The Murrumbidgee Rotary Club has announced it will fold after 15 years serving the Wagga community and raising more than $90,000 for various local charities.
One of six Rotary clubs in Wagga, the Murrumbidgee club has been a welcome outlier to the Rotary community, with the average age of their membership coming in at under 50 years old, and it was with youth in mind that the club was founded in 2006.
Gary Roberts, a founding member of the club, said the idea was to "engage with the younger generation", and the club provided access to Rotary for a group of people who wouldn't have joined more traditional clubs.
Club member Ros Prangnell, said that as many of its members juggled family and careers, and with many moving away from the area, membership dwindled and the club has decided it is time to close.
The pandemic has also played a role in the move, as many traditional Rotary events have been cancelled over the past two years.
"When COVID came that didn't help. We had Zoom meetings. But people couldn't meet up, we couldn't hold the Teddy Bear's picnic for example, and so it was really hard to do the regular fundraising events," Mrs Prangnell said.
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The club was notable for the annual Teddy Bear's picnic which raised over $16,000 for Ronald McDonald House over the years. And their trivia nights raised more than $14,000 for mental health research.
The closing of the club, which at its height had around 20 members, is sad, Mrs Prangnell said. But the remaining seven members will all move on to other clubs and will "continue to provide service".
Mr Roberts said that many clubs are having similar issues with declining membership, but he believes clubs like Rotary are still the "heart and soul of the community".
"[Rotary Clubs] are very important to me. I've been a Rotarian for over 40 years. And to me it is an integral aspect of being a part of the community," he said.
"It's difficult to attract volunteers, they're an ageing group of people. The next generation seems to have a different concept of helping the community and we need to give them another model to do so, otherwise our communities will be the poorer for it."
The club's final president, Cameron Abood, said that he looked back on his time at the club fondly as it was a place to meet like-minded people and serve communities at home and abroad.
"The club folding was a shame in many ways," he said. "We've had some great activities and fundraisers that we've done."
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