We Have Lost Our Sense Of Community

One of the major reasons why it seems that the country is so divided and dysfunctional right now is that perhaps too many Americans have lost our sense of being part if a larger community and have retreated into our own little bubble of family and close friends. Of course, this has been exacerbated by the pandemic.

I truly believe that one of the major contributors of this nation’s “greatness” was that so many Americans considered themselves as part of a larger community. Whether it was our cities, towns, neighborhoods or even our country; many of us believed that the “greater good” of the community was more important than one’s individual satisfaction.

Perhaps nothing exemplified this feeling of the greater community more than my parent’s generation or the “greatest generation” that grew up during the great depression, then had to either go off to fight in the Second World War or stay home and make sacrifices for the war effort. Every young man was in uniform or doing something for the war effort. Women often went to work in the factories to make the material to fight the war. Consumer goods, such as food and gasoline were rationed so everyone got their share.

Even after the war ended, I believe that the sense of community still prevailed throughout the nation. I am old enough to remember John F Kennedy’s inaugural address sixty years ago earlier this year when he said, “ask not what your country could do for you, but what you could do for your country”.

Many Americans were inspired by that and joined the Peace Corps and committed themselves to making the United States a better country. Many young people became involved in the civil rights movement. Others served in the military.

As a boy growing up in Parma then, this spirit of doing more for the community was impressed on me when I was in the Boy Scouts. At Valley Forge High School later in the 1960s, I was a member of the Key Club, a service club affiliated with the Kiwanis Club. The Key Club did many service projects in the community as well as the school.

Later, after college and as a young adult, I joined the local Jaycee club in my community. Our Jaycee club also did many service projects for the community ranging from picking up Christmas trees in January to running a haunted house in October to raise money for community projects. Because of the money we raised through the haunted house, we were able to make a down payment for a neo natal monitor at the hospital, purchase a van for the senior center and many other community projects.

That Jaycee club had a membership forty years ago of almost 200 men under age 36. Women weren’t admitted as members until the mid 1980s. I also learned how to coordinate events as well as many other important skills that helped my career.

But now, that old Jaycee Club is no more. In fact, many Jaycee Clubs are defunct. The Valley Forge Key Club is no longer active. When I was in the Jaycees forty years ago, our chapter had nearly 200 members in a city of 25,000. The Parma Jaycees were also a strong chapter. But now both Jaycee clubs are defunct. I am currently a member of the Parma Kiwanis Club, and our club is struggling. Very often only a few members show up at a meeting.

All the time I hear in the community people complaining about everything. But they expect that someone else should do something to solve the problem. But what do those people do to make the community a better place to live? So many people don’t even bother to vote except in presidential elections. How many people intend to vote this year when local elected offices are on the ballot?

Not just the Kiwanis Club, but other clubs and organizations that do service projects for the local community are also struggling for members. When I was in high school, I was in the DeMolay, a fraternal organization for high school boys affiliated with the Masons. Parma used to have a nice Masonic lodge and an active chapter. But that is gone as well.

It seems that so many of us have retreated into our selves and in the process, we have lost our sense of belonging to a much larger community and that makes us a much poorer nation.

Lee Kamps

Lee has been working with Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance since he began working at the Erie County Welfare Department in January 1973 where a major part of his job was determining eligibility for Medicaid. He went into the private insurance business in 1977 with Prudential Insurance Company and within a short time had become one of the company’s top sales agents. In 1982, he was promoted into management where he managed two field offices and as many as thirteen sales agents. After leaving Prudential in 1986, Lee decided to become more focused on health insurance and employee benefits. He has advised many local employers on how to have a more cost effective employee benefit program as well as conducted employee benefit meetings and enrollments for many area employers. The companies Lee has worked with ranged from small “mom and pop” businesses to local operations of large national companies. Lee received his B.S. degree from Kent State University where he has been active in the local alumni association. He has completed seven of the ten courses toward the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist designation. He has taught courses in employee benefits and insurance at Cleveland State University and local community colleges. In addition, Lee is an experienced and accomplished public speaker. He has been a member of Toastmasters International where he achieved the designation of “Able Toastmaster – Silver” in 1994. He has also served as a club president, Area Governor and District Public Relations Officer in Toastmasters as well as winning local speech contests. Lee has also been a member of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association’s Speaker’s Bureau where he was designated as one of the “official spokespeople for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” prior to the hall’s opening in 1995. He has given talks and presentations before many audiences including civic organizations, AARP chapters and many other community groups. With the implementation of the Medicare Modernization Act (Medicare drug bill) in 2006, Lee has shifted his focus to Medicare and helping Medicare beneficiaries navigate the often confusing array of choices and plans available. As an independent representative, Lee is not bound to any one specific company or plan, but he can offer a plan that suits an individual person’s needs and budget. In addition, Lee is well versed in the requirements and availability of various programs for assistance with Medicare part D as well as Medicaid. While he cannot make one eligible, he can assist in the process and steer one to where they may be able to receive assistance.

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Volume 13, Issue 10, Posted 3:50 PM, 10.01.2021