Ripon Jaycees Initiative

Over the course of this last year, with the help of friends, family and equally driven members of our community, I have worked towards a very specific goal; bringing the Junior Chamber of Commerce, better known as the Jaycees, back to Ripon. The Jaycees has a long history in Ripon, helping organize events in the area going back decades.

In this same tradition, the "Ripon Jaycees Initiative," - a small group of people, not quite enough to start a chapter, but whom wanted to see the Jaycees return, and have been equally driven to contribute to their community - organized several events in 2010; in order to engage the people in Ripon and gain awareness of the organization; all in the hopes of eliciting members to join, so a Ripon area Jaycees chapter could be formed. To this end, despite our efforts in the last 12 months, the Initiative did not succeed. Where a Jaycees chapter requires a minimum of 20 paid members, between the ages of 18-40, only a fraction of the 20 needed signed-up.

It seemed evident to me that the Ripon Jaycees Initiative was, more or less, a failure; we did not get the membership we needed, and often those I talked to, for all our efforts, had still not heard about the Jaycees. Then a thought occurred to me the other day; where we didn't succeed in forming a Jaycees chapter, we did accomplish many things in Ripon that I would hope to do as part of the Jaycees.

With Tim Lyke's suggestion, and finding that no other group had an Easter activity planned in Ripon, we went about organizing an Easter egg hunt. In preparation for this, we did a spring clean-up on the village green, a hard day's work that paid off. Where we thought maybe 20-30 kids at most might show up, the final estimate was roughly 100+! With the help from Jaycee members from out of town, we met this challenge and didn't have to turn anyone away. While there is no doubt room for improvement over last years event, I believe most, if not everyone involved had fun; with many looking forward to next year.

The Adult Kickball Tournament may have had only 3 teams, but they were 3 full teams, each consisting of roughly 10 players or more. Everyone had fun, and the winning team, Ripon's own Seneca team, had so much fun and liked what they Jaycees had to say, several were eager to join - except all of them were outside of the Jaycees age restrictions..... But here again, people instantly talked about "next year".

And then there was the community Christmas tree on the village green. I had talked to members of the Initiative last spring about doing a community Christmas tree on the green; then lo and behold in early November, I find someone in Oshkosh was giving away a very large pine tree, that had uprooted in the strong wind we had around that time. With the help of friends and family, we cut down the tree and brought it to Ripon, for the whole community to enjoy; and they did. Also organizing this, I was able to help Craig Tebon, Executive Director of Ripon Main Street Inc, who was recovering from surgery and on restriction, put up decorations on main street. The thought has since occurred to me, that I now recall a time when Ripon did much more in the way of decorating for the holidays, all over town. Perhaps the city can't afford those measures anymore, but perhaps the right group, could take the initiative in this area.

We may not have had many people come and put ornaments on the tree, but still, people came. One conversation during the decorating that still comes to mind, was a mother and daughter who came to put up some paper ornaments they had made. When one fell between the cracks in the floorboards on the bandstand, the mother told her daughter it was okay, because, "when they do this again next year, it'll still be here."

As a whole, none of these events were successful in starting the Jaycees, but each individually were successes in their own right; and in the course of each one, there was never a question of whether we do any of those things again next year, but rather a foregone conclusion that we would.

I may have been skeptical in the past about the probability of that happening, without the start of the Jaycees, but recently I've come to re-evaluate that position and considered the worth of doing these events, and others, for the sake of doing them, for the people Ripon. As long as it's still practical for me, and others to still do these things; and continues to be well received enough by the community, it seems worthwhile to me continue pursuing these things..

So here's what I plan to do; while I do still hope to start a Jaycees chapter for the Ripon area eventually, if or when that happens is going to be a secondary matter. From here on out, the events that will be planned, wont be planned for the benefit of the Jaycees, but for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of our community. I'm dropping the "Jaycees" from the Ripon Jaycees Initiative; and moving forward these efforts will be done under the "Ripon Initiative".

It may not be a greatly creative re-branding, but the name pretty much says it all; if you live in or near Ripon, and you have the initiative and the desire to be active in your community, this is the group for you. There's no age restrictions, no dues, just people who want to find new ways to improve their community. We'd only be limited by our imagination. We accomplished a lot this last year with few resources and fewer manpower, but we got things done; and we can do even more with more people who want to be involved.

If you want to get involved, in any way - even if it's just helping out at a brat fry, or discuss ideas you'd like see; or just want to show your support for these efforts, you can contact me, Brian, at 920-748-2236, or email RiponInitiative@gmail.com.

Read the blog posting, "Ripon Initiative Plans for 2010" for some of the ideas I hope to pursue this year under this initiative.

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