SECOND LOOK: Local civic clubs keep community spirit alive

Published on Wednesday, 19 April 2017 23:08
Written by

Art Secondo

Oh, how we take these citizens for granted.

Most people don’t know where they meet or when they gather. These individuals receive no compensation and yet are so loyal to their meeting commitments. Actually, it costs them money to belong to these groups.

They are the small but community-spirited members of the Elks, Sons of Italy, Falcons, Rotary, Lions, UNICO and Jaycees. In Southington, the Lions Club recently observed its 75th year of existence. The Jaycees celebrated 60 years recently. Sons of Italy is over 100 years old.

These nationally-based civic groups are fighting to continue long traditions of service to their respective towns. Memberships have declined over the past 20 years and the truth is the male-dominated membership requirement that was dropped by nearly all these groups has been the reason they can survive. Women members revived the spirit.

Years ago the Jaycees honored their own and those former Jaycees who began in 1954 with a handful of men who really didn’t know anything about the organization that began as the Junior Chamber of Commerce.

We tend to take them and others for granted. We attend their functions, buy their tickets and use their donations. We seldom notice the small plaques that meekly proclaim their donations at Recreation and Memorial parks or on the Town Green. When we enjoy those summer concerts and watch musicians performing on that expensive bandstand, we assume our taxes provided the luxury. The taxes didn’t, but donations did.

When the covered roof at the kiddie pool at Recreation Park protects your child, it wasn’t the town that supplied the dome, but rather a civic organization. When we see newspaper photos of people handing an envelope to other people we take it for granted even though inside that envelope is money raised by those organizations going to a worthy cause.

Rotarians, Lions, Kiwanians, Elks and UNICO members, among others, are the grandfathers of public service. Their membership rosters contain the names of community activists from bankers to lawyers, business owners, executives and self-employed successful people. They are secure enough to stay at home and take care of themselves. They don’t. They meet to discuss new ways to raise money to give away.

The Calvanese Foundation has donated $2 million over the past 20 years. The family filled the void left by struggling organizations that have labored to maintain annual donations.

And, while we’re on this subject, let’s not forget the efforts and donations from fraternal organizations like the Knights of Columbus, American Legion, Masons and the Elks.

Dedicated beyond reason and sold on their town, these organizations have stringent guidelines. They are constantly challenged by changes in society and by the complacency of new and younger members.

Oh, how we take these groups for granted.

In the coming years, memberships in civic organizations will dwindle in numbers, but never in enthusiasm. The Jaycees proved the point years ago when they nearly folded, threatening to end a wonderful string of five decades of service. Remaining members refused to let the name Jaycees disappear from the Southington landscape. They called upon their friends and leaned on the expertise of traditionalists who taught them to honor those who served before them.

The next time somebody you recognize but aren’t sure who they are, and want to sell you a ticket for a raffle, buy it. Don’t take those high school scholarships for granted. Many of them come from those organizations.

If the guys at the American Legion did nothing but relax at their Main Street headquarters and never marched to a beat, few would complain. But they’ve been unrelenting in their work of patriotism. Who keeps the tradition of Memorial Day alive?

The amount of donated charitable dollars to citizens of Southington from these organizations has never been calculated. All this doesn’t include the citizen donations from folks such as Curtis Robinson recently purchasing a bus for the Calendar House.

The total would embarrass the government because most people believe only government builds those little “extras” for citizens.

Oh, how we take them for granted.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Southington Herald on Wednesday, 19 April 2017 23:08. Updated: Wednesday, 19 April 2017 23:11.