Celebrating a worthy group

Published 3:16 pm Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Most of them weren’t in Suffolk for the event, but on Saturday more than 32,000 members of Ruritan National celebrated the 82nd anniversary of the community-service organization that got its start in Holland. For the past 30 years, the village of Holland has marked the event with parades, games and a community-wide celebration. Ruritans from around the nation turn out to help make it a big day.

There’s much to celebrate. Since Tom Downing of Suffolk and Jack Gwaltney of Holland agreed in 1928 on the need for an organization in which community leaders could meet and discuss ways to make their community a better place in which to live, the organization that came — at the suggestion of a newspaper reporter — to be known as Ruritan has grown to be a force for good in more than 1,200 communities throughout the nation.

Today, according to its own promotional materials, Ruritan is a “national organization dedicated to improving communities and building a better America through fellowship, goodwill, and community service.”

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Members and their local clubs are involved in a wide variety of community-service projects. Many clubs sponsor Little League teams, 4-H and FFA clubs and Scout troops. Most participate in a national project to donate teddy bears to hospitals and emergency services workers for children whose lives are impacted by emergency situations.

Whether they’re cleaning up roadsides, raising funds for volunteer fire departments and rescue squads or helping to build roadside or community parks, Ruritans are intimately involved in making their communities better places to live.

And the events they hold — much like the Holland Community Day, whose celebration of Ruritan’s birth has almost become secondary to the larger goal of community building — help bring people together for fun and fellowship.

Suffolk has had its share of exports that have influenced American culture. Planters peanuts and the ubiquitous Mr. Peanut are just two of them. While both are probably more famous than Ruritan, it could be argued that neither has had the positive impact on the nation’s communities that Ruritan has had.

Suffolk should be proud of the fact that Ruritan got its start here and even more so of what Ruritan has become. And Ruritan’s members should be proud of the hard and important work they’ve done around the nation. It’s work well worth celebrating.