For the Portsmouth Jaycees, 20 is and was the “magic number” according to lifetime member LeRoy Hackworth. The group needed a total of 20 members by the end of March in order to keep their charter and remain in existence.
Hackworth added a little publicity and some Facebook postings helped attract seven new members and push the group to the point their charter is no longer in danger, at least not immediately.
“Right now, we’re good,” Hackworth said. “We have the numbers to carry us for a little while… But we are right where we need to be, so a lot of things could happen.”
Noted for several high-profile Portsmouth traditions, including an annual Easter egg hunt, trout derby and Christmas parade, the Jaycees currently have exactly the number of members needed to retain their charter and add more years to their standing as the oldest continuously active Jaycee group in the state. The Portsmouth Jaycees first started 80 years ago.
As already hinted, Hackworth admitted the future of the group is not guaranteed. Active members can be no more than 40 years of age. Several current members – Hackworth didn’t know exactly how many – will be forced to leave the group because of their age at different points this year. Still, he said for now the group is safe through at least November.
In the meantime, the Jaycees have two of their signature events coming up in the very near future. The first is the annual Easter Egg Hunt scheduled for 11:30 a.m. April 20 at Mound Park in Portsmouth. No prior registration is needed for the event aimed at children 12 and under. Hackworth said attendance at the Easter egg hunt is very much weather dependent. However, he added the Jaycees plan on placing some 5,000 plastic eggs containing candy and small prizes around Mound Park. The Jaycees assemble all those eggs themselves.
“It takes some effort,” Hackworth added.
The 53rd annual trout derby happens the following week, kicking off bright and early at 6 a.m. April 27 on Roosevelt Lake in Shawnee State Park. All it takes to participate is fishing equipment and a valid fishing license. The fisherman who reels in the longest fish, as judged by the Jaycees, will be the grand prize winner. There are also first second and third place prizes. Food vendors will be available on-site to offer food and drinks for sale.
Like the Easter egg hunt, attendance at the trout derby is often weather dependent.
“Usually, by about 6 a.m., the lake is covered with boats,” said Jenny Richards, a naturalist at Shawnee State Park, talking last year about the 2018 derby.
Hackworth said naturally it’s a huge relief to have gained the number of members needed to keep the Jaycees open and operating. He previously said the civic organization he joined in 1977 had 170 members in 1983. Since then, for whatever reason, interest in the Portsmouth Jaycees has fallen off considerably. Speaking more recently, Hackworth added the Portsmouth chapter is not the only Jaycee group in jeopardy. He added that in fact the Cincinnati chapter, which obviously was located in a major metropolitan area, was forced to fold because of the lack of membership last year. Hackworth said membership appears to be a major problem for the Jaycees nationwide.
An employee of Scioto County, Hackworth said the Jaycees can provide a wonderful, real life networking tool. He noted the Portsmouth group is somewhat informal in that they run the organization in a style he referred to as the “country club version” of Jaycees. In other words, they do not follow strict parliamentary procedure. Largely because of the membership problems, the group currently has no president.
Hackworth talked a lot about planning for the group’s various events. He specifically mentioned, as an example, the upcoming Easter egg hunt. Somebody interested in running the event or some other event of their choosing or creation, essentially would create a business plan outlining how the event would unfold. Organizers need to understand what materials are going to be needed, where those materials will come from, how many volunteers will need to be on hand, what the costs are, if any, and so on. Hackworth said the professional and personal benefits of taking on such a project, building your leadership skills, should be self-evident.
Of course, new members still are encouraged to step forward. For anyone interested in joining the Jaycees or just finding out more information, you can visit their Facebook homepage. You also are invited to call their Gallia Street headquarters at (740) 353-6709.