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Ruritans celebrate 50 years of service

March 09, 2005|by Marie Gilbert/Staff Writer

Calvin Shoop was a 37-year-old toolmaker when he decided to become a charter member of the Leitersburg Ruritan Club in 1955.

"It was a way to help the community," he recalled.

Fifty years later, the service organization hasn't strayed from its original purpose.

"We're still helping people," Shoop said.

The 87-year-old Hagerstown resident was on hand Monday evening to celebrate the club's 50th anniversary at a dinner held at the activity center of the Leitersburg Volunteer Fire Department.

In attendance to mark the occasion were past and present members of the club, plus national and district Ruritan officers.

According to Ray Johns, past president of the Leitersburg Ruritan Club, the group organized primarily to start a volunteer fire company. "The Ruritans even bought a 1936 Chevrolet pumper for $600," he said.

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But the club soon expanded its goals. Among the members' early accomplishments, Johns noted, were the sponsorship of a Boy Scout troop and payment for street lights in Leitersburg.

Over the years, the club has modernized the old Leitersburg Playground by installing volleyball and basketball courts; sponsored a Christmas light contest; and maintained the recreation areas at Leitersburg Park. The club also maintains the Leitersburg School House and sponsors the annual Peach Festival and Haunted House.

Members also prepare and distribute Christmas baskets to those in need and lend a helping hand to families in emergencies.

"Right from the very beginning, we were a community-help organization," Johns said. "The unemployed, the elderly who needed repair work done on their homes - the Leitersburg Ruritan Club has always been there to help."

The club began meeting 50 years ago in the basement of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Leitersburg, where they continue to meet.

"I didn't make all the meetings," Calvin Shoop said. "I worked at night - first at Fairchild, then at Mack Trucks. So it was hard to have 100 percent attendance."

But he tried to be as active as he could in the organization; and along the way, Shoop said, he met a lot of people from all backgrounds and made lasting friendships.

The Leitersburg Ruritan Club originally had 36 members.

"I'm probably the last of that group," Shoop said. There are currently 26 members.

The evening included opening remarks by the current club president, Robert Veil Jr., and a brief history of the Leitersburg club by Ray Johns. Also speaking were Bruce Melton, Potomac District, Zone 2 governor; Lee Finfrock, district governor; and Earl Ross, district lieutenant governor.

"This is a very special evening," Finfrock said. "Fifty years of service to the community is quite an accomplishment."

The current slate of officers for the Leitersburg Ruritan Club include Veil; Richard Hugg, vice president; Pamela Henry, secretary; and Thomas McCall, treasurer.

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