It may be the call at the nation’s capital, but a grass roots organization has been out front making rural communities great since the first Ruritan Club was chartered, May 21, 1928 in Holland, Va., according to Dwight Rohr, the Ruritan’s Natural Bridge District public relations director.
Eagle Rock, Catawba and Bonsack/Blue Ridge are three of such groups, which collectively, with other clubs in the Natural Bridge District, contributed nearly $1 million worth of time and money last year to meet the needs of their communities. Ruritan has become “America’s leading community organization,” Rohr explained.
The Natural Bridge District Cabinet holds quarterly meetings in its four zones of clubs. The Cabinet is the support level which aids its units with resources to help each succeed. While each operates according to its community needs, they unite as one in club meeting in a format of fellowship, good will and community service.
In the district, there are community-oriented clubs in Botetourt, Craig and Roanoke Counties. Other clubs in the district come from the areas of the Alleghany Highlands and Rockbridge County. “Each different, but the same…working together as a vital force for good,” Rohr said.
The united effort is led by James Frazier, District Governor, who works in his home club, Bonsack/Blue Ridge.
“A big part of my responsibilities has been to compile Community Service reports,” Frazier said. He addresses the clubs by saying, “I hope you really appreciate the difference you are making in your community.”
This past year, clubs in the Natural Bridge district donated $112,000. Combined with the monetary value of man-hours spent, the contributions come to some $968,000.
The money raised in the community is turned back to that locality in varied projects from scholarships, construction of public facilities to services for the elderly and those in need.
A major program is the Ruritan Foundation. It is here that local clubs invest their funds with the foundation and at the end of the year are returned funds that boost the amount of the local contribution.
There is “Operation We Care” that meets urgent needs.
The Tom Downing Award not only recognizes outstanding Ruritans, but also contributes to the foundation, valuable monies needed to fund its projects.
May is Ruritan Awareness Month and is celebrated by more than 1,100 communities and over 30,000 members nationwide. It is through local communities, Ruritan members and media partners that Ruritan continues to serve, improve and offer communities a light to the future, to make America a country to be proud of, Rohr said.