Bowling for members

Dwindling interest in community aid does not deter service clubs.

By Vicky Newman/Special to the Malibu Times

Bill Sampson is reading a book about it. Marissa Coughlin would like a monthly article in local papers. Mark Herron doesn’t dwell on it, Geoff Ortiz looks forward to an upswing, and Chris Briscoe mentors new members.

No matter how they cope with shrinking membership, these service club activists take pleasure in helping others and plan to plug on, no matter that member numbers are dwindling.

Sampson, treasurer of the Optimists Club of Malibu, a member for 21 years, says less members means “less of us to do things, and less money to do it.”

He gains perspective from a book, “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community,” by Robert D. Putnam, and inspiration from businessmen in his hometown of South Pasadena who took time and money from their families to help Little League. He’s proud of how his club enriches the lives of children, especially with things teachers cannot provide, such as a CIF ring for a Malibu High School student who was part of a soccer team that won a regional championship.

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“If I make a small difference, that’s what I get out of it,” Sampson said of his service.

Marissa Coughlin, a member of Malibu Kiwanis for 16 years, has seen club membership drop from 100 to 35. “Manpower is critical to fundraising,” Coughlin said. With more members, each has less to do in planning the club’s annual Chili Cook-Off and staffing the club’s snack shack at Bluffs Park.

Membership is dropping because the community isn’t aware of all the great things Kiwanis service clubs do, Coughlin said. Kiwanis give money for scholarships, sports and youth leadership, yet there is no newspaper coverage of club accomplishments, Coughlin added.

The club has had to cut back newspaper advertising for the Chili Cook-Off because it cost $10,000 to advertise a month before the event. She suggests a short monthly article, called “Community Service Corner,” publicizing club activities and history. A monthly article would “pique people’s interest,” Coughlin said.

Mark Herron, treasurer of the Malibu Lions Club, has seen club membership drop to 16 and expenses rise tremendously. The $70 bimonthly dues don’t even cover the cost of the club’s bimonthly dinner meetings. Nevertheless, he wants to keep dues down to attract more members. For the past two years, the club has charged a few dollars for parking at its annual Flea Market and Pancake Breakfast fundraiser.

The club keeps going with the help of a few dedicated people, Herron, a member for 20 years, said. Explorer Scouts of the sheriff’s and fire departments, and volunteers from the disaster communications unit of the Lost Hills/Malibu Sheriff’s Station help with the Flea Market.

“We’re doing a good thing for kids and humanity,” Herron said. “We’re giving scholarship money and funding Explorer Scout programs. We’re giving a child from southeast Los Angeles her first Christmas present. I don’t know why people don’t get involved in a club that supports the community.”

Geoff Ortiz, a member of the Rotary Club of Malibu for the past 11 years, said the drop in membership from 75 to 19 means a smaller intellectual pool-fewer innovative ideas-and a greater man-hour burden. The club is self-sustaining money-wise. He joined Rotary because it targets causes and gets things done, the way he did in organizing a golf tournament, which helped victims of Malibu’s fires. Rotary provides humanitarian service throughout the world-it has raised enough money to help eradicate polio worldwide, and funded more scholarships in the United States than Rhodes and Fulbright combined, Ortiz said.

“Their causes are too important for me not to join,” Ortiz said.

He sees the drop in membership as part of a national decline in public service, brought on by worries about the economy and terrorist threats. With the “fear element” diminishing, club membership will increase.

Chris Briscoe said the Malibu Women’s Club does not need to get more members, since its charter limits membership to 30. A past president and vice president in her 20 years with the club, Briscoe helps new members get involved. “It’s difficult to keep members active,” Briscoe said. “I’m like a cheerleader. I know everyone and keep them enthused.”

Malibu Lions Club

Formed in 1951, the club awards money for college scholarships, Explorer Scout programs of the fire and sheriff’s departments, and the disaster communications program of the Lost Hills/Malibu Sheriff’s Station.

Known internationally for its contributions to programs that help the visually impaired, the local club contributes to Camp Bloomfield, the Malibu retreat for blind children, and the Lions Low Vision Services (L.O.V.E.) Program for the partially sighted in Los Angeles. The club also holds an annual Christmas party for underprivileged children from Los Angeles. Most of the funding comes from the club’s annual Flea Market at the Civic Center.

The club meets at 7 p.m. at Guido’s Restaurant on the first and third Wednesdays of the month. Dinners are paid through the club’s $70 bimonthly dues.

Information: 456-2138.

Optimists Club of Malibu

Formed in 1960 as a “Friend of Youth,” the club awards scholarships to high school seniors, conducts oratorical contests for middle school students and essay contests for elementary school students.

Optimists also give money to music, arts, sports and counseling programs at Malibu High, Juan Cabrillo and Webster elementary schools, as well as to Boy and Girl Scouts and Brownie programs.

The club raises money through an annual Pancake Breakfast. Dues are $100 per quarter, and a “birthday club” contribution equal to a member’s age.

Optimists have a 7:30 a.m. breakfast meeting on Thursdays, at Pepperdine University’s Fireside Room.

Information: Anne Payne, 456.3507, or Bill Sampson, 457.6789

Malibu Women’s Club

Formed in 1961, its 30 members concentrate their work on college scholarships for high school students and essay contests for 5th graders.

The club raises funds through the scholarship luncheon in May and a gala evening the second week in September. Dues are about $125 a year, depending on fundraising results.

Meetings are held in private homes.

Information: Chris Briscoe, 459.2122

Malibu Rotary Club

Billing itself as “Business Leaders Working for Peace,” Rotary provides humanitarian service throughout the world. The club targets causes for each year’s annual fundraiser. This year the club has budgeted $5,000 for winners of its annual singing competition for Malibu Middle and High School; Good Citizen Scholarships to graduating high schools seniors; the Rotary Youth Leadership Assembly; and Dorcas House, a Tijuana orphanage.

Malibu Rotarian fundraisers are held at art venues. Last year, it held a “Rotarian Night at the Theater” at Malibu Stage Company.

Dues are $700 a year. Breakfast meetings are held at 7:30 a.m. Wednesdays in Pepperdine’s Fireside Room next to the cafeteria.

Information: Geoff Ortiz, 818.338.8163.

Kiwanis Club of Malibu

The Kiwanis Club of Malibu has been assisting local organizations since 1982.

Since many organizations have food booths at the Kiwanis’ annual Chili Cook-Off, the two-day, family-activity oriented event, “gives community groups a way to raise money for their own causes, without putting on an event themselves,” club member Marissa Coughlin said.

Proceeds from this year’s Kiwanis 24th annual Chili Cook-Off will be given to Boy Scouts Troop 224, Malibu High School and Malibu Little League for sports and counseling programs.

Kiwanis also has helped the Children’s Lifesaving Foundation in its annual Christmas party for underprivileged children.

Dues are $113 a year and meetings are held at 7 p.m. Thursdays at Guido’s Restaurant

Information: Marissa Coughlin, 456.6262.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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