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Get Involved

Local civic groups help make the world a better place

Drive into most any town in America, and you’ll see pretty nearly the same billboard. Lions, Moose, Elks, Rotary and Zonta welcome you, displaying their logos, contact numbers and often meeting times. You’ll learn that Kiwanis, another of the fellowships, meets Wednesdays at noon at Loews Annapolis Hotel. Rotary Thursday noon at Annapolis Yacht Club.
    What Kiwanis, Civitan — or, more obscurely still, G.W.F.C. — mean and what they do remain the mystery. If you number yourself in the membership of one or the other, you already know. Otherwise, why should you care?
    Because each of these fellowships makes Chesapeake Country a better place for all of us to live. One or another of them has likely improved your life.
    Perhaps you’ve eaten crabs at Rotary Club of Annapolis’s signature August feast. Learned leadership as a Jaycee. Extended your reach with Zonta. Enjoyed fellowship with Elks or Moose. Recycled your old eyeglasses through Optimists and your books through Parole Rotary’s Books for International Goodwill. Lions have sweetened your winter with Florida citrus; Ruritans picked up trash on your roadways.
    The power of mission and many members means not only you, me and our neighborhoods benefit; many of these organizations aim to change the world. Rotary International has helped immunize over two billion children in 122 countries in its crusade against polio. Zonta International champions women in places in the world where they’re most vulnerable, Honduras, for example, where the deaths of that nation’s Miss World representative and her sister have shone a spotlight on violence against women.
    This Thanksgiving, we set about learning who these neighbors, almost all volunteers, are.

The Benevolent and ­Protective Order of Elks

Like their namesake, the Elks are a distinctively American fraternity dedicated to Brotherly Love, Justice, Charity and Fidelity. Elks number 850,000, with women included since the 1990s, in 2,000 lodges nationwide. Chicago is the national headquarters.
    Begun as the Jolly Corks drinking club in 1868. Elks still have a good time at their lodges, enjoying bars and food service.
    Their good works support children and veterans. Nationwide, over $2 million yearly is committed to hospitalized vets. Services to children include scholarships, athletic teams, summer camps, Scouting and drug awareness programs, notably the annual Elks Hoop Shoot Free Throw Contest.
    The Elks National Foundation, with an endowment valued above $400 million, has contributed $253.5 million toward charitable projects nationwide.
    Locally, each lodge comes up with its own fund-raising ideas and chooses its own beneficiaries. In Deale, for example, Trucking 4 Troops brought in $3,200 in donations in a single day, according to Ted Keen, Exulted Ruler and past president of the 330-member Deale lodge.
    “Our lodge is very civic-minded and very involved in local programs, churches, schools, the fire department,” Keen told Bay Weekly. “Our fellowship is very strong and our members are like family to each other.”
    This season’s project is a coat drive with donations welcome.
    To become an Elk, you must be a U.S. citizen, at least 21 years old, sponsored by a member and live in the jurisdiction of the lodge you want to join.

Local lodges
    Annapolis: 410-269-0311
    Arnold-Broadneck: 410-757-2243
    Bowie: 301-261-3260
    Deale: 420-867-2528
    Glen Burnie: 410-969-2266
    Edgewater: 410-573-0201
    Prince Frederick: 410-535-5110
    Severna Park: 410-647-2482

Civitan International

Civitan International is an organization of volunteer clubs around the world, dedicated to helping people in their own communities. When need arises — from collecting food for a homeless shelter to volunteering at a local retirement home to building a playground for children with disabilities — Civitans pitch in.
    Founded in Alabama in 1917, Civitan has more than 40,000 members in 1,000 clubs across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. Junior Civitan (ages 13-18) and Campus Civitan (ages 21-35) add 11,000 members in 350 clubs. Presidents Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman, John Kennedy and Bill Clinton were Civitans, Clinton a Junior.
    In the 1950s Civitan made its special emphasis helping people with developmental disabilities. It is a major supporter of Special Olympics International. In addition, the Civitan International Research Center on the campus of the University of Alabama at Birmingham helps children and families with developmental disabilities receive diagnosis, therapy and counseling.
    Closer to home, Civitan community projects include Adopt a Highway, Clergy Appreciation Week and World Citizen Award. Funds are raised through Claxton Bakery fruitcake sales and Candy Box and Coin Box programs.
    To find out more about becoming a Civitan, call 800-civitan.

Local lodges
    Glen Burnie

General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC)

New York journalist Jane Cunningham Croly in 1868 formed the Sorosis Club for professional women. It was the model for the nationwide General Federation of Women’s Clubs, founded in 1889.
    The Federation’s mission is uniting women’s clubs for community betterment through support of the arts; preservation of natural resources; promotion of education; encouragement of healthy lifestyles; civic involvement; and working toward world peace and understanding.
    In 2010, the 100,000 members in every state and more than a dozen countries raised nearly $40 million, volunteering more than eight million hours in 185,000 projects in local communities. Younger women and girls are included in Junior and Juniorette clubs.
    The Signature Project is Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention.
    The Juniors’ Special Project is Advocates for Children, encouraging members to actively protect children from harmful situations, encourage healthy lifestyles, support and provide the best practices for emergency care and prevent substance abuse and youth suicide.

Local chapter
    Annapolis: 410-757-6143

Kiwanis Club

The name originated in the native American Ojibwa language as ­giiwanizi, which Kiwanians translated as We build, the club’s original motto.
    Founded to serve the poor, Kiwanis has been around for two years short of a century. Today’s 600,000 members worldwide — including women since 1987 — pour more than $100 million a year into meeting their contemporary motto: Serving the Children of the World. Clubs flourish in more than 80 nations; headquarters are in Indianapolis.    
    Major club-wide programs are Read Around the World and the Eliminate Project focused on maternal/neonatal tetanus.
    Kiwanis clubs reach out to every age: K-Kids for primary school; Builders Clubs for adolescents; Key Clubs for teens; CKI clubs for university students; and Aktion Clubs for adults with disabilities.
    “Kids grow up in the Kiwanis family,” said nurse Nadine Jacobs, past president and former board member of the Severna Park club. “With all the different groups reaching out to all age levels and even adults with disabilities, we get a lot more fingers out into the community,” Jacobs said.
    Kiwanis Fundraisers including apple and cider sales and Mardi Gras auctions help support Severna Park Assistance Network’s Family Basket Projects at Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas plus Anne Arundel County’s Backpacks for Kids.
    Reach out to a Kiwanis club in your community to receive a guest invitation.

Local lodges
    Annapolis: 410-266-7606
    Chesapeake Beach: 301-855-6961
    Crofton: 410-451-3998
    Huntingtown: 301-855-6050
    Mayo: 410-798-5717
    Shady Side: 410-867-2599
    Severna Park: 410-729-8774

Knights of Columbus

The Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization. Founded in 1882 by Father Michael J. McGivney, it was named in honor of the mariner Christopher Columbus.
    Originally serving low-income immigrant Catholics, it developed into a fraternal benefit society dedicated to promoting charitable services and Catholic education and actively defending Catholicism.
    Today, 1.85 million men of faith and action belong to KofC in 15,000 councils worldwide, including college campuses and military bases. Headquarters are in Connecticut.
    International partners include Special Olympics, the Global Wheelchair Mission and Habitat for Humanity; local projects include Food for Families and Coats for Kids.
    Membership is limited to practicing Catholic men 18 and older.

Local lodges
    Annapolis: 410-974-9094
    plus 32 other local Chesapeake region lodges:

Lions Club International

Lions are king of the jungle with more than 46,000 clubs worldwide and 1.35 million members performing service in more than 200 countries.
    The world’s largest service club began in 1917 when Melvin Jones, a Chicago business leader, looked ahead to all that could be done if people put their talents to work to improve their communities. National headquarters remain in Illinois.
    Lions are best known for fighting blindness, a commitment made in 1925 when Helen Keller challenged members to become her knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.
    Now Lions International supports 3,118 eyeglass collection locations.
    Lions also help local children and schools through scholarships, recreation and mentoring. Internationally, youth benefit from the Peace Poster Contest, youth camps and exchange and Lions Quest. The Leo Program promotes personal development in youth volunteers with 144,000 Leos and 5,700 Leo clubs in more than 140 countries worldwide.
    Since 1968, the Lions Club International Foundation has awarded more than $700 million in grants to support Lions humanitarian projects around the world.
    “I’m very proud of the pre-school vision screenings we do for lazy eye, which is easily fixed if it’s detected early,” said Severna Park past president and current director Dale Strait.
    “I do this because I enjoy the fellowship of my fellow Lions, and I receive great satisfaction in helping others,” he said.
    Membership is by invitation. Fill out a Prospective Member Form or attend a meeting to learn more.

Local lodges
    Annapolis: 410-263-6311
    Bowie: 301-262-2665
    Prince Frederick: 410-394-3397
    Severna Park: 410-439-5770

Jaycees: The United States Junior Chamber

Developing skills and community commitment and connections among young leaders is the mission of Jaycees, founded in 1920 as an organization for rising men and enrolling women since 1984. Headquarters are in St. Louis, and membership exceeds 24,800 men and women 18 to 40 nationwide.
    Chesapeake Country’s single chapter is the Annapolis Jaycees, a network of young business professionals (ages 21 to 40) committed to personal and community development through volunteerism, social networking, charitable donation and local outreach projects.
    Local Jaycees volunteer with Special Olympics, The Light House Shelter and Maryland Seafood Festival.
    Network every third Tuesday with free beer and appetizers at O’Callaghan Annapolis Hotel.
    Membership: [email protected] Or the next networking event.

Local lodge
    Annapolis: 410-921-0048

Junior League: ­Association of Junior Leagues International

Junior League is an organization committed to developing the full potential of women and children of women, promoting volunteerism and improving the community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers.
    Nineteen-year-old Mary Harriman, a New York City debutante founded the first Junior League in 1901. Moved by the suffering she saw around her, Harriman mobilized a group of 80 other young women, hence the name Junior League, to work to improve the squalid conditions in which immigrants were living on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
    Today, there are 296 Junior Leagues in the U.S., England, Canada and Mexico, including one in Annapolis.
    Local projects include an Annual 5K Fun Run, holiday gift-wrapping, a casino night and cook books. Beneficiaries are Sarah’s House, Catholic Charities’ supportive housing program for women in Anne Arundel County; and Helping Hands, Junior League’s own program for integrating children from non-English-speaking households.
    “For projects, we have a fairly rigorous selection process,” said Julie Mussog, serving her eighth year as president. “Our top two projects right now are Sarah’s House, a women and children’s shelter in Fort Meade, where we teach life skills like cooking on a shoestring budget.”
    “Our focus is helping women and children and narrowing the achievement gap,” Mussog said. “I’ve met amazing women, and it’s fantastic to help out in the community.”
    To join Junior League of Annapolis, a woman must be age 21 or older and live in or near Anne Arundel County.

Local chapter
    The Junior League of Annapolis: 410-224-8984

The Loyal Order of Moose

The Loyal Order of Moose was founded in 1888 as a men’s social club. Today Moose mission and membership have broadened.
    Moose International — headquartered in Mooseheart, Illinois —includes three branches: In the U.S, Canada and Bermuda, one million men in 2,400 lodges; 400,000 Women of the Moose in 1,600 chapters; plus the British Loyal Order of Moose.
    Moose signature projects are Mooseheart, a 1,000-acre residential campus 40 miles west of Chicago for children and teens in need; and Moosehaven, a 70-acre retirement community near Jacksonville, Florida.
    External focus is directed toward charities including Big Brothers-Big Sisters; Salvation Army; Special Olympics North America; St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Safe Surfin’ USA Foundation.
    Application to join at

Local lodges
    Annapolis: 410-266-0888
    Shady Side: 410-867-4875
    Odenton: 443-604-4254
    Glen Burnie: 410-761-1298
    Upper Marlboro: 301-780-5396

Optimist International

Founded in 1919, Optimist International is an affiliation of 2,900 service clubs with 87,000 members in three dozen nations. Headquarters are in St. Louis. Children and teens are included in Junior Optimist Octagon International.
    The Optimists are all about kids.
    The motto — Friend of Youth — and creed — Bringing Out the Best in Kids — is carried out in youth athletic leagues, scholarship essay and speech contests, support for local schools, Shop with a Cop, fishing tournaments and Halloween parties and parades.
    Each club both supports the International and raises its own funds for its own service projects.
    Call your local chapter to learn about joining.

Local lodges
    Annapolis: 410-268-1783
    Prince Frederick: [email protected]

Rotary International

Service above Self is the motto of this international service organization of business and professional leaders. Formed in 1905, Rotary contributes to humanitarian services, promotes high ethical standards in all vocations and helps build goodwill and peace in the world. Rotary is open to all persons across races, colors, creeds, religions, genders and political preferences.
    More than 1.2 million members belong to 34,282 Rotary clubs worldwide. Headquarters are in Evanston, Illinois.
    The organization’s worldwide goal is the eradication of polio. Rotary has reduced polio cases by 99 percent worldwide. Since the first project to vaccinate children in the Philippines in 1979, Rotarians have helped immunize more than two billion children in 122 countries.
    Locally, each Rotary Club raises its own funds and supports its own projects. Signature projects define many clubs. Rotary Club of Annapolis has sponsored an annual crab feast, proclaimed the world’s largest, for 68 years. Funds are distributed through grants to community organizations.
    Neighboring Parole Rotary has more recently adopted Bar-BAY-Q as a signature fundraiser
    “All the money from the Naptown barBAYq has been earmarked for the Phoenix Academy to help emotionally and physically challenged children,” said Ken Montville, president of Parole Rotary. “The kids thrive once they get into the agriculture and aquaculture program.”
    In addition, the Parole club’s Books for International Goodwill project has just reached the seven-million book mark in shipment of donated books to developing countries.
    “I want to be able to dedicate myself to giving back to the ­community,” Montville said. “And that’s where I see Rotary fitting into my own life; being a part of a larger organization and doing good in the local community at the same time.”
    Both the Prince Frederick Rotary and West Anne Arundel County Rotary distribute dictionaries to third-graders.

Local clubs
    Odenton: 410-647-7445
    Prince Frederick:
    South County:


Ruritan is a national organization dedicated to improving communities and building a better America. Located in small towns and rural areas, it aims to achieve Fellowship, Goodwill and Community Service.
    The first Ruritan Club was chartered in 1928 in Virginia. Ruritan now numbers 30,000 members in more than 1,200 clubs.
    Unlike most community service organizations, Ruritan rarely has national programs. Rather, each club surveys the needs of its own community and works to meet those needs. Many also sponsor local clubs or chapters of 4-H, Future Farmers of American or a Boy Scouts of America troop.
    The Lothian Ruritans, founded in 1952, raise funds through Burger Burns, fruit sales and spaghetti dinners. Lothian Ruritans also sponsor litter pick-ups, donate canned goods for the SCAN Food Bank at St. James Episcopal Church, and work with Hospice, the Anne Arundel Medical Center and the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home.
    “We raise about $22,000 a year and give it all away,” said member Dr. Frank Gouin, the Bay Gardener.
    $10,000 each year is earmarked for 10 $1,000 scholarships for Southern Anne Arundel County students studying at two- and four-year colleges and trade schools.
    “I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction working to help others,” says Gouin, who volunteers about 75 hours a year.

Local chapters

Zonta International

Zonta International was founded in 1919 by and for women. It is a global organization of executives and professionals working together to advance women by improving their legal, political, economic, educational, health and professional status.
    More than 30,000 members belong to 1,200-plus Zonta Clubs in 67 countries.
    Internationally, Zonta works with Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV in Rwanda, Safe Cities for Women Projects in Honduras and Rural Samoa Women to combat violence against women.
    Locally, Zonta Annapolis funds scholarships and supports Chrysalis House, the Wellness House, Girl Scouts, Girls on the Run and International Women’s Rose Day.    
    Membership is by invitation.

Local lodge
    Annapolis: [email protected]