The Mission Boat

If you're a regular at our monthly club meetings at the Old Erie, then you've no doubt heard me drone more than once about the club membership rolls and their importance to me. I've always considered membership to be at the root of any social organization, and ours is no different.

So I had several high-level goals in my head when Steve Holmbraker tapped me on the shoulder two years ago about running for club president, and one of them was to grow the membership. Like just about any other running club in the past ten years or so, and certainly most small race events too, we have suffered from a general “lull” in the running boom. Membership in the ORC was declining over most of the 00's, and that was despite the best efforts and high enthusiasm of all of the wonderful leaders in the club over the past ten years. My notion was that the leadership was not at issue, and that we could turn this trend around despite the decline in running in general. All we needed was the right approach…..

Despite a quick jump in membership from '07 to '08, we have stagnated in '09 in that regard. I attribute this in some ways to the economy, but at $25 a year, I don't think that membership fees are keeping food off of a lot of runners' tables here in Orange County. There's something more going on.

Anyway, over the past year or so I have played the role of keen observer, becoming a member of several other clubs, reading their newsletters, poring over their websites, talking with their members at races. And I've realized that the key element to making a social organization great is its sense of community. We have community here in the ORC, but not enough to bring in new folks to the club. We need to do more to foster that. And we will.

And so, my primary goal for the remainder of 2009 is to bring a greater sense of community to who we are and what we do in the Orange Runners Club. For starters, we will be re-introducing club clothing very, very soon. There will be options such as singlets, shorts, polo shirts, warm-up jackets, ball caps, etc. Wearing ORC colors and logos will give you and those you run and train with a sense of belonging to something bigger than just you.

We will also be creating a greater brand presence at some of the local races this Fall (and many more next Spring) by bringing an ORC tent to races. The ORC-branded tent will give members a place to congregate, and to “wear your colors” even if you don't happen to actually be wearing them on your shorts or singlet that day. The ORC tent will also be taken on the road, and should give us unity as we travel to events in places like Utica, Minnewaska State Park, Burlington, VT, Scranton, PA, and many others.

So those are a couple of the things we'll be doing to develop our sense of community.

And if you're following along closely, and you understand me, you probably know what's coming next, and are perhaps already asking yourself this question:

“How can I help?”

A perfect question, and I have an answer for you. Make it your mission - just as I have done - to foster community in the club. When you come out and run in a group or at a race, wear your club pride on your chest. Get to know your fellow members. Find out about their families, what they do for a living, and what else they truly dig besides running (my other passion is music, but most people know that). And besides that, do this one more thing: Go out and bring one new member into the ORC. Just one is all you need. If each one of us can bring in just one member, we double in size in one year. And as a “sponsor” to another member, you will immediately start them off with a sense of community, and hopefully one that will grow and grow.

So lets do this thing that we do and share our community with others. If this all works out the way I envision it, we'll probably have to get a bigger tent.

Have a great Summer and Fall, my friends. And keep running!


Todd Jennings
ORC President