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Serauxmen look to raise public profile

Mike Carson, past president of Nanaimo Serauxmen, and other members want to raise public awareness about the club and its history, which includes support for local sports facilities. Serauxmen Stadium, completed in the early 1970s, was one of the club’s first major sports projects. - Chris Bush photo
Mike Carson, past president of Nanaimo Serauxmen, and other members want to raise public awareness about the club and its history, which includes support for local sports facilities. Serauxmen Stadium, completed in the early 1970s, was one of the club’s first major sports projects.
— image credit: Chris Bush photo

might be, “Of the community, for the community,” which might also be another way of saying, “Money raised here, stays here.”

The Serauxmen formed in 1967 – a time when people were concerned about the “generation gap” and service clubs in Nanaimo were populated by members 30 and older.

A bunch of young guys wanted to help their community – something they shared with their elders – but on their own terms with new ideas. It was the ’60s after all. They banded together as the Service Auxiliary Men – the name was later shortened to Serauxmen – and staged their first fundraiser car wash at the Tally Ho Motel.

Forty-five years later they’re the old guys, but still helping out in their community, doing everything from donating bedding for families whose children don’t have beds, to building wheelchair ramps and supporting sports fields, like Serauxmen Stadium and the Serauxmen Sports Fields. But the Serauxmen aren’t a big international service club. The Serauxmen are unique to Nanaimo. Membership floats from 25 to 40 people and the club does little, if any, self-promotion.

“What I’ve noticed since I’ve been with the group for the last couple of years is that when you say, ‘It’s going to support the Serauxmen,’ nobody really has an idea who the Serauxmen are in Nanaimo,” said Carl Pellegrino, club member. “They just think sports fields and that’s about as far as it goes.”

The club hosts annual beer and burger events, Halloween balls, charity golf tournaments and is a big supporter of the Nanaimo Dragonboat Festival, but an otherwise low profile makes it more challenging each year to raise money for the causes it supports.

Mike Carson, former club president, said the club isn’t seeing the $20,000-night golf tournament fundraisers like it once did, partly due to the economy and also because a lot of different clubs are doing the same kinds of fundraisers.

“We’re all doing the same things,” Carson said. “We need to come up with some new ideas I think. It’s not just our club. It’s fundraising in general in the community. It seems to be the same go-tos. Beer/burgers, golf tournaments, raffles seem to be the standard fundraisers and unfortunately they’re not making the money they used to.”

Who and what gets supported is decided at twice-monthly meetings when members file through petitions for help that come in via the mail and e-mail.

“The mission of our company is to help our fellow man, but we’re really focused, primarily, on children and on families and supporting those in need,” Pellegrino said.

But one main reason the club formed in the first place was the members’ desire for an organization that could respond spontaneously to a broader spectrum of charity opportunities than traditional service clubs of the time.

A recent example of that cropped up at the club’s 2012 Christmas party when the members asked their spouses what charitable venture they’d like the club to take on. The women knew of local families whose children had no beds. The hat was passed around at the party, beds were purchased at a substantial discount from John’s Bedroom Barn and delivered to the families before Christmas.

All money Serauxmen raise goes back to the community and no money is ever used to cover operational expenses.

One might say flexibility and even tolerance has played in favour of its membership as well.

“In the olden days when you turned 40 you retired out of the club,” Carson said. “If we did that today we wouldn’t have a club, so it’s important that we try to find some new blood, get some new people interested in fundraising and giving back to the community.”

Members come from all occupations.

“We have contractors to accountants to labourers to photographers, to body painters to you name it,” Pellegrino said. “We’ve got a whole gamut of different people and what we find is that allows us to manoeuvre a little bit easier to approach some of those things we want to accomplish in the community.”

New members are recruited through word of mouth, but a good place to meet Serauxmen and learn more about the organization will at the club’s beer and burger night at the Old City Station Pub, Saturday (Feb. 9). The event starts at 6 p.m., tickets are $15 per person and will feature silent auction prizes, a wall of wine draw, lottery board draw and 50/50 draw.

Serauxmen are also hosting a new members night Feb. 25 at the Longwood Brew Pub.

“It’s open to the public to come out,” Carson said. “We’d love to get five or six new members in under 40 – in their late 20s, early 30s would be ideal.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the Serauxmen can also visit the club’s website at www.serauxmen.com.

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