With prominent movements led by American teenagers like the #neveragain campaign to support gun control, some may think that civic engagement among younger generations is growing. However, when it comes to local, older organizations, numbers of young participants have been steadily falling. Statistics show a declining trend in participation in service clubs nationwide, especially among millennials and younger generations.
Though more and more colleges list community service as a requirement on applications, and high schools try to incorporate service into extracurricular activities, organizations like Rotary International, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and others have seen a decline in membership and a subsequent increase in age of current members.
According to an article published by The Kansas City Star in 2016, “Nationally, Rotary has about 330,000 members and 7,700 clubs, down from 346,000 members and 7,840 clubs in 2011, said Brian King, director of membership development for Rotary International.”
To combat this issue, Bordentown Rotary secretary Dawn Moore and membership chair and board member Brian Flynn devised a plan to help draw in younger Rotarians. Back in April, the Bordentown Rotary Young Professionals Group initiated its first members. The Young Professionals Group currently consists of 12 members ranging in age from 23 to 37.
Though they are still part of the Bordentown Rotary, which was founded in 1944, the group hosts its own meetings once a month to accommodate young professionals who may not be able to commit to regular weekly meetings at 7 a.m.
This seems to be a common method of adaptation, as the Star article points out, “in communities where Rotary clubs are becoming more creative and flexible with their meeting times and methods…there has been a turnaround.”
Both Moore and Flynn wanted to see this potential solution come to fruition. “Really, it’s about the future of the organization,” said Dawn Moore, a grief recovery specialist and owner of Huber-Moore Funeral Home. “We knew that we needed the next generation to make sure we didn’t die off. You need new ideas, young enthusiasm and inspiration.”
Moore has been a member of the Bordentown Rotary, which has around 40 members, for nine years and joined in order to be involved in the community.
Flynn, co-liaison to the Young Professionals, works with Northern Burlington County High School’s Interact club, which is a branch of Rotary International for students ages 12 through 18. Thanks in part to his work with Interact, Flynn was inspired to try and incorporate recent high school graduates and other young working people into Rotary.
“I joined [Rotary] to do things with the youth, to help kids. It’s a tough world out there but if they get good advice, they can do great things,” said Flynn, who runs a financial planning and wealth management practice at Morgan Stanley.
Flynn has been involved in Bordentown Rotary for around 10 years. He said, “I’ve found what younger people want is three things: to be mentored, to create impactful service and to build their network of business professionals.”
Through the Young Professionals Group, members can achieve all three goals. The Group meets on every second Wednesday of the month and the themes of each meeting revolve around service, education, and socializing.
The Young Professionals Group is co-chaired by Moore’s daughter, Hillary Moore, and Katrina Brophy, who both live in the Bordentown area.
The group already hosted a social event at Laurita Winery in New Egypt as well as a speed mentoring session where members paired up with older Rotarians to learn helpful networking practices and gain professional guidance.
Flynn says this group is “great for high school students to see how they are going to do Rotary when they are older. They will know that there is a path.”
Though Rotary clubs are fairly common, Young Professionals Groups within a club are not. Flynn said Bordentown’s is one of a handful in the country.
Both Flynn and Moore said they were inspired to create the group by reading about other branches using similar strategies to increase membership of younger Rotarians.
“All of the organizations, like Rotary and the Elks, are dwindling in their membership because they are asking too much of the younger generation. We had to let them come up with their own format,” in order to recruit more people, said Moore.
Hillary Moore, a 26-year-old psychiatric social worker at Hampton Behavioral Health Center, took on the responsibility of leading the group a few months ago with her co-chair, Brophy. Brophy also works as a psychiatric social worker at the same center.
“We’re really trying to build the bridge between the two Rotaries, so that the Young Professionals and current group can work together,” Hillary said.
Though networking, mentoring and guidance are essential to any successful professional, what really draws in members is the community service aspect of the organization.
When it comes to service projects, Young Professionals want to be more hands-on. They might go out and look for funding on the ground, while older members might take on grant writing and other things of that nature, Hillary said.
However, “the initiative is to have the overall group working together,” on the different service projects so as to maximize impact on those being helped and to establish bonds between the two groups.
The Bordentown Rotary already carries out service projects on both a local and global scale.
One local project the group is involved in is laundry nights, where once a month members, along with the help of a local church, will pay for a load of wash for those struggling monetarily.
Annually, the group provides scholarships to eight high schoolers at four different area schools. The Rotary also organizes can-a-thons, which in the past helped provide over $20,000 worth of food to local food pantries.
In addition, charity fundraisers like wine tasting basket auctions and dinners are hosted to raise money for international causes, like bringing children in need of heart surgery to the United States.
The Rotary also raises money to provide shelter boxes for families who suffered from a natural disaster and lost their homes or belongings. A donation of $1,000 will provide shelter, clean water and living essentials to families affected by disasters all over the world.
For Dawn Moore, the appeal of community and global service is enough to draw in new Rotarians.
“There are so many things you can do to make a difference in one person’s life…I want [the Young Professionals] to become excited and passionate about what Rotary is,” she said.
When asked why she decided to take on the responsibility of leading the Young Professionals group, Hillary Moore said, “I wanted to be a part of [Rotary] but there was really nowhere for me…I wanted to create a spot for all of us (younger members) to go.”
In the future, both the Young Professionals and older Rotarians hope to tackle the national epidemic of opioid abuse.
“It’s impacted a lot of Rotary members as well as the Bordentown community. It is not only a national but a very local issue. If we could help one person, it would be worth it,” Hillary said
Though this new initiative is just in its formative and exploratory stages, Hillary is excited to be involved in something that has the power to impact local communities and people all over the world.
“There are so many of us that come together to make a difference and this year we are working towards making a difference for individuals suffering from addiction. It’s truly an honor to be a member of Rotary,” she said.
For more information or to get involved, find the group on Facebook under “Young Professional Rotary Club of Bordentown.”