Like many communities, Lansdale has its share of civic institutions. The ones that I will describe here are the Lions, Kiwanis and Rotary– of which I am a member. Prior to joining Rotary, I had a small idea of what they were or what they did. My father was and still is a longtime member of the Lansdale Lions Club: Did they roar? Did they have a secret handshake? Did the initiation include hazing like fraternities? I also imagined them as something like the Loyal order of Water Buffalos Club that Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble belonged to where they wore funny hats and sang songs.
As I entered into chiropractic practice in 2001, I was encouraged to join one of the service clubs as a way to network and promote my business, and so I joined the North Penn Rotary Club. There was an inititation period and then a formal induction where I was read the rights and responsibilities of a Rotarian. More significant than what I thought. Slowly I learned all the good that comes from these service organizations and their thoroughly rock solid, middle-class, bourgeois values, which are unfortunately all too often maligned today as boring and unimaginative. Rotary has even been mocked in Desperate Housewives, Curb Your Enthusiasm, L.A. Law and Marley and Me. But then again, that’s Hollywood and not Main Street.
With a combined worldwide membership of 2,885,000 members, each club has its projects: Rotary combats polio and has reduced the incidence from 500,000 cases a year in 1988 to under 1,200 last year. The Lions have given away over $729,000,000 in grants to primarily fight blindness and Kiwanis serves children with over 150,000 projects per year to improve health and basic human needs such as providing clean water to communities. In addition to international projects, these Clubs raise tens of thousands of dollars each year that go back into the community to support the North Penn Boys and Girls Club, Manna on Main Street, Community Housing Services, high school service projects, student exchange programs and Lansdale Day. And one of the more ambitious projects that the North Penn Rotary undertook was the fundraising of $225,000 for the building of the Bandshell in White’s Road Park– all through grassroots efforts.
Unfortunately, like the deteriorating signs in the Welcome to Lansdale Board in the center of town, these clubs are losing members due to changing demographics. There are more activities for our children that limit our time and our jobs place greater and greater demands on both earners which has decreased our disposable time for things such as volunteerism. I would like to hope that as Lansdale turns the corner and becomes the walkable, vibrant community it once was, that residents will reconnect with these service clubs and they will regain that prominent role in the community that they once had. I invite you to take a look at the Rotary, Lions and Kiwanis Websites and perhaps visit one of their meetings.
They’re more fun than you think!