88 years of doing good work

Published 9:52 pm Monday, May 23, 2016

Saturday was a lousy day for a parade. In fact, carrying out what seems to have been the theme for most of this month, Saturday was a complete washout for the Holland Ruritan Club, which had had plans to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of Ruritan 88 years ago.

With the rain pouring, Holland was sadly empty of the floats, cars, marching bands and fire trucks that make the annual Founders Day parade such a special time for the village. The only sign that a celebration was to have taken place were a tent and chairs that had been set up on the grass near the intersection of Holland Road, South Quay Road and Ruritan Boulevard. Not a soul was to be seen as the rain came down.

But the Ruritans have made a big impression since May 21, 1928, when Tom Downing of Suffolk and Jack Gwaltney of Holland formed the group that would come to be known as Ruritan.

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The men had recognized the need for an organization where community leaders could meet and discuss ways to make their communities better places to live.

The name “Ruritan” was suggested by Daisy Nurney, a reporter for the Virginian-Pilot, and the club’s charter members unanimously adopted “Ruritan” as the organization’s name. The word is a combination of the Latin words for open country “ruri” and small town “tan,” interpreted as pertaining to rural and small town life.

During nearly nine decades, the organization has grown to nearly 30,000 members in more than 1,100 communities across the United States, and members have made countless contributions to those communities, donating both time and money to causes and programs that build up people and their hometowns.

The slogan of Ruritan is “Fellowship, Goodwill and Community Service,” according to the organization’s website. Club membership represents a cross-section of the community in which the club serves, and is not restrictive with regard to occupation, social position or any other specific criteria.

The formula has been a successful one, resulting in a wide range of organizations receiving the support of Ruritan clubs like the many that are located throughout Suffolk and Western Tidewater. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Little League teams, veterans’ groups and others are among the many grateful recipients of that support, and they are among the many who were disappointed to have been unable to celebrate with the Ruritans on Saturday.

Parade or no, we congratulate the Ruritans on their 88 years of public service, and we wish them many more years of working to make their communities — places both larger and smaller than Holland, Va. — better places to live. We also wish them better weather this time next year.