Paige Hilland with the SAFE Society receives food from Rotarian Grant Remus during the annual Rotary Food Drive held April 30 in Salmon Arm and other parts of the Shuswap. Residents filled bags with food, which the three Rotary clubs picked up to give to several recipient organizations. (SAFE Society image)

Paige Hilland with the SAFE Society receives food from Rotarian Grant Remus during the annual Rotary Food Drive held April 30 in Salmon Arm and other parts of the Shuswap. Residents filled bags with food, which the three Rotary clubs picked up to give to several recipient organizations. (SAFE Society image)

Service clubs in Salmon Arm endure despite declining interest in volunteerism

‘The alternative is people can just expect to pay more on their taxes’

By Barb Brouwer

Contributor

Covid has left its mark on community organizations.

As restrictions are lifted, some groups are having a challenge maintaining or rebuilding memberships.

“Every organization’s memberships are going down,” said Royal Canadian Legion Branch 62 service officer Shelley Desautels, who acts as liaison between area veterans and Veterans Affairs Canada. “We’re seeing a decline and really need to build up our membership.”

Desautels said the legion’s primary mandate is to support veterans, but the organization also provides funds to cadets and various other local organizations.

“The biggest misconception is that the legion is for service members or veterans only,” said Desautels, explaining the social club is open to everyone.

One of the perks that comes with a $60 annual membership is a Vancouver townhouse available for free to any member requiring medical treatment on the Coast.

For a list of hours and activities, visit salmonarmlegion.ca.

Also forced to reduce service during Covid, the Salmon Arm Masonic Lodge is “in dire straits when it comes to warm, actual live bodies,” according to longtime member Barry Tarr, who pointed out the organization’s medical transport for cancer patients had to be put on hold and efforts are being made to revamp and reinstate the service.

Read more: Salmon Arm Rotary Club doubles donations for food bank, women’s shelter

Read more: Salmon Arm legion president looking forward to events, with concert booked for September

Anyone who is interested in joining can find information on a notice board on the outside of the Masonic Lodge on Alexander Street.

Salmon Arm is home to three active Rotary Clubs which, like other service organizations, are regrouping and rebuilding.

“Some of the clubs are struggling with membership and one of them is getting quite a few new members,” said Penny Brown, assistant governor for Area 3, supporting the three Salmon Arm clubs, Chase and Revelstoke. “Covid made it hard to retain members when they couldn’t do too much, and now that we’re back in action, a few decided not to stay.“

The local clubs recently hosted a successful food drive for the Salvation Army, Second Harvest and the SAFE Society, with help from those organizations as well.

A member of Daybreak Rotary, Brown said Lobsterfest is her club’s biggest fundraiser but is looking for several smaller, local projects.

Club president Rich Smith was blunt in his assessment of the need for community volunteerism.

“The trend we’re seeing and feeling in a huge way, is that everyone got burned out, felt isolated,” said the 29-year-old. “We honestly need to see my generation step up. We need young blood, but we’re not seeing volunteers in our community, we’re seeing a decline.”

Smith said only 15 members of the club worked on their most successful Lobsterfest that raised more than $50,000. The problem isn’t raising money, it’s getting people to provide hands-on help to implement community projects such as the club’s plans to improve Canoe Beach, he says.

“The alternative is people can just expect to pay more on their taxes,” he said of the amenities service clubs provide. “Most of our members are in their late 60s and 70s and Generation X and Millennials seem to have no interest in volunteering.”

Salmon Arm Rotary Cub President Garry Hoffart agrees.

“The service club concept seems to be dwindling; people are doing different things,” he said. “We’re a group of people out there creating community and giving back.”

Hoffart said eight new members have joined the club in the last year and two the year before. Five new members are under the age of 30.

“We seem to be attracting that generation, which is good for the clubs,” he said. The club’s new Rotary Ambassadorship program will allow Rotarians to show a short video and speak to organizations such as council, the chamber of commerce and the hospital foundation in order to attract new members.

Shuswap Rotary President Kathy Dunfield said the club’s 24 members are active in the community, with a variety of programs, including an annual auction which is strongly supported by those who donate items and those who buy them.

If people are interested in Rotary they are welcome to call Penny Brown at 250-8322533 or email pennyjayne50@gmail.com.

>newsroom@saobserver.net
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