One of the most influential pieces of literature in my life is a book by Robert Putnam titled “Bowling Alone.” Written in 2000, Putnam provided a thorough assessment of the gradual decline in civic engagement in America, pointing specifically to diminishing membership in volunteer community groups that bring us together to form social capital. Indeed, even participation in bowling leagues had dwindled.
Why does this matter? I argue, and most I hope would agree, that we are a stronger nation when our citizens freely engage in the community, whether it is through neighborhood associations, PTAs or even attending planning board meetings. Indeed, two centuries ago, our robust civic life was one of the strengths of our young nation that made the rest of the world take notice.
In Irondequoit, I am proud that we have an active and engaged citizenry, one that I contend runs contrary to Putnam’s assessment. Every month, thousands of residents tune in online to watch our town meetings. Our voter turnout is routinely well above the local and national averages. We now have approximately 15 active neighborhood associations that are bringing residents together. To me, this is a sign that residents care about the future of their community.
Throughout our town’s history, and in communities across America, one of the constants of civic life has been the many fraternal organizations that exist. Locally, we have terrific groups like the Kiwanis, the Lions Club, the American Legion, the Chamber of Commerce and Friends of the Library. Each of these volunteer groups bring members of the community together to serve the community.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Rotary Club of Irondequoit. Like the other fraternal groups in town, the rotary’s mission is rooted in service to others. The dozens of men and women in this fine organization have worked over the years to support worthy initiatives such as Camp Haccamo, which enriches the lives of children and adults with a wide range of special needs.
Within the borders of Irondequoit, the rotary has supported improvements to Camp Eastman and the new ballpark complex behind town hall. Most recently, we proudly partnered with the rotary to fund several little libraries in neighborhoods around Irondequoit.