If you walk the bike path along the river between Fletcher and River Streets you might notice an island with a gazebo, benches, and a fishing platform. It's much more usable than it used to be.
When you spend time at Starlite Beach you might notice a children's playground. In nice weather you will see children playing on the swings, rock wall, slides and other playground equipment.
You must have noticed the paved bike path that twists along between the river and Washington Avenue. Maybe, like many others, you have used the bike path a time or two to bike, run, or walk a dog.
Whether you have used it yourself or not, you are probably aware that there is a skate park by the water tower on Ninth Avenue. It is rare to find it empty on a nice summer evening.
Maybe you have seen the firehouse that is used to teach children about fire safety. And maybe you are aware of the professional clothing available to women in need so they can feel more confident and prepared for job interviews, or the fund that allows those in need to receive mammograms at no cost. If you have attended the Fourth of July parade, you might know that there are American flags handed out to kids before the parade begins.
What would our community look like without these projects? It is nice to live in a community where these things are available. Whether it is a matter of health and safety (like the mammography fund and the firehouse), or recreation (like the playgrounds), projects like these enhance the quality of life in a community. But where do these projects come from? Surprising to some, these are not the work of tax dollars. This isn't the work of elves who sneak around when no one is watching (although that would be fun). Like so many positive projects in the community, these projects are achieved through the good work of our area's many service clubs.
I have had the opportunity to attend many of the local service clubs' meetings. With each visit, I am reminded of the powerful, positive impact these clubs have on the communities in which they exist.
Service clubs work because of the concept that pooling resources is more powerful and effective than doing something alone. One person might not have had the funds or manpower to complete the flagpole project at the McRae Park Little League Field, but the service club that gave funds and volunteer time was able to make it happen.
I think you can agree with me that service clubs add value to the community in which they exist. So what can we do to help make sure service clubs can continue their good work? There are several options. You could join a club. This is a great way to have a meaningful and lasting impact on your community. There are many service club options, each with a different mission and membership criteria. I'm sure local chamber of commerce staff would be happy to provide you with contact information for the clubs.
If joining a club is not for you, you can support their projects through donations of time or other resources. Not everyone can give in the same way, but we all have talents or resource we can give. If these options aren't for you, then you could show your support through a simple but powerful thank you. The members of service clubs make the choice to join and donate their time, talents and resources toward the goals of the club, making the communities better places for everyone.
Service clubs provide the communities in which they exist with a quality of life that may not otherwise be a reality. The projects they are involved in are meaningful and important. The Alpena community is a perfect example of the positive impact service clubs can have, and the difference strong local support of service clubs makes. Our variety of service club projects is something we can (and should) be proud of, and it's something we can continue to build on.
Jackie Krawczak is the executive director of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays.