Several weeks ago the leader of the Sassafras Literary Society came to us to discuss their dwindling membership. The group, which promotes creative writing among adults and youth, was suffering from the deaths of some key members and poor health of others.
The group’s writing contest for youth has been a mainstay of young scribes for three decades but this year it wasn’t clear how they would find enough readers to judge the piles of entries from middle and high school writers.
We ran a couple of stories on it and enough warm bodies showed up to their next meeting to avert the crisis – for this year.
As we were preparing our guide for this year’s Marble Festival, it became apparent that tour times/info for the Old Jail was going to be sparse. The Marble Valley Historical Society, who operate the jail, was short on guides and volunteers – again due to a combination of deaths of local historians and poor health of other members.
Due to the scarcity of volunteers able to get around the historic building, tours were self-guided with the jail still seeing a steady stream of visitors the day it was open. But as we reported last week, our prime historic attraction on Main Street won’t be open unless someone schedules a private tour.
A similar fate has fallen on the Jasper Lions Club, (where one of our staff is a member), whose membership has also fallen over the last few years. Similar to the Marble Valley Historical Society, the remaining active members are getting older and have less energy to perform volunteer work that’s often labor intensive, like buying and sorting thousands of toys for the Fil-A-Stocking program.
A few years ago the decades-old Sharptop Arts Association had to shutter its doors in large part because the non-profit couldn’t recruit anyone into leadership roles.
An unfortunate trend seems to be developing where the hard-working volunteers that have provided this community with historical societies, literary contests, and other service projects are aging-out. They are not being replaced by a steady flow of new members.
Possibly, young and middle-aged people (and here we mean anyone under 60) are no longer as interested in these particular groups and their missions. That’s a shame. From promoting the arts to organizing Toy Runs, these groups have done a lot of good.
Or possibly, as is often reported, younger families are stretched in too many directions and the social expectation that solid middle class people join some type of Lions, Optimists, Jaycees, a lodge or Sportsmen’s Club is falling by the wayside. Certainly the custom of this era is moving away from genuine face-to-face socializing and more toward glaring at a cell phone.
We would ask our readers to look at some of the groups out there and see if any interest you. They all welcome visitors where you can find out more about their missions. Some, like the historical society, don’t have regular meetings but could surely spring back into life if the interest was there.
We would also suggest if you’ve got an interest that is not currently represented by a club out there, start one. We’ll publicize it for free in the Progress and see if there are others around who share your interest, guaranteed you’ll find joining/starting a small group infinitely more rewarding that ranting online.