Are people becoming less interested in helping others?
August 14, 2008
Frank Taylor thinks it’s a sign of the times.
“They don’t have the ‘I want to do something for the community’ feeling that most men had about 30 years ago. They’re more interested in their family and their house and their things.”
Taylor is talking about the decline in membership that some civic organizations have experienced in recent years. It may not be the case for every club, but it is with his – Sertoma (an acronym for “service to mankind.”)
The club was started in 1964 by two local businessmen, Don Clore and Leroy Winters. It flourished. There were more than 40 members at its peak, not including the membership of two other Sertoma clubs that formed in Carson City.
More importantly, it raised and donated more than $600,000 to more than 40 local charitable organizations.
Last year, the club donated more than $17,000 to 14 community groups. Among them are the Carson City School District’s speech and hearing programs, Angel Kiss, FISH, Community Pregnancy Center, Carson Advocates for Cancer Victims, City of Refuge, the Sheriff’s Office Children’s Room and the 4H Guide Dog Club.
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They raise that money through three major fundraisers ” a wild game feed in the spring, a golf tournament in the summer and a fall football book program, not to mention its beer wagon at the Nevada Day Parade.
Those get more difficult to put on each year as membership has declined.
“We’re having tough times,” Taylor said. “Over the years we just kept losing members.”
In fact, the other two Sertoma clubs disappeared in the 1990s.
Now they have just over 20 members, who still manage to accomplish a great deal for the community.
Taylor has only been in the club five years, though he’s been involved in the community in other ways, including the Kit Carson Toastmasters, but he’s not content to watch the club and all the good it does go away.
“This is an excellent way with minimal time involvement to help out all these charities,” he said. “You’re making a difference in the community.”
But there’s another benefit to being in a club, Taylor said, and that’s friendship. They hold gatherings year round.
“It’s just a bunch of fine gentleman,” he said.
And one of those gentlemen is Taylor himself, who extends an invitation to anyone interested in joining. If you want to learn more, call him at 885-7579, or just show up at Q’s restaurant any Wednesday at 12:10 p.m. (“you can observe our program and meet these fine gentlemen while enjoying lunch on us,” he wrote).
Among its members are its original founders, Winters and Clore. Taylor, 66, said most of the other members are seniors, too.
But he would love to see younger members, and says club membership still leaves time for a lot of other things.
“Membership would not be arduous or time-consuming,” he wrote.
I think Frank Taylor is right ” people are busy these days. I’m not sure people spend more time making a living than they used to (I know my dad worked some long hours, too), but I do know there are a lot of things vying for our attention. Americans watch an average of more than four hours of TV a day, for example, and that goes up every year. The time people spend on the Internet isn’t far behind (although I suspect many people do both at the same time).
From that, it seems likely that the time people spend socializing, or taking part in community activities, is falling.
You hear the term “online communities” a lot these days. In fact, we plan to build several of them on our Web site, nevadaappeal.com, in the coming months where people will be able to discuss issues and share ideas of all sorts … everything from local history to where you can find the cheapest gas or a great place nearby to take a hike with the family. We hope they’ll become virtual “gathering places” that will promote a sense of community.
But they’re not meant to replace real communities, the places where people take casual strolls down the street, greet their neighbors and, yes, join civic organizations.
Barry Ginter is editor of the Appeal. You can reach him at 881-1221 or firstname.lastname@example.org