Thoughts about business and economic development in rural areas.

 

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Who’s gonna run the food stand?

Service clubs have played a major role in almost every small community in the United States. I’ve been a member of several and the direction they seem to be heading is a concern to me. This past weekend provided a great example.

I volunteered to work the food stand at our county fair for a club I used to belong to. I’ve worked there several times over the past few years and it is one of the best organized food stands I have ever seen. (Some restaurants could take lessons on how well this it run.) It’s a profitable venture for the organization and every dollar raised is turned right around doing great things for the community. I’m a habitual volunteer so saying ‘Yes’ was easy and I worked (‘enjoyed’, actually) two four-hour shifts.

So what’s the problem? The fair lasts four days and finding enough people to run it is a real challenge! I know most of the club members and you couldn’t meet a greater group of dedicated volunteers. Many of them are long-time members who have served their community well and have made terrific contributions over the years. But that “over the years” bit is the rub. Many are well into retirement and frankly can no longer handle a work shift. Being on your feet for 2-4 hours can be tough, especially when you’re really busy and while they want to do the work, the reality is it’s more than they can handle. So what do you do?

In this case the club hired another group to work the stand under club member supervision. The local two year campus of the University has a strong foreign exchange program and members of that group were enlisted (and paid) to help. And since it’s so well organized, stepping in isn’t too hard. Problem solved….at least for this year.

But what about the future? Hopefully some of these students will consider joining the community service club but past history doesn’t make that very likely. The club members themselves continue to age and while there are a number of ‘younger’ members the term ‘younger’ is a bit relative. If I were to rejoin the club I’d be one of the ‘younger’ members…..and I’m 59. The fact is, 20 somethings aren’t joining traditional service clubs.

So, in future years, who WILL run the food stand??

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