Field of Ruritan Dreams

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 30, 2007

AULANDER – The Ruritan Club is a non-profit organization that strives to create more understanding among people in communities.

The club uses volunteer community service to make America’s communities better places to live and work.

The Aulander Ruritan Club initiated a restoration project of the Aulander ball field and gymnasium. The goal of the club is to renovate these facilities and create multiple use venues for the citizens of the Aulander and Millennium communities and the surrounding areas.

&uot;The facilities are for the people in Millennium, too,&uot; said Ruritan member Tony Todd.

&uot;We want to bring the people in both communities together. We are trying to get the word out and make sure everyone has an opportunity.&uot;

The club hopes to have Little League and Babe Ruth baseball, girl’s fast pitch softball and men’s softball teams come to the field in the near future.

This field could also be used for family fun days, outdoor concerts and other events.

&uot;When I think back over the years, I have a lot of fond memories created at the Aulander ball field and gym,&uot; said Ruritan member William Drew.

&uot;I have worked, played, laughed and cried there.

My first hit in baseball and my first goal in basketball came in these facilities.&uot;

&uot;The park started to decline in the late 1980s, early 1990s,&uot; said Ruritan member Larry Drew.

&uot;The worst thing is having a facility like that is not being used but can be good for the community.

We want to revitalize the town, and the youth is the key to this.&uot;

According to William Drew, the Aulander Ruritans have invested 228 man-hours so far into the reconstruction of the field.

&uot;We feel the community needs this; it is a starting point,&uot; said Todd.

&uot;Everybody’s heart is in the right place.

We want to wake up the town again, give it life and make it a more desirable for people to live.&uot;

The members have already redone the roof over the bathrooms and they want to redo the fence around the field and build a new concession stand, as well.

Wayne Smith, vice president of the Aulander Ruritan Club, said that all of the property belongs to town.

&uot;The club has been in contact with the Town Council and the mayor,&uot; said Smith.

&uot;They are behind us 100 percent.

They agreed to help us any way they can.&uot;

The Ruritans will be refurbishing the Aulander Gym this fall. The roof leaks, so the town has put a new one in the budget.

Once the new roof is on the building, the members can repair the windows and restore the floor to its original condition.

This club wants the gym to be a center for all age groups.

The members said the gym will be a place where the citizens of the community can have dances, craft shows, youth basketball leagues, family reunions, etc.

William Drew said the Aulander Ruritans are here for the community, its needs and improvements through fellowship, goodwill and service.

&uot;From the community come our ideas, our integrity, our moral strength and our leadership,&uot; said William Drew.

Larry Drew said that the buzz around town about the project is positive.

&uot;Everyone agrees this is an overdue, worthwhile project,&uot; he said.

&uot;We live in a nice little community and town, and we want to revitalize it. It doesn’t matter who gets credit as long as work gets done.

We have an active and supportive group; the members are workers not just talkers.&uot;

Todd said that the Ruritan members just care.

&uot;We want to get kids off the street and give them something to do instead of watching TV,&uot; said Todd.

&uot;It’s all about watching people live.

This park is a place where that can happen.

There is lots of opportunity here.

People can have cook -outs, picnics, etc. here.

Some things are going by the wayside and some things need to come back.&uot;

&uot;When I saw that there were children in America who had never played baseball, it was the shock of my life,&uot; said Smith.

Smith also said they want to teach the kids to be competitive, but to be graceful losers as well as graceful winners.

&uot;We feel that by doing this, kids learn good sportsmanship, good morals and good Christian values,&uot; he said.

&uot;If we can salvage just one kid, then what we are doing here is worth $1 million.&uot;

The Ruritans and other community volunteers will perform as much of the work on the gym and field as possible.

The members said this assures that people’s generous contributions will be spent prudently to purchase the materials and supplies to complete this project.

The members canvassed the local area last week asking citizens for donations to help in upgrading the ball field and gym.

All donations are earmarked solely for the purpose of this project.

Support and donations are sincerely appreciated.

Smith said a few companies have generously donated to the project.

&uot;We need the community’s support to refurbish the field and gym,&uot; he said.

&uot;Just the Ruritans and the Town Council alone cannot do this.&uot;

The Ruritan Club was co-founded in 1928 by Tome Downing of Suffolk Va. and Jack Gwaltney of Holland Va.

Since that time, the club has expanded to include more than 34,000 Ruritan volunteers in over 1,200 communities across America.

Local businessmen and farmers chartered the Aulander Ruritan Club in 1938 in order to improve the quality of life in Aulander.

Woodrow Tayloe is the last of the original charter members.

The club fell on hard times in the past years as membership dwindled.

Down to six members in 2006, the club nearly folded.

Today the Aulander Ruritan Club has 41 active members and four corporate members.

Unlike most service organizations, Ruritan has no national project or program.

Instead, each club surveys the needs of the community and works to meet those needs.

Club membership is made of a cross- section of the community and is available to all who are interested in their communities.

&uot;The community is the people, not the buildings,&uot; said Larry Drew.

&uot;Kids learn life lessons on the ball field.&uot;

William Drew said that his father, John A. Drew Jr. spent most of his life working on the field, coaching and raising monies for equipment and lights so that everyone could enjoy it.

&uot;It is an honor for me to be a part of something that meant so much to my father,&uot; said William Drew.

&uot;The pleasure and reward will come when I see kids of all ages using the facilities again. Many friendships were nurtured on those grounds and so many people share some of these same memories,&uot; he said.