Hoping to halt a decline in membership, the Catonsville Sunrise Rotary Club will forgo weekly morning meetings for bimonthly evening meetings.
Rather than meeting at 7:25 a.m. Wednesdays at Café on the Grove, on the campus of Spring Grove State Hospital Center, the group will most likely meet every other Tuesday at Rolling Road Golf Club, located at 814 Hilltop Road.
The change was announced by Cal Oren, the group's president, during a July 12 evening forum at the club.
One bimonthly meeting will be a community forum with a featured speaker, while the other will be a business meeting where rotary members will plan their service projects, Oren said.
A charter member of the group, Oren became a Rotarian 10 years ago after attending an initial meeting and feeling like it "rang a bell" in him.
"There's a great fellowship," he said. "You make fantastic friends because you're meeting with like-minded people. It's not like all we do is service projects, but there's a broad level of community involvement."
But in the past two years, the club's membership has declined steadily — dropping from its usual 20-30 members to about a dozen, Oren said.
"We're down to the point where we really aren't interested in continuing if we can't bring more people in," he said on July 6. "Those of us who are in the club are happy that we're in the club, but you have to have a certain size before you have enough people to do things.
"You can't have every single member involved in every single activity. Nobody has that much time to give it," he said. "So you need to be able to have some people working on some projects and other people working on others, and that's not possible when you have a real small number."
One casualty is the club's September "Fall Into Fitness," a 5- and 10k fundraiser race held on the Community College of Baltimore County's Catonsville campus on South Rolling Road.
Oren said the event will be canceled this year, because the group does not have the manpower to staff it.
"Our intention is to do it next year, but we've got to build some numbers," he said. "It's always been a successful and growing event and we're sorry to have to take a year off, but we really didn't have much of a choice."
Oren said he thought finances could be a factor in the club's declining membership, noting that with membership dues, it costs about $1,000 per year to be a Rotarian.
The Sunrise Club is not the only local civic organization that has experienced membership woes.
In August 2010, the Rotary Club of Catonsville, which served the community for more than eight decades, decided to disband after its membership dropped to three people.
Low membership numbers were also to blame when the Arbutus Lions Club voted to disband in June of 2010.
Up until late last summer, Oren attributed his club's membership of more than 20 to the morning meetings.
The time appealed to working people, especially those with families, he said..
"They did meet the needs of the club membership for a decade, but things change," he said about the morning meetings.
Recently, Oren said, that after approaching current, former and potential members that they preferred meeting less frequently in the evenings for longer periods of time.