What would Bemidji be like without its service organizations? I can answer that. In many ways it would not be the same healthy community you find today. You may not even wish to live here.

Before I mention a little about a few of these groups, here are some reasons why you should become a member. First, you will help improve the quality of life in our community not just a little but by a great deal.

Second, much of what the groups do focuses on helping youth from Scouts to schools. Third, if you are in business or are looking for ways to connect with others, there is no better place than via one of these organizations. If you do own a business, you cannot afford not to join.

Fourth, if you feel bored with life and feel you need to spend less time watching TV and playing with the computer, join a service group. Fifth, you will feel better about yourself because you are contributing to truly making a difference in the community where you live and work and where you raise your children and grandchildren.

Let me talk first about TM, which stands for Toastmasters. If you are shy, lacking in confidence, want to improve your leadership and communication skills, join Toastmasters. International Toastmasters—founded in 1924—is the best, without a doubt, the best organization to improve your public speaking skills. The service it renders is to you personally. By joining you will gain in confidence, become less shy, learn to speak on your feet and from day one and onward, you will continue to improve your public speaking ability. For more information, call (218) 444-8510.

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Being a collector I frequently would run across items that had the initials BPOE on them. What they mean is Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks—founded in 1868—or as some refer to themselves “Best People on Earth.” The Elks' national headquarters is located in Chicago and has an endowment fund valued at $803.9 million. They have a host of programs ranging from scholarships to investing in the community to Veteran Services. The local BPOE continues to service Bemidji to help all of us become the best people on earth. To learn more about BPOE locally, call (218) 444-3127.

Another set of initials that stumped me was FOE. It stands for the Fraternal Order of the Eagles—founded in 1898—and it was responsible for helping make Mother’s Day a reality. It donates more than $10 million a year to local communities, fundraisers, charities and more. Fundraisers are conducted for eight major charities, including kidney, heart, diabetes, cancer and spinal cord injury funds, and a children's fund.

The purpose of the Eagles is “to make human life more desirable by lessening its ills, and by promoting peace, prosperity, gladness and hope.” FOE has included many prominent Americans over the years like Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Harry S. Truman, Ronald Reagan as well as legendary athletes like Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Jim Thorpe and Bob Griese. You know where the Eagles are located. Stop and get something to eat and inquire about how you can join. Call (218) 751-9985.

International Rotary has two clubs in Bemidji: Sunrise and Noon Rotary. International Rotary has 1.2 million members and 35,000 clubs. Both Bemidji clubs meet for one hour and, coincidentally, both clubs meet at the Eagles including the local Lions Club.

Rotary Clubs—founded in 1905—believe that no challenge is too big for them. For example, they have helped immunize 2.5 billion children against polio. For more than 110 years, they helped bridge cultures and connected continents to champion peace, fight illiteracy and poverty, promote clean water and sanitation, and fight disease. From dragon boat races to dictionaries given to all third-graders, Sunrise and Noon Rotaries make themselves known throughout the community. To contact, Google Noon or Sunrise Rotary in Bemidji.

The Bemidji Lions Club meets once a week. Lions Clubs International—founded in 1917—is the world's largest service club organization with more than 1.4 million members in approximately 46,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas around the world.

The Bemidji Lions Club is now over 100 strong and has been involved in many projects locally and across the globe. On an international level, Lions contributes to initiatives for diabetes, blindness, hearing loss, the environment, youth and a new initiative to combat pediatric cancer.

The Bemidji Lions contribute to over 20 local organizations that help provide care and services to the residents of the Bemidji area. Some examples are a partnership with Habitat For Humanity to sponsor a home for a visually impaired mother and her family with the help of a matching grant from the Lions Clubs International Foundation. To learn more: Google Bemidji Lions Club.

Collectively, Bemidji service organizations over the years have raised millions of dollars to help Bemidji become a better community. We have all been the recipients of their generosity and this is why we need to support them. The best way to do it is to become a member. You won’t regret it.

There are many other local service groups that I didn’t mention, that also help in making Bemidji what it is today. The volunteers that serve are in the thousands including churches. Thanks to all and Miigwech.

Riddle: What did the boy octopus say to the girl octopus? (Answer: May I hold you hand, hand, hand, hand, hand, hand, hand?) If you join hands with a service organization, you won’t regret it.

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Thanks for the continued support of the Kelliher School Board and for the support of Dr. Jim Bensen, former BSU president, futurist and entrepreneur. He also is a rotarian.

John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.