Hermiston pays tribute to service groups with new sign

<p>In about three weeks, the Hermiston Service Organizations will be complete and will feature logos of up to 12 service organizations in the area. The new sign will also be linked with a new web page on the city of Hermiston website that will have contact information for each service organization that has partnered for the sign.</p>

Area individuals may now find it a bit easier to get involved with service organizations in Hermiston.

Altrusa partnered with Hermiston Rotary to install a new sign on Highway 395 that will list up to 12 different service groups in the area. Ann Fialka, a past president of Altrusa, and Dean Fialka, current secretary of Rotary, said the goal with the new sign is to not only pay tribute to those service groups who have done so much to help and support the community, but also make people more aware of the service groups in the area.

“There is a number of us in Altrusa that have thought for quite some time that it was something that the community needed,” Ann Fialka said. “It’s been kind of a long process, but Altrusa finally got it going.”

Dean Fialka said because Hermiston is such a vibrant community that continues to grow and welcome new people, it only made sense for the service groups to band together to invite new people to learn more about their clubs. He said, prior to the installation of the new sign, people could not find club information in a central location.

In addition to the sign, Dean Fialka said the service organizations have partnered with the City of Hermiston’s Parks and Recreation Department Director Larry Fetter, who has agreed to start a new web page on the city website that will display contact information for each organization that participates. The website’s address will be displayed on the new sign, and the page will be up and live in about three weeks, Ann Fialka said.

For service organizations to be listed on the sign, they will have to make a donation of $500, which will go toward the sign’s cost and possibly maintenance, which will be handled by the city. The total cost of the sign is expected to be anywhere between $9,000 to a little more than $10,000. Altrusa and Rotary have already dedicated $2,000 each to the project.

Local service groups will have up to 30 inches of space to display their organization logo. Dean Fialka said, as meeting times sometimes change, that information will be saved for the city’s new web page, in addition to contact information.

Fialka said he hopes the sign will interest more people in the local service groups as membership continues to be an issue for many clubs.

Throughout the last several years, many area clubs have indicated their membership has gone down, particularly the number of younger members.

Hermiston Kiwanis Past President Phil Hector, a member of the Hermiston Kiwanis for many years, said, whereas the club used to receive people from all age groups, Hermiston Kiwanis’ youngest member is now in his mid-30s. Hector attributes the decline to a number of factors.

“Singularly, it is the demands of people working today and not having the time available today from their jobs that businesses used to support,” he said.

Hector said he feels another issue is that, while the community has a lot of needs, those are not being communicated to service clubs anymore. With the lack of projects on which to focus, the groups are not able to maintain as much of a visible presence in community.

Hermiston Lions President Thomas Creasing said he feels a variety of reasons have contributed to a decline in youth participation.

“Competing claims on time and energy, ease of socialization outside of service groups — the social aspect was huge a hundred years ago, maybe a dash of belief that charity and aid are the functions of government rather than being the ‘people helping people,’ which characterizes services groups,” he said, to name a few.

Creasing said there also might be a little more of a “me first” mentality in some cases, which Dan Thompson, past state president for the Eagles and current Hermiston member, said he feels has a lot to do with fewer young adults participating in recent years. Thompson said, when Oregon started its first Eagles fraternity, all age groups participated. Now, he said he believes people first want to know “what’s in it for me?”

As local service group leaders continue to generate possible solutions to this problem, the Fialkas hope the sign will help.

Dean Fialka said the Hermiston Rotary has actually seen an increase in membership, including those in their early 20s to mid 30s, but the organization always welcomes more.

“When I first joined four years ago, our membership was pretty steady, meaning we weren’t gaining any new members,” he said. “In the last several years, there has been an emphasis on membership. We have seen an increase in young people participation and general membership as we continue to invite people to our lunch meetings, and they have been able to get a feel for us … If there is anyone that is interested in joining, they should feel free to contact us, and they can come out to a lunch.”

In addition to the city, Altrusa and Rotary also worked with local companies to build the sign, including N W Metal Fabricators, Concrete Special Ties and Columbia River Powder Coating. Jim Taft, of Knerr Construction, also took a week off to do the masonry work of the sign, which saved the project probably hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars, Ann Fialka said.

“We have received a tremendous amount of community support for this project,” she said. “It’s been amazing to see how people have stepped up. It has been truly a collaborative effort.”

As of Tuesday, six service organizations had signed up to be listed on the sign: Altrusa, Rotary, Breakfast Kiwanis, Lions, Desert Arts Council and Noon Kiwanis. Other groups should contact Ann Fialka, 541-571-1490, or Dean Fialka, 541-379-2338, for more information.

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