Committed to the community

Published 9:14 pm Saturday, December 17, 2011

It was cold last Saturday morning when a group of 20 or so men and women arrived at a ballfield in Eclipse to build a couple of dugouts and half a dozen or so benches.

There were accountants, lawyers, IT professionals, insurance agents and even a newspaper editor — most of whom had little experience in such things, and fewer who had brought proper tools along for the job. They looked to the two or three construction and landscape professionals who are also members of the North Suffolk Rotary Club for advice and direction, prepared to provide, if nothing else, at least the extra hands and the muscle necessary to accomplish the job.

As tools and equipment were brought out for the job and laid aside the chain-link fencing that would form the walls of the dugouts, it was easy to pick out those who were comfortable with the project at hand and those, like me, who felt they’d stepped into an alien place.

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But all of them chipped in, and by the afternoon, the Ebenezer United Methodist Church ballfield sported a place for opposing baseball and softball teams to sit safely while at bat.

On the same day, the Suffolk Rotary Club, which meets each week in the downtown area, sent a group of members out to ring bells for the Salvation Army. Working in shifts, members raised more than $500 to support that organization’s efforts on behalf of those who are less fortunate. Their work not only raised money directly, but it helped the Salvation Army save money it otherwise would have spent to pay bell ringers to do the job.

Both Rotary clubs take on a variety of projects throughout the year to contribute to their community, and they also donate money to various worthy causes. But they are far from the only service organizations working to make Suffolk a better place.

Ruritan clubs, the Pilot Club, civic leagues, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, churches and countless other organizations work throughout the year to raise money, build, clean and promote on behalf of their communities, and the financial value of their contributions would be hard to measure.

The civic value, however, is clear when children are at play on the ballfields they helped to build and on the playgrounds they help to improve. That value is clear when a homeless family finds a warm place to sleep, when a poor child gets a coat for the winter and when bags of trash are collected from a community park. Though it can’t be quantified, that value shines forth when members of a community gather for an annual picnic, parade or street party hosted by one of these organizations.

A city is more than a collection of streets and neighborhoods. It is more than the array of government agencies that provide services to its taxpayers. One of the most important things that makes a city a true community is the small army of selfless individuals working — often in ways that are completely outside of their comfort zones — to make it a better place in which to live.

Suffolk is lucky to have so many service organizations committed to that goal.