They’re the ones in the yellow jackets, scanning tickets and ushering at games, concerts and rodeos at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. You’ll see them checking IDs at Summer Nights and helping out at Main Street Square.
Those are just a few of the things that members of the Rapid City Cosmopolitan Club do to raise money to support their main mission: finding a cure for Type 1 diabetes.
It’s a cause that inspires some members to join the Cosmopolitan Club, which is celebrating its 85th anniversary and is one of Rapid City's oldest service clubs. But there are many other reasons people get involved. Whatever the reason, the club’s membership numbers seem to be bucking a national trend.
“Most service clubs are lamenting that they are dying because there isn’t a service mind among younger generations, but we stay around 100 members,” said local past-president and retired businessman Bob White.
Retired principal and former club president Jim Schuh said keeping those numbers up is a concern as its membership gets older.
“We’re holding our own,” Schuh said. “(But) young people are busy. It’s something as a retired person I have time to do.”
While many of the club’s most active members are retirees, there are members in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s.
Fifty-one-year-old Joanie Mantei, a vice president at Pioneer Bank & Trust, has been a Cosmo for about three years and serves on its board of directors. She agreed that getting involved can be an issue of time.
“I think that we’re just pulled so many directions between our jobs and families that it doesn’t leave a lot of extra time for service clubs,” Mantei said. “I didn’t do it when I had small kids at home.”
“The members, which I think is true with all types of clubs, are not quite as involved,” said 84-four-year-old Dick Kahler, who joined the Cosmos back in 1958, when he was in his 20s. “We have a lot of members that aren’t active. We have young families. There’s more demand on people.”
The club meets at noon on Mondays and members pay dues. In the hopes of appealing to more people, the board of directors decided to move one meeting to an evening for a three-month trial period.
Cosmos aren’t required to attend meetings or volunteer a certain number of hours.
“A member can spend as little or as much time as they want,” Mantei said.
Many of the members get involved at the club’s higher level, Cosmopolitan International. Former Rapid City finance officer Jim Preston of Hermosa is president-elect of Cosmopolitan International. He’ll be sworn in as president in July at the group’s annual convention, which will be held in Rapid City this year.
No matter how much time they are able to give, Cosmos are dedicated to helping others and finding a cure for Type 1 diabetes.
“I have a 14-year-old nephew with Type 1,” Mantei said. “The cause is dear to me. And, I (see) the passion that the members have for the cause and for the club.”
“(When I joined) it was kind of a selfish reason. I liked that they were going to all these events, concerts, hockey games, Broadway shows. It was inexpensive entertainment for me,” White said. “But then I got hooked. I got to know what Type 1 diabetes is about and got to know the kids who face going in to a coma and their parents who have to worry about that kind of stuff.”
“You get in there and enjoy the people who are there and you get involved in the mission. Pretty soon, you are bleeding Cosmo and you want to help, and that’s why I got involved on the international level,” Preston said.
“It’s the fellowship of the members, raising funds for diabetes, helping out local groups in town. It’s a way of giving back to Rapid City for me,” Kahler said.
Besides raising money for diabetes research, the club donates thousands of dollars each year to local groups that benefit children such as the Club for Boys, Wellspring, Inc. and Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the Black Hills.