Editor's Note: The Bluffton Sun was first published in January 1998. As we celebrate our 20th anniversary in 2018, we want to look at the past 20 years of history and changes around town. This is another in a series of articles about the changes we've all seen. Join us as we revisit the past 20 years.
Twenty years ago, when the Bluffton Sun newspaper was first published, service organizations in town were few. But that would change as Bluffton's population grew. The willingness of residents old and new to volunteer their time and talent became a stepping stone to a more vibrant and connected community.
"Our many service organizations and nonprofits add so much value to our town," Mayor Lisa Sulka said. "As our town grows, so do the needs of so many of our residents. These groups are great partners in so many projects that the town doesn't budget for. We are grateful for all who want to give back to Bluffton."
Service organizations are a lifeblood between club volunteers, the town of Bluffton and its businesses, and its swath of residents. They serve a vital need of promoting charitable, educational, recreational and social welfare programs and initiatives in a not-for-profit environment.
The roster includes local service clubs, veterans' posts, fraternal societies or associations, volunteer fire and rescue groups, and civic league and associations.
Here's a sampling of some notable service organizations in Bluffton:
- Bluffton Rotary Club. Founded in 1988, this organization is the town's oldest. "Fellowship and service the Bluffton Way" keeps its members focused on "service above self" in a variety of endeavors.
For instance, the club has been the sponsor of the Bluffton Village Festival (Mayfest) since 2009, and new president Dani Breidung was festival chair this year. More than 10,000 visitors attended and 200 vendors participated in the one-day fund-raising event for local charities, such as Bluffton Self-Help and Volunteers in Medicine.
Rotarians also completed the first phase of the Field of Dreams improvement project at Oscar Frazier Park in partnership with the Town and the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce 2018 Leadership Class. New playground equipment and synthetic turf were installed at the 3-acre site.
Other campaigns include partnering with the hugely popular eight-day annual Arts & Seafood Festival in October, an oyster roast, back-to-school supply drive, "Student of the Month" awards, and notable guest speakers at meetings.
- American Legion. The 102 members of local Post 205, led by commander David Leite, are part of the nation's largest wartime veterans service organization that is committed to mentoring youth and sponsorship of "wholesome" programs in the community, such as the annual fundraising oyster roast at Oyster Factory Park in March. The national organization was founded in 1919.
Plans are well underway for sponsoring its 13th anniversary Dennis J. Becker golf tournament, the organization's most important annual fundraising event, set for Sept. 22 at Rose Hill Golf Club. Last year's four-person scramble tournament raised $1,206 for its primary charitable endeavor, the Fisher House, a no-cost comfort home in Charleston for veterans' families while their loved one undergoes treatment at the nearby VA medical center.
- Kiwanis Club of Bluffton. The local chapter of this global organization, dedicated to improving the world one child and one community at a time, was founded in spring 2016 with 25 chartered members. Joe Banks is club president.
Its mission is two-fold: fundraising (Antiques Appraisal and Silent Auction) and service (Camp Sinawik, a summer camp for special needs children). Kiwanis also supports local schools and youth programs, non-profit organizations such as Meals on Wheels and the Salvation Army, a children's shoe drive, trash pick-ups, the Boys & Girls Club of Bluffton, as well as sponsoring foreign exchange students.
- The Sun City Lions Club in Okatie was founded in 1997.
- The Masonic Lodge, Loyal Order of Moose and Knights of Columbus have chapters in Beaufort, Port Royal and Savannah that serve Bluffton members.
Lowcountry resident Dean Rowland is a veteran senior editor and freelance writer.