Our say | Changing times challenging service groups

IT’S a story we see repeated too often in communities across Australia and, sadly, one that looks to have no happy ending in sight.

The Bathurst branch of the Red Cross is facing a bleak future due to the twin challenges of an ageing membership and a lack of new faces.

The members want to do everything they can to avoid folding, but will need an injection of new faces to keep going.

It’s a dire situation for a group that boasts more than 100 years of history in our city, and one that had so many interested people turn up to the first meeting in 1914 that a new meeting place had to be found.

But these are very different times. And Red Cross isn’t the only service organisation that is struggling.

It would be unfair to suggest that people today care less for their community than in decades gone by, but the reality is there are many more pressures on their time.

Previously, service organisations thrived on a steady stream of new members joining in their 20s and 30s – often once they had started their own young families and were looking to “settle down” – and then remaining members for the next 50 or 60 years.

But they were the days when the man of the house went out to work while mum stayed at home. Single income households are no longer the norm and with two parents working there is much less time available to dedicate to the Red Cross, Lions, Rotary or any of the other valuable service clubs.

In turn, that means people are now often in their 60s and nearing the end of their working life before they are able to spare the time to give back to the community.

Naturally, they cannot serve as long, creating a downward spiral of falling membership.

That’s a tragedy for the long-serving members who have given so much of their lives to these groups and also the communities who benefit from their efforts. But just what the answer is remains unclear.

There are still plenty of people who want to contribute to their community but few who want to feel locked in to a long-term commitment.

The remaining Red Cross members recognise this and say however you can help, you will be welcomed.

If you can’t get to every meeting, then maybe a few each year will be enough to help Red Cross keep going.

It’s something to consider. We doubt you’ll be sorry.