Speak to any high school student today and you’ll likely find a teenager with more on his or her plate than any of us ever dreamed of. Between their classroom studies and school-sponsored extracurricular activities, they barely have time for family and friends. But they continue to fill every available spot on their calendars because the message students who hope to pursue a college education often hear is that the college admission offices look for well-rounded people. College students take a similar approach as they attempt to build a resume that demonstrates their multiple talents, as well as begin networking for a post-graduation career.
For many years, the networking aspect continued to be important for career-minded people, and civic clubs such as Kiwanis, Rotary and Lions provided that opportunity for businessmen and women. One of the most important results of civic clubs was that they often adopted projects that benefited the communities they called home. Club meetings were a great time to choose projects, organize volunteers and raise any money that might be needed. For all involved, it was a win-win situation.
In recent years, though, it has been well documented that attendance in clubs has dropped nationwide. Some point to aging membership rolls, and members who were less interested in being active than simply offering financial support. Others blame the hectic pace of our lives, and the increasing demands on our time. Despite those obstacles, some civic clubs continue to thrive, and in some cases, have continued to grow.
One of those clubs will be holding its largest annual fund-raiser in a few weeks, feeding the community pancakes and sausage for the 55th straight year. Over the past several years, the event has grown, with the lines growing longer and club members serving more pancakes than in previous years.
It’s during those same years that the club has undergone something of a re-birth, with many new members joining the ranks — not just for the weekly lunch program but also for a growing number of club activities.
Civic clubs in Brown County have a number of activities they can pursue, from adopting their own worthwhile projects to taking part in other groups’ events. Cooking hamburgers at Day in the Park, helping direct visitors at the Brownwood Reunion Celebration and answering questions for visitors at any of the many events all qualify.
The Brownwood Kiwanis Pancake Supper, though, has seemingly taken on a life of its own. Rather than approaching the annual fund-raiser as a chore, members engage each other with heated competition for the coveted ticket salesperson, not to mention lively debate around the grills about who pours and cooks the perfect pancake. The influx of new members has added to the fun, with seemingly new surprises awaiting around every corner.
Anyone who has ever been involved with an annual event that is entering its 55th year knows that a certain pecking order develops over time. The so-called “glamorous jobs” around the grills go to the members with the most seniority while the younger members are assigned jobs that involve running from place to place, often with a load that is heavier than can be carried without making a mess. The waiting list for Masters tickets, or season tickets at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field, are shorter than the list of those waiting to flip their first Kiwanis pancake.
When the group is enjoying itself, though, the roles each of the members play seem less important than the overall events. It is the continuation of events and activities that give civic clubs their own life, and help attract new members who are probably less interested in building their resumes and more interested in building their communities. The clubs that recognize and embrace the latter are thriving and growing.
Bill Crist is associate publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Wednesday. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.