Ruritan club disbands, goes out giving

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, June 23, 2009

After nearly four decades, countless Bingo nights and dozens of community service projects, it all came down to one last envelope.

E.D. Smith and Doug Lindsay handed over the envelope to the Salvation Army’s Major Cal Clatterbuck Wednesday afternoon, and in doing so completed the final act of community service for the Bennett’s Creek Ruritan Club.

In January, the majority of the club’s 20 members voted it was time to shut the club down.

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“Members were getting older, interest was waning,” Smith said. “We decided it was time.”

A Ruritan club is a civic service organization whose purpose is to create a better understanding among people and through volunteer community service, and to make communities better places to live and work, according to the Ruritan Web site. Currently, there are more than 32,000 Ruritan club members across the country in more than 1,200 clubs.

The Bennett’s Creek club was founded in January of 1970.

At the time, members had one goal in mind: to create and support the Bennett’s Creek Rescue Squad.

For years, the club held twice-weekly Bingo nights and various other fundraisers to raise money and support for the squad. The Ladies Auxiliary would cook meals for the club, and the rescue squad volunteers became Ruritan members, as well.

In its heyday, the club had more than 50 members.

Before long, the fire department, which is controlled by the city of Suffolk, took over the maintenance of the rescue squad, and the members turned to new service opportunities.

But as time went on, membership began to decline, as did the motivation for remaining members to continue participating.

Five months ago, when members decided it was time for the club to disband, they also decided to go out giving.

Emptying out all of the club’s resources, members sent checks to Boy Scout Troop 16, the local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Holiday House, an intermediate care facility for intellectually disabled children and young adults.

The final check, made out for $1,000, went to the Salvation Army.

“That cleans us out,” Smith said with a laugh as he handed the check over.

The money will be well used, Major Clatterbuck assured the Ruritans.

The Salvation Army’s summer camp is already well underway, with 30 children learning, playing and getting fed throughout the summer. This project is in addition to the soup kitchen, senior dinner and mentoring programs that the organization already hosts.

Smith said he hopes people will see the need for giving through the Ruritan’s club’s donation and be inspired to do the same. He also added that this may not be the end of the story for Bennett’s Creek Ruritan Club.

“Maybe someone will come along and resurrect it, which would be nice,” Smith said. “We need young blood. We need six or eight 30-year-olds to make it work.”

For more information on the Ruritan organization, visit www.ruritan.org.