Still the Fabric of Society

3 min readJun 15, 2021

Readers of the Johnson City Press no doubt saw the information about membership in the Rotary Club on the front page of the paper each Friday in May. Stephanie McClellan, who is a Rotarian, made this possible. Thank you, Stephanie!

Much of which follows is from a blog I posted about a year ago. As our population continues to leave the hibernation of the exile that COVID-19 imposed on most of us, I believe that membership-based organizations will see an increase in their membership. Over the past year, most people have longed for the face-to-face communication opportunities that membership in a membership-based organization almost naturally brings to visit. My thoughts are that membership-based organizations are absolutely ripe for an increase in numbers.

People who know me well know of my love of membership-based organizations. I have studied them most of my adult life. Some of my study has been formal, in a classroom, but much more has been informal, as a member of many different membership-based organizations. They are all different, just as we are different. They all have their own personalities, challenges, issues, and health. Just like us!

When I think of membership-based organizations, organizations like churches, Chambers of Commerce, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, the Rotary Club, the Junior League, sororities, fraternities, alumni groups and professional associations come to the forefront of my mind. These are formal organizations, with defined requirements for membership.

Informal organizations also come to mind. Organizations like prayer groups, neighborhoods, book clubs, Facebook groups, supper clubs and groups of friends who even occasionally gather are informal organizations. These organizations may be difficult to gain entrance and consequent acceptance into, but rarely have defined requirements for membership.

Why are membership-based organizations important? Are they fabric of society? I believe they are. What does that mean? What does that look like?

The members of an organization are the weft of the fabric, while the mission of the organization is the fabric’s warp. The weft of a fabric is the threads that run width-wise. The warp of a fabric is the fibers running length-wise.

You can’t have weft without warp the other; if you do, a hole exists! And the same can be said for formalized membership-based organizations. You can’t have a mission without having members. For informal groups without a written mission statement, your mission statement may be no more complex than something like this: “Get together with friends to talk about books we’ve read” or “Gather with friends to catch-up over a meal”.

If you’re in such a group — and I dare say you are, regardless if you recognize it or not — don’t worry if you’ve never thought about your group having a mission statement. Fun can be had, memories can be made, worthy work can be accomplished without the formality of a mission statement.

My book club doesn’t have a mission statement, but I would challenge anyone who doesn’t believe we’ve done worthy work. We have collected toothbrushes for parents needing to stay with their children in our local children’s hospital. We have collected wedding gowns and other formal dresses to be repurposed into infant burial gowns for those infants never leaving the hospital. And one of our very talented members, Jeanne Prud’Homme graciously fashioned those previously-owned gowns into the bereavement gowns. We have collected new and very gently-used books for the waiting and exam rooms of a local pediatric practice. We are currently collecting books for our Little Free Library, spearheaded by Carol Dubay, who is a member of The Monday Club, a GFWC-affiliated organization that has been around since 1892. We have supported our members by volunteering our efforts to help their causes, thereby magnifying the power of volunteerism. I’m sure I’ve omitted some other things we’ve collected or done.

In the meantime, I leave you with a thought and invite your comments about it as well. Do you believe a strong community has strong membership-based organizations as a foundation? What is the connection between strong membership-based organizations and a strong community?

Copyright, July 2, 2020 and June 10, 2021 by Rebecca Henderson.