Dwindling membership. No new recruits. The average age of 11 current members: 78. Unable to do things they used to and keep up with technology.
After almost 40 years of ‘Service Above Self,’ the Armstrong Rotary Club is dissolving, effective Saturday.
“The background to this is that, last year, 2017, the Rotarians of the Armstrong Club spent many months in discussions and much soul-searching, striving to reach a decision on the best avenue to take,” said club president Alf Bennett, who turns 78 in August.
“After taking many things into consideration, the conclusion reached was that the only practical route was to dissolve. Once this decision was made, it was much easier to take the appropriate courses of action, beginning with discussions on what legacy we would like to leave (and how to do it).
“We commenced getting our house in order towards this event.”
Bennett, who joined the club in the early 80s, moved to California, then re-joined the Armstrong club upon returning to the North Okanagan, signed affidavit papers this week, making the dissolution official.
The Armstrong Rotary Club chartered in 1979 and, at its peak, had as many as 40 members, male and female. But, as Bennett pointed out, there’s quite a lot of societies and clubs in Canada having some sort of problem with membership.
Part of it is demographics, he said, part of it is a change of technology and what today’s generation can do.
“We’ve aged, eh. Our average age is 78. That’s a long way from the 30s and 40s where people are really quite active and doing things,” said Bennett. “Physically, one of the reasons is the things we’ve done for years, we got less and less capable of doing, like IPE parking. We’ve turned that over to the (Royal Canadian) Legion.”
Another reason, he said, is that in many volunteer organizations, it’s the same members doing the same jobs, and when they can’t do the job anymore, something’s got to give.
“It’s hard to attract new members, they come to our meetings and it’s a bunch of old fogeys, you know,” chuckled Bennett. “You have to keep up to speed with communication. We weren’t doing that well, like keeping up the website and stuff like that.”
Club treasurer Len Gamble, 87, appeared at Armstrong council Monday and presented a cheque to the city in the amount of $25,719.03, the club’s remaining assets, to be held in trust by the city. The funds are to be used for the construction and installation of a project that will leave an appropriate legacy of the club.
“It has been a quite a run, we feel good about and proud of everything we have done,” said Bennett. “There are a lot of things to remember, and I thank all of our club members, past and present, for all of their effort and contributions.”
Asked how he felt about being the club’s final president, Bennett — who has been at the helm the past four years — paused before answering.
“I don’t know how I feel about being the last president. In principle, not good,” he said. “Nobody likes to be the last of anything unless it’s a super good reason.”