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Local News

April 27, 2008

Civic organizations fight national declines in membership

Civic groups fight decline in membership

Civic-organization membership is decreasing nationwide, and some local clubs are looking for ways to fight the trend.

The Plattsburgh Lions Club has between 30 and 35 members -- that's a drop from the 1990s, when membership averaged about 55, said member Ron Bardon.

And as older members have left the club, either because they are too busy or move away from the area, it has become difficult to attract new blood, he said.

"People just aren't joiners anymore. A lot of Lions Clubs are having the same type of problems."

NATIONAL TREND

According to the United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 60.8 million people volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2006 and September 2007. That figure represents about 26.2 percent of the U.S. population and is a decrease of about half a percentage point from the previous year.

The rate decreased by 2.1 percent the previous year; it had held steady at 28.8 percent from 2003 through 2005.

People between 35 and 54 years of age continued to be the most likely to volunteer, at 30.3 percent. Those in their early 20s were least likely to do so, at 17.7 percent.

Plattsburgh Lions Club President Bob Wyand said that while the club's membership has declined in recent years, they're doing more work with fewer people.

"It's still a wonderful club," he said.

Clark Foster recently returned to the club after about a nine-year absence. He left to spend more time with his young sons, who were heavily involved in youth hockey.

With so much time devoted to getting the kids to their hockey games, the Lions' evening meetings were difficult to attend, he said.

"I never really wanted to leave, but family comes first. I always said I would come back."

Foster works at Plattsburgh State University, which encourages employees and staff to be involved in public service. He decided to rejoin after he saw the Lions engaged in a community event and figured the time had come.

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