Many service clubs facing hard times

By Philip Case State Journal Columnist Published:

Time was when being a member of a service club was an important part of one's resume.

Unfortunately, the operative word here is was.

Pretty much across the board, clubs from Kiwanis to Optimist, Ruritan to Civitan, Rotary to Lions have seen rolls dwindle as those members whose names are removed because of death or old age aren't replaced. Once the bastion of men only, the admission of women hasn't been able to plug the hole in the dike as a trickle has become a flood.

"A lot of clubs are just going under," said Bill Hayden, president of the Bridgeport Ruritan Club, one such organization teetering on the brink of extinction after more than 45 years of service. "The demographics of society have changed and it's hard to recruit members."

Hayden, who coaches his daughter's soccer team, says it's just a matter of how much time people have ... and their priorities.

"Those of us who are left in the Bridgeport club are trying to do what we can to keep it afloat and get new members," he said, "but people just have so many other things they're doing now and there are only so many hours in the day."

The Bridgeport club, which was chartered in April of 1957 when the national Ruritan organization was on the rise, is planning a special bean soup supper membership drive 7 p.m. Thursday, March 6, at the Bridgeport Christian Church in hopes of attracting some new members.

"Currently our active membership list is under 20," said Hayden, who grew up in the Bridgeport community but now lives with his family in east Frankfort. "And that's just not enough people to accomplish the things the club tries to do in the community."

At its zenith in the mid-1970s, there were some 50 members on the Bridgeport club roll. As it is with all service organizations, not all were active, but the pool to draw from was larger.

For more on this story, see the latest State Journal.

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