Local club beats national trend

Published 11:07 pm Friday, September 21, 2018

By Ella Bronaugh


Since getting its start in Holland in 1928, Ruritan National has made a significant impact on the Hampton Roads area through its many local clubs. Despite a national decrease in membership, Carrollton’s Ruritan Club is still going strong.

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Chartered in 1950, the Carrollton Ruritan Club has been making a positive impact on its community by sponsoring programs, fundraising and rewarding scholarships to local students and more for 68 years. According to Jim Henderson, treasurer at the Carrollton branch, the club’s function is to serve their local community and the people in it.

“Essentially, this is what you would call a service club,” Henderson said. “Part of it is community service, part of it is community improvement and part of it is general fellowship.”

The club raises funds through fish fries, facility renting, member dues and contributions, which are then allocated to various programs. The two annual fish fry fundraisers are a particular success in the Carrollton community, drawing around 1,200 people and raising about $8,000 at each event. The money the fundraising accumulates for the club goes straight back to the community through programs such as the Boy Scout Troop and Cub Pack 36 — programs they have been sponsoring for 60 years — and awarding their annual college scholarships. This year, the club awarded seven scholarships, a total of $5,000, to local students.

Jim Henderson and Steve Clark of the Carrollton Ruritan Club prepare potatoes for a 2017 fish fry fundraiser at the club. The two fish fry fundraisers per year are among the main sources of revenue for the club’s scholarships and community service projects. (Submitted Photo)

Though the Ruritan Club organization is nationwide, each club operates on an individual basis to best benefit its community. To this end, the Carrollton Ruritan Club sponsors the summer reading program at the Carrollton Branch of the Blackwater Library System and the Robotics Team at Westside Elementary School.

The Carrollton Ruritan Club has experienced slight growth recently; each of the last two years has seen a 10-percent increase in membership. However, similar to many community service organizations, Ruritan National has seen a downward trend in membership in recent years.

“These kinds of service clubs and organizations are having a harder time staying active and alive, because it’s getting harder to find people who want to help in the community,” Henderson said. “Nationally, the Ruritan Club as a whole is down for the year, and this is a problem.”

The Carrollton Ruritan Club has not experienced this trend at the local level, but they are working hard to ensure that their membership growth rate will not slow in the near future as the national trend might indicate. The club, though it has members of all ages, often attracts older retired citizens who have more time on their hands. In light of this, the officers at the Carrollton Ruritan Club have been looking into ways to attract younger people to become members.

“We have a lot of members who are around 50 to 80 years old, so one of the issues we have is that some of them are dying off. We’re trying to target teens to get them to join as members. We want to get younger people involved. We want people who are working and raising families to get involved as well.”

Though Ruritan membership may be down in recent years nationally, Carrollton’s local chapter remains strong and continues to effectively serve its community.