Y Service Clubs celebrate 100 years worldwide

Published 12:02 am Thursday, May 12, 2022

The Y’s Men International is a global fellowship of affiliated clubs oriented to serving the worldwide YMCA and communities in which it is present throughout the world with the mission “to build a better world for all humankind.”

Locally, there are three active Y Service Clubs. All of them support YMCA activities with various fundraisers. The oldest, the John R. Mott Club at the Kannapolis YMCA, was chartered in 1946. The Mott Club has contributed to the local Bible classes, the after-school YMCA programs, and other activities including the sports and swim teams. Additionally, funding is provided for the Y’s 5K, the Y Cares program that offers financial assistance and the Empty Stocking Fund that helps needy families with Christmas. The Mott Club Dollars for Scholars aids Y staff with costs of training.

The South Rowan Y Service Club was chartered in 1988 and helped raise funds for the initial Y building and a picnic shelter, sports bleachers, a passenger bus, minibus, pitching machine, storage trailer and various landscaping projects. The South Rowan Club has supported the community with various other projects including local Bible teachers, the South library capital campaign, Rowan Helping Ministries, China Grove Roller Mill restoration and the Rowan County Literacy Council.

The Charles Johnson Y Service Club was chartered in 1993 at the Salisbury YMCA and has supported Y activities including the YMCA triathlon, port-a-pit fundraisers, the YMCA capital campaigns and helped with the move to the Y’s current location.

As the most active of the local clubs, the celebration of the 100-year anniversary will be hosted by the South Rowan Y Service Club at its monthly meeting on May 17. Members of the other two clubs are invited.

Pioneering members for the South Y Service Club include Bruce Miller and David Roberts who took active leadership roles in forming the club. Both were charter members along with Roberts’ wife, Gay. David Roberts was the organizing leader of the chartering process and served as Y Service Club President for the first two years of its existence. Most other Y Service Clubs at the time were male-only.

David Roberts said, “My reason for involvement with the SRYSC was to serve the YMCA and community, offering opportunities for better communications and fellowship while representing the area’s gender, ethnicity and financial status.” He also served as club secretary, director of the South Atlantic Region and leadership training director of U.S. Area.

Gay Roberts has served as SRYSC president, vice president, and secretary and is the current director of the South Atlantic Region. Both have traveled significantly around the United States on Y Service Club business.

Both David and Gay Roberts credit the “Vehicle Give-Away Project” as being the major success story for the SRYSC. This annual truck and eventually car raffle has supported most of the fund raising previously mentioned and the resulting benefits for the YMCA.

Bruce Miller had already been helping with South Y projects when David Roberts asked him to attend a Y Service Club organizational meeting on Feb. 16, 1988. He has since served as club president several times, South Atlantic Region director twice and served on the U.S. Area Board twice. Miller has also traveled extensively.

Miller joined David Roberts on the original South YMCA research and development committee that initiated the fundraising, construction and eventual expansion. He said, “And proudly, we were able to provide the inspiration and motivation for construction of the East Rowan YMCA and the move to the current Salisbury facility. I still have a desire to serve and projects yet to be completed. As a Y Service Club member, we can make a difference in the community and that difference will trickle up.”

David Roberts agreed, “I enjoy our interactions with club members and the accomplishments within the community. The Service Club movement offers the opportunity to make friends around the world with a shared attitude of benevolence and trustworthiness across the organization.”

“Loyalty, generosity and spirituality are important to me,” said Gay Roberts.

Y’s Men International had its beginnings in 1920 when a men’s luncheon club, led by Judge Paul William Alexander, was established in support of the Toledo, Ohio, YMCA. The opportunity to combine community service with fellowship proved attractive. The idea spread to other clubs in Ohio in 1922, the official beginning of the organization, and soon expanded to other states and countries.

Gay Roberts wondered, “Did Alexander’s vision for the organization reach 100 years? I am proud to be an active member of an organization that has lasted this long and is thriving now.”

While the local YMCA’s benefit greatly from the work and volunteerism of the service clubs, David Roberts said, “It might be doubtful if the South Rowan YMCA would be in existence today were it not for the leadership and financial contributions from SRYSC. The Rowan clubs remain active in supporting and meeting the needs of the Rowan and Cabarrus YMCAs.”