Desmond Devnich volunteered all through high school. For an outgoing community-minded kid, it just seemed like the thing to do.
But after graduating and starting his working career, he suddenly found himself cut off from those old volunteerism opportunities. Those school clubs were in the past and adult life-work, family, money-was looming in the future.
"I though that's when volunteering ended and that when the serious life began and you get a job," he said. Devnich was aware of service clubs like Rotary. But they didn't seem especially suited to a guy like Devnich who was just starting out in the working world.
"I thought that?" he says, emphasizing the final word. "I'll never fit into that."
He was wrong.
At the age of 22, Devnich is now the president of Rotaract, a Rotary-affiliated and -funded group for men and women between the ages of 18 and 30.
The group-which is sponsored by the Chilliwack Fraser Rotary Club- meets every two weeks and both organizes its own initiatives and helps out with Rotary events.
Because of its younger membership, Rotaract approaches community service much differently than Chilliwack's rotary clubs. Meetings-which typically take place at Decades Coffee-are more casual than your stereotypical ser-vice-club get-together, Devnich said.
"Because we're such a casual group we get to spend a lot of time together," he said. "It's not a regular board-meeting setting in any way."
Rotaract currently has around a dozen members, although in its 10-years of existence membership has been as high as 25.
"It's that aging out; we've had a lot of members grow up, which is wonderful," he said.
Because a person's 20-something years can be busy and full of change, recruitment can be difficult, Devnich said.
"Because of the stage in which our members lives are, schedules are very, very full," he said. "You may miss a meeting or not be able to make it in because your baby was just born."
To help overcome the natural obstacles of youth, Devnich said the group relies on online communication and isn't overly strict about attendance .
That's important, he says, because while many older Rotarians are in charge of their own schedules, Rota-ract members often have less control over their work time.
"We have to remain more inclusive," he says. "Rotarians they manage their own time and most Rotaractors are still in that entry-to mid-level job."
On the plus side, Rotaract has built a diverse membership that increases the likelihood that newcomers will form bonds, according to Mike Woods, the Chilliwack Fraser Rotary Club liaison between itself and the Rotaract club.
"A new member joining now is much more likely to stick around than he was two years ago," Woods said.
Because members don't have as deep as pockets as their Rotarian brethren, Rotaract focuses on projects that can be accomplished through volunteerism and hard work.
"Our members are just starting out in their careers or they're in the middle of school, or just graduated or starting their families, so with that comes financial limitations as members," Devnich said. "Our job is just to find ways that we can give to the community by using our hands."
Despite its youth membership, Rotaract's Rotary roots do show through.
Devnich said Rotaract, like Rotary, provides good networking opportunities and the ability to meet like-minded people in Chilliwack.
"If you are looking to start a business or just to get your name out there, Rotaract is a perfect opportunity to meet other people across the world," he said, citing the club's monthly Twitter meetup with other groups around the globe. "
As president, Devnich also regularly brings in speakers to talk about their careers. But for Devnich, it all comes down to serving the community.
"The best part, I think, is the ability to give back in a meaningful way and the broad spectrum of projects that Rota-ract allows for.
Rotaract projects include an annual field trip for children on the Big Brothers Big Sisters waitlist; a Poinsettia sale, the profits from which are used to sponsor families at Christmas time; and a canned-food drive on Hallowe'en.
Rotaract members also often work as volunteers during various Rotary events around town.
And when Devnich was outraged by last fall's theft of poppy collection boxes, Rotaract stepped forward to make a donation, which was in turn matched by Rotary.
Devnich said the relationship with local rotary clubs, and particularly the Chilliwack Fraser, is "great."
"They're our parents, they're our mentors, they're our teachers," he said. "I mean that in the literal sense in that we have grown up with those individuals."
Woods said that both Rotaract and Interact, a similar club for teenagers are both emblematic of Rotary's aim to get young people involved in their community in a positive way.
And he said the drive shown by the teenagers and 20-somethings rubs off on their older counterparts.
"They're not doing it to pat themselves on the back," Woods says. "They're doing it for the greater good. It's inspirational."
? Rotaract members meet on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 6: 30 p.m. at Decades. Anyone aged 18 to 30 is welcome.
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