“Service about Self,” is a good motto for anyone, especially anyone who is a member of a service club — like Rotary, Soroptimists, Kiwanis, Lions, Elks, VFW and American Legion, to name a few. It’s not always an easy motto to follow, but it’s important to every community.

Each city, each town needs people who are willing to sacrifice some of their own needs and wants for the sake of the community in which they live.

Police officers, fire fighters, nurses and doctors are examples of this kind of service, but it also extends to individuals who participate in service clubs for the benefit of their community.

Leading in service is even harder. Persons willing to step up and put in time, effort and organization into a service club presidency sacrifice many hours of their time and energy to be leaders.

Fortunately, this past year the Los Banos Rotary Club had such a leader, Sharon Silva, whose term as president concludes on June 30. She led the club even though her weekly plate was already full, serving as director of the Los Banos Downtown Association.

Why would anyone want to add more to a daily schedule that was already filled with work obligations? In Sharon’s case, I believe, it’s because she truly values service to her community above her own comfort and convenience.

Prior to Los Banos Sharon had served for many years in the Turlock Rotary Club, including terms as president. She saw how much an active club could make a difference to a community.

When she came to Los Banos, where she had previously spent some of her childhood, she transferred her membership from Turlock to the Los Banos Rotary Club and became an active member.

And when Toni Huarte, who had served two consecutive terms as president during the pandemic, told the club she needed to step down, Sharon stepped up and took on the role of the Los Banos Rotary Club’s presidency. She did that even though her health wasn’t in the best shape, but she felt she could help the club, and thereby help the community.

Sharon is like other presidents of service clubs on the Westside of the Central Valley. In Firebaugh, Dos Palos and Santa Nella, as well as Los Banos, any woman or man who steps forward to lead a service club deserves the thanks of their community.

Many readers of this column, I’m sure, know of one or more people in their community who have taken on this challenge. In Los Banos, for example, Sherry Pearson has devoted many years of her life to leading the local Soroptimists Club.

Over the years in Westside communities service clubs have helped people young and old, rich and poor, providing food for the hungry, support for scouts, scholarships for high school students and improvements in parks and green spaces, to name just a few of their benefits.

Members and especially leaders of service clubs in today’s world, like Sharon, deserve special commendation because membership in these clubs have declined steadily and dramatically during the past 25 years locally and nationally, down 15 to 25 per cent or more.

When Sharon Silva took over as president last July the Los Banos Rotary Club was down to about 27 active members. She set as her goal increasing the membership by ten during her one-year tenure, an increase of more than one-third, perhaps a goal too high.

Through Sharon’s leadership, however, the club attracted ten new members, in less than eight months.

As Sharon will tell you, she did not do this by herself. For one thing she had an energetic and dedicated board to help, including Mike Larson, Toni Huarte, John Cates, Gene Lieb, Brian Rocha, Mike Neu, Paul Llanez, Joe May and Tom Kaljian, all of whom went out of their way to invite new members into the club.

Sharon, along with her board, realized that there are indeed persons in Los Banos who still believe in serving their community by working within a group of like-minded individuals. They just need to be invited and encouraged to join.

Sharon wisely relied on the ideas and talents of all club members to create successful fundraisers, including the return of the club’s annual crab feed this past April, led by Tony Whitehurst.

What is it about Sharon that has made her so successful as a leader? I can suggest several things.

  1. She models the Rotary motto of “Service above Self.” Nobody works harder and longer than Sharon in moving the club forward.
  2. She believes in the values Rotary stands for including “being fair to all concerned.”
  3. She is congenial. Sharon seems to make friends easily, so it’s easy for her to talk with individuals and encourage them to consider Rotary.
  4. She is an excellent communicator and organizer, utilizing the knowledge and skills she acquired from her bachelor’s degree in organizational communication.
  5. She believes in the ideal and value of service, and that for a community to become stronger, individuals have to step up and serve.
  6. She also believes that within each person is a desire to serve, a sense that by helping others they not only strengthen their community, they better themselves.

And so I thank Sharon for her service and her leadership, and I extend that gratitude to all service club members on the Westside, especially to those who step forward and assume leadership positions.

In a time when Americans often seem disillusioned and despondent, we need more people like Sharon to give us hope and strength.