Saturday's issue of the Citizen featured an in-depth look at the future of service clubs in Prince George and across Canada.
Nearly across the board organizations like the Lions, Elks, Kinsmen, Rotary and Eagles are seeing their membership aging and declining.
The contributions these groups have made to Prince George is both prominent and invisible.
Community facilities like the Elksentre, Kin Centre, Rotary Skate Park, Columbus Community Centre, Rotary Soccer Field, Alward Place and Rotary Disc Golf Course are the direct result of the organized fundraising and volunteerism of service clubs.
The size and cohesion of service clubs allows them to take on large, multi-year projects -projects much too costly and complex to be completed in a single fundraising effort.
These facilities are used by thousands of residents each year, many whom have likely never put much thought into who paid for them to be built.
Without the work of service clubs to fund such projects, the burden will fall on taxpayers to build, repair and replace such facilities.
But the work of service clubs is often subtle. Patients at the University Hospital of Northern B.C. may not know they are being treated with equipment purchased by a service club.
For others it may be help to pay for a wheelchair, eyeglasses or a trip to Vancouver to see a medical specialist.
Perhaps it is a safe ride home from Operation Rednose.
Dozens of such initiatives are supported by the declining membership of local service clubs. If service clubs go extinct, it will impact many Prince George residents who had no idea they were beneficiaries of service club volunteerism.
Residents of Prince George won't know all the things service clubs do for them until they stop being done.
Those service club which do survive will only do so by finding ways to attract new members from the babyboomer generation and beyond. Some local service club leaders appear to have given up hope -young people these days are just too lazy, selfish, apathetic and unplugged from their community.
Frankly, that is a load of crap - especially in Prince George were 62 per cent of residents engage in some form of volunteer activity, according to a 2004 study.
Plenty of people in their teens, 20s, 30s and 40s volunteer regularly, they just don't join service clubs.
Instead they are growing silly mustaches for Movember; washing cars at the UNBC Shinerama; walking or running in the 24 Hour Relay for Life; doing bottle drives for their kids' band, arts and sports programs; taking part or supporting the annual Pride Parade; diving into the Polar Bear Dip at Ness Lake; picking up garbage during the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup; ringing the bells for the Salvation Army; riding the Big Bike for the Heart and Stroke Foundation; taking part in the Paws for a Cause to support the B.C. SPCA; and supporting plenty of other events and causes.
Instead of organizing through clubs, events are planned on Facebook, registration happens online and word is spread through Twitter. Families, social groups and workplaces are the new organizational hubs for volunteerism.
Many young people are active, engaged and care about their community. They want to make Prince George and the world a better place.
Service clubs can offer those young people a place to join like-minded individuals to leverage their collective efforts for greater impact.
But to convince young people to join, service clubs must shed their reputation as geriatric social clubs for good old boys and bake sale biddies.
Ditching the silly hats, ostentatious titles, hokey traditions and patriarchal overtones would be a good start. Embracing causes and events which appeal to the younger demographic's values and sensabilities would be a second step.
A third would be making sure younger people can connect to the organizations they way they are connected to everything else in their lives: online and through social media.
Service clubs which evolve to become welcoming places for younger people will continue to provide fun, fellowship and good works well into the future.
Those which don't will join the Splendid Fraternal Order of the Dodo in extinction.
-- Associate news editor Arthur Williams