We've all seen social media shares of someone finding a wedding ring and through the power of networking finding the rightful owner. We even have sites like this to help lost and found pets reunite with their owners. I had never been a personal witness to the power that social media has - until yesterday.
The Hanover Area Jaycees are a local group of younger people ages 21-40 who focus on leadership training and civic responsibility. Every year for the past 76 years they have hosted the annual Hanover Halloween Parade that goes through downtown Hanover on the last Thursday of October. The parade consists of local dignitaries, area marching bands, and local businesses with floats. It's about a mile long overall and begins at 7:30 at night. The big feature of the parade is that the participants throw out candy to the crowd. I've learned that if you sit toward the end of the parade route, the marchers run out of candy, so now we sit closer to the beginning!
I'm heavily involved with my church and don't usually participate in organizing local events, but since I am a newer business in town and have an office right on the main street, I felt the desire to see where I could help, both for civic pride and to expand my network. I saw a post that the Jaycees were having a public meeting to plan this year's parade, so my wife and I made plans to attend.
At the meeting, I was shocked to find out that this group only had a membership of 10, with only three active members. In 2004, they had nearly 100 members. The local Jaycees, much like other civic organization, have experienced a sharp decline in membership over the past decade. The president basically said that without the bodies to help in the organizational phase of planning for the parade, it might have to be canceled.
Canceled?? The traditional Halloween Parade canceled??? The parade that thousands of locals anticipate and line the streets to see canceled??
The meeting was adjourned with another meeting scheduled for mid-August, but if nothing happens between now and then, the Jaycees would have no choice but to cancel. I told the president I would try to lean on local businesses to encourage their support.
I wrote a Facebook post in our local downtown merchant's page which consists of under 60 members. It's a closed page, so only people who are invited and accepted have access to it. It was only about four paragraphs, but it was a straight-shooting blurb that emphasized the need for people to step up if they truly cherished this long-standing tradition.
One of the members who saw the post shared it on her personal page, and as more and more people shared the post, the local paper picked up on the post and wrote an article about the need for volunteers. People were complementing me for my post and in the end, the Jaycees put out an announcement that they were "overwhelmed by the offers for help they have received in the past 24 hours".
I'm thankful that people were willing to step up to support their community in a time of need. As much as I generally loathe social media, I am also thankful that I have been able to witness first-hand the good that it is able to do.
"Share" Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Parade image courtesy of Don Stabler and Square Commercial Center