonging to a diversified club, I have the opportunity to advocate for women, to encourage younger women to join and to mentor if that’s necessary. It’s a win-win for me.

Although I have tried to boost the benefits of joining a service group, there is a bit of a downside. Gaining new members can be hard. Young parents often have to commute from work to home, leaving little time for an extra-curricular activity. Their children are involved in teams or lessons that take place in the early evenings. Combat these issues by being more lenient in attendance needs, cut meetings from two or three to one per month, pique interest with exciting activities the whole family can enjoy.

We are members of what we jokingly call the STP group, or the same ten people group. It seems that much of our activity is done by the same people every time, no matter what the event. This is terribly frustrating because there is such a variety of experiences available to members. But we take a deep breath and carry on. You cannot force someone to participate.

The above paragraph leads into that famous statement “we’ve always done it this way”. Guess what – it’s time for change! It can be a long, slow process but things will eventually change and most often the change is better. Being stuck in a time warp means a lack of transparency and accountability. Isn’t this something we demand from our politicians? Ask it of your club executive as well, change has to come from within! One on-going battle is how long it takes to move up from being a member to the club executive and so on. Our members bring many years of life experience with them yet hit a brick wall when it comes to moving up in the organization. Or if they do move up, they are given very little help in fulfilling the role. It’s really a great way to lose active members.

My last complaint is with the cliques. Part of the reason I joined a service club was to meet people. I’m very outgoing and will talk to everyone whether I know them or not and, I realize that everyone isn’t the same. I see chairs tipped up that indicates ONLY OUR FRIENDS can sit here. How off-putting is that?  But I have to ask, if you stick with only your friends and don’t participate in the groups’ activities, why did you join?

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All that said, I hope you consider joining a service group. Change can only come from within whether that’s from within you or within the club. Service benefits not only the receivers but those who give as well.