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Jaycees make comeback in Chambersburg

January 27, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Fifteen people took the Jaycee oath Monday night at the Coyle Free Library, bringing back to life a chapter that had gone out of existence years ago.

"You're all about to have one of the greatest experiences in your life, to make new friends and help your community," said Craig Rohrbaugh, chairman of the board of the Pennsylvania Jaycees.

Adding a special touch to the chapter's first meeting were the blue and gold banners of the old chapter. Melissa Knepper of Chambersburg got them from a former chapter president.

"At one time Chambersburg (membership) was ranked second in the state," said Gary Hawbecker, who was president in 1971-72. He thought the chapter survived into the early 1980s but wasn't sure.

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"It was a great experience running projects. It was leadership training, really," said Gary Shetter, an insurance agent who became an "exhausted rooster" 20 years ago.

That's the term for a member who has, in another bit of Jaycee jargon, "aged out." When Hawbecker and Shetter were members, the organization was all male and members had to leave the Junior Chamber of Commerce at age 35.

Women were admitted in 1984, and the maximum age is now 40, according to Rohrbaugh.

Pennsylvania has 118 chapters with about 3,800 members, he said.

The Jaycees was formed in 1920 by Henry Giessenbier and a group of friends in St. Louis, Mo. They wanted to get ahead personally and professionally by the same method graduates of Ivy League schools had long used to their benefit.

"They had their old-boy network and he wanted to create his own old-boy network," said District 7B Director Melody McBeth, who was there to help the recruits learn the ropes.

The Greencastle, Pa., woman said she joined the Jaycees to meet people. She said it helped her land a job as sales director for a flooring company.

"I've lived in Chambersburg all my life and I want to see the community move forward," Knepper said of her reason for joining. She is the director of member services for the local Chamber of Commerce.

Affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Jaycees are not associated with local chambers, according to Rohrbaugh.

McBeth said new members were recruited from the list of registered voters in the area. "If you vote, you're active in your community," she said.

Community service is a major role for any chapter, according to Region 7 Director Kelly Krebs.

Hawbecker said the old chapter ran the local Soap Box Derby among other projects.

Across the nation, Jaycees sponsor Christmas parades, golf tournaments and the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., Krebs said.

The Jaycee officers also explained programs the organization sponsors in public speaking, resume writing and other self-improvement skills.

"I joined in hopes of expanding my business and I want to be more involved in my community," said Tim Saber of Chambersburg, who deals in dairy cattle.

"State Secretary of Agriculture. That's what I'm shooting for," Saber said.

Hawbecker and Shetter didn't know why the old chapter died away. McBeth said the usual reason is a lack of recruiting by the members.

The new chapter will next meet on Monday, Feb. 8, at 6:30 p.m. in the library to elect officers.

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