SPRING PLACE —
Years before Spring Place Elementary School had a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) or a free- or reduced-lunch program, a group of men stepped up to financially take care of the students there.
“One of the things I remember is that (the principal Carl) Davis had a few needy students that couldn’t afford to eat at lunchtime. We gave him a fund for the ones that needed food,” Carlton McDaniel said. “We had a food plan before the government did. We kept money for him to be sure and feed any needy students.”
The club functioned as a PTA and the Spring Place Ruritan Club, which now accepts male and female members, McDaniel said.
For the past 63 years, the club has worked to support social service agencies, organizations and schools in Murray County. Recently the organization received two National Service Awards for their work behind the scenes in the community. It received a gold in citizenship and promoting patriotism and a bronze in social development.
Often the club’s involvement in the community is unseen.
The club once sponsored a carnival at Spring Place Elementary School, but now hosts a golf tournament each spring as its annual fundraiser.
“We take that money and put it into the community,” said Elizabeth Robinson, president of the club.
The club financially supports organizations such as the Murray County Rescue Squad, Community Christmas, the Special Olympics, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, scholarships to needy students for field trips and school clubs.
The club also hosts the annual Spring Place Festival each August to raise funds for the Old Spring Place Methodist Church, which is owned by the Whitfield-Murray Historical Society.
“We donated to more than 15 community projects last year,” Robinson said. “We help the community.”
But for the club’s members, being involved is more than fundraising.
“A lot of families do it together,” Robinson said. “It’s a big family thing, and you don’t have to live in Spring Place. It started to help sponsor Spring Place Elementary. The number one priority now is to help the community by supporting different organizations. It’s a time for fellowship and fun.”
McDaniel has been a member since 1957 and is now the member who has been active the longest.
Before women could be members, they would bring a covered-dish dinner. All would eat together then they would break apart for the meeting.
“We had excellent meals,” McDaniel said. “The food helps keep us together. It’s a very important part of it. Several (Ruritan Clubs) started in Murray County, but none of them existed very long. I feel like the friendship of all the members and working together to do what was good for the community kept us together, too. We’ve done some very worthwhile projects.”
The club is something families can participate in together. McDaniel’s wife, Henrietta, who is now deceased, and several of their children are active members or have been over the years.
Students can join in kindergarten as junior members.
Six-year-old Cameron Longley joined last year. She is a fourth-generation member.
“I like it,” she said. “I eat food.”
She also helped set up for the Spring Place Festival.
Chuck Smith joined along with his wife Jyana and two children Taira and Trent about 12 years ago after another member invited them.
“It was a good family atmosphere,” Smith said. “Our kids loved it. Both of our children received (college) scholarships through Ruritan. ... I enjoyed raising funds and being active in the community.”
Membership is $44 annually for an adult and $22 annually for students. There are about 40 members in the Spring Place club.
They meet the first Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Old Spring Place Methodist Church except in February when the club eats a local restaurant. The meeting begins with a covered-dish meal.
“It is a good organization to be involved in,” McDaniel said. “Good fellowship. Good friendship. Good food.”
For more information about membership in the Spring Place Ruritan Club, call (706) 695-6021. The club meets the first Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Old Spring Place Methodist Church.