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Starting the year with service

Working as the Grants & Marketing Coordinator at DSC, I cross paths with many service clubs in our community. I will admit that it’s not something I’d given much thought to in the past. Earlier in my career, I’ve been active in Rotary and I’ve enjoyed the weekly lunches with colleagues, but as a busy professional, I drifted away from the group when my job took me outside of the community where I was once a member. I’ve since found myself thinking, “How does one find time to go to a weekly meeting like that? With work and family commitments, who can do all of that volunteering?” However, with DSC being a beneficiary of the good works provided by our local service clubs, I’ve found myself drawn to the kindness and generosity I’ve felt when visiting the clubs.

I’ve also watched those in leadership around me attend many service clubs over the years. Not only are they able to maintain their own responsibilities, but they make time to serve in their communities. While logic would lead one to believe that joining a service club would reduce your time and energy, my impression has been that serving can also be energizing, if you find the right fit and assuming that you don’t overcommit yourself. In fact, community involvement and service to others seem to be hallmarks of a good leader. What you gain in friendships, connections and good feelings would outweigh any perceived loss.

If you’re not familiar, you may be wondering, what service clubs do. Most meet weekly or monthly for an hour to an hour and a half over a meal. The meetings often include educational speakers from the community, networking and projects that benefit area schools and nonprofits. Depending on the size of the club, they may write grants or scholarships, and there may be multiple volunteering opportunities, as well as fun, social events.

In the fall, I was invited to visit several service groups, including the Champaign Exchange Club, a small service group, where I was impressed to hear that they have been ringing the bells during the holiday season for the Salvation Army since the 1940s. I also had the opportunity to speak at a program for Champaign County Home and Community Education, who recently celebrated their 101th anniversary and has members who have been involved for over 70 years. Other service groups in the area include Rotary, Women’s Business Council, Rotaract, Champaign-Urbana Junior League, Champaign-Urbana Junior Woman’s Club and others.

If you’ve been wanting to find a mentor, joining a service club is a great way to find a mentor. In addition to making connections and meeting mentors, you will gain valuable leadership skills of your own. These groups often need people to lead projects, write newsletters and even take on various group positions.

Do keep in mind that most of the groups will have memberships fees for joining in the form of annual dues, and meals may or may not be included. If budget is a concern, a monthly service group will likely be less expensive, or consider starting by volunteering with a local nonprofit organization if you’re not quite ready for the commitment of a service club.  Maybe like me, you will consider 2020 a great year to become involved with service in our local community.