Dowagiac Rotary Club focuses on growing membership, community work

Published 7:38 am Friday, January 17, 2014

While the organization’s core principal of “Service above Self” remains the same as it’s ever been, the Dowagiac Rotary Club is shaking things up for 2014, in an effort to increase the club’s membership.

The volunteer organization rolled out its new “Bring One” campaign earlier this month, in which the club’s leadership is encouraging each of its 32 existing members to find at least one other person in the community to join the organization. The club has set a goal of reaching at least 30 new members over the next several months, keeping track of their progress with a poster of a thermometer that they fill with each addition to their ranks.

“Our expectation is to double the membership of the club over the next six months,” said Rotary President Victor Fitz.

The organization is already on its way to reaching this goal, as they inducted Sandra Bessey, a local beautician, during their meeting last Thursday. Bessey, who was introduced to the club by Mary Lou Franks, was among several other prospective new members introduced to the club since the membership drive began, Fitz said.

Fitz, who has served as president of the organization since July, has seen membership in the club slowly dwindle since he first joined Rotary more than 10 years ago, he said.

“Back when I first started, we had around 50 members,” Fitz said. “However, with the economic challenges Michigan has seen, membership has gradually dropped.”

However, with conditions in the local economy improving, Fitz and the rest of the Rotarians felt now was a good time to pick things up again, he said.

“We felt it was in the best interest of the community to maintain a healthy membership number, for now and for years to come,” Fitz said.

The membership drive is the latest in a series of improvements Fitz and the rest of the club have introduced in recent months.

In an effort to increase attendance at their weekly meetings, the club spilt their members into separate teams, who compete throughout the year for prizes. Each team scores a point for having one of its members attend the meeting, and receive five points for introducing a new member to the club.

“It’s created a lot of good will and good-natured competition between the four teams,” Fitz said. “We’ve had a lot of fun with it, and it has led to a lot of good natured ribbing among the winners and losers.”

The club introduced the competition on a trial basis in August, and the club overwhelmingly agreed to bring it back for this year as well, Fitz said.

“Good-natured competition is the American way, and Rotary is no exception,” he added.

The Dowagiac Rotary is also trying to increase its presence outside of the events it directly sponsors. Club members have been encouraged to wear vests sporting the Rotary logo at local community events.

Joining the club is a fairly easy process, even without an introduction by an existing member, Fitz said. People interested in joining can just attend one of Rotary’s weekly meetings, which take place at noon every Thursday at the Elk’s Club, located on Riverside Drive.

“If you want to have fun helping out your community, don’t hesitate to join,” Fitz said.