Obama's Elected, But It's No Time to Snooze

Novoselic, right, and his wife, Darbury, attend a public meeting. Novoselic's column runs every Thursday on the Daily Weekly.

The 2008 election has brought many new people into the process of democracy, but voting is only the starting point of civic engagement.

It's more important than ever to get involved in local affairs. With state and municipal budgets are facing severe shortfalls, private organizations doing service or charitable work could be a way of taking up the slack.

Millions of Americans of all ages participated in internet meet-up groups around the country to rally support for Barack Obama. There was a time when face meant in person and club membership was part of the fabric of the community.

But these days, Moose Clubs, Eagles, Kiwanis, Masons, Elks and many other groups are in decline. If you go to a meeting of any of these organizations you'll mostly find seniors in charge. These good folks are running things only because no one else cares to.

This is a shame because civic groups exist to help others. Most raise money and resources only to give it away.

So why are the traditional groups faltering?

Some see local fraternal orders as old fashioned, likely rooted in the generational schism of the late 1960s. As the culture of participation in mainstream groups faded, many today send money to national non-profits as a way of staying involved.

Because of the advanced age of members, perhaps there is the notion that these are essentially senior groups. In fact, there are opportunities with traditional community service organizations for people of all ages.

There are plenty of benefits to individuals who want to get involved in civic organizations.

First of all, you don't have to start a group from scratch. Also, while Congress and the state legislature can be far away, the energy you exert on the local level can bring tangible results.

I've been a member of my local Grange since 2003. The Grange is a rural fraternal order with a long history in our state. I enjoy participation in this organization because it keeps me connected in my community. If you have the time, imagination and most importantly, energy, there are many possibilities.

Last spring, while doing some volunteer work cleaning a park, I had an epiphany: this site would make a great farmers market! I mentioned the location to farmers who already were doing a market in another part of the county. They gave the park a try and the market was a hit. We had a second market and we're planing for a weekly event next season.

My point is that civic groups can offer infrastructure. The park is owned and maintained by the Grange so the facility wasn't an issue.

You could find an organization with its own building. These facilities often have kitchens, halls with stages, and some even bars! If you put energy into the organization, your effort could be returned with access to this infrastructure.

There's also the stature of the name of the group. If you can get your fellow members to agree, the organization could write a letter to a lawmaker regarding an issue in the community. This can add a lot of heft to an effort near and dear to you.

I've enjoyed personal benefits, of course, too. By attending regular meetings, my public speaking skills have improved, and I've also learned how to run a meeting.

New people can bring fresh energy and the civic group should accommodate changes as much as possible. Sometimes the old guard can resist new ideas and ways. The alternative to change can be simple extinction.

With the current economic uncertainty, long-stable private civic associations could find themselves reinvigorated by new members. People coming together for shared needs is natural and as old as humanity itself, and as important as it was before the age of Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter.

Some things never change.

Krist Novoselic's column runs every Tuesday on the Daily Weekly.

Previous columns include:

-- What Really Happened at the 1992 MTV Music Video Awards
-- Dysfunction, Not Gays, Is a Threat to Marriage
-- Votes for Change, and Changing the Votes

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