EDITORIALS are the opinions of the authors

Why New Members Are So Important

by Robert Genis, 2006
E.C.M.A.S. Webmaster & Public Relations Chair
I did a study of volunteer organizations back in the 80's. At that time the focus was on political organizations and co-operatives, but what I learned was and is pertinent today.

All volunteer organizations rely on unpaid workers.  No profit is involved.  Yet there must be some reason for each individual to participate, contribute and invest their time. Sometimes the effort is enormous.  Often there seems to be no logical reason that one should suffer the slings and arrows of whatever pain that voluntarism might entail, yet they do.

In the case of E.C.M.A.S., and in every case, the members have been impacted by injustice by Maintenance Enforcement, family court judgements, unscrupulous spouses during domestic disputes or a host of other misadventures.  Most begin to get involved due to the urge to fight the injustice. More importantly to the organization,  why would one continue to volunteer one's time to an effort that seems to be futile.

Again, in the case of E.C.M.A.S., we have had a hard time maintaining our member base because as soon as the immediate threat is solved (to individual members) our members fall away.  

We have two components to our membership.  We have the support group which often is attended by those in a crisis (that will pass), on the other hand we have the general meetings/Board which is primarily manned by those that have ongoing problems with spousal or access or maintenance disputes.

With the current statistics for marriage breakdowns continually increasing you would think that our membership would be ballooning beyond a manageable level.  However the opposite is true.

In most cases, as soon as the personal crisis passes, so does the member participation. The major reason that E.C.M.A.S. survives is because the issue is not going away.  Returning to my study back in the 80's, the essential ingredient that causes some members to fall away and others to maintain the course is the matter of personal affectation.  If the issue makes the individual angry there may be a residual or ongoing concern.  But when one's own personal issue is resolved often the potential member fades away.  The last thing we want to see is that any individual is stuck with a perpetual chronic issue like that which plagues our majority.

When new members come in with their new perspectives, older members are reminded why they started the fight or the organization in the first place.  We will always encourage new members to join us in our fight. That being said, it is difficult to find those that are willing to fight a battle that may outlive us. At least that is how it feels.  We all know that new members are essential. We know that we fill a niche that is not or cannot be filled by any other organization.  We care about the children first, but also realize that both parents are important in the mix.
New members, with their specific issues and also their frustration with the system fresh in their minds are essential to our ability to serve this under-represented constituency.

More specifically, I now refer to Verena, who is now organizing a chapter of E.C.M.A.S. in the Red Deer Region.  Her fresh perspective, her sheer energy and her new ideas has invigorated existing Board Members that increasingly get burnt out.

In my own case, with an ongoing maintenance issue, I continue to work at the web updates and the printing of circulars but inwardly I know I'm not doing as much as I should.  Yet  Verena's drive has completely turned around my own case of 'burn-out'.

For too long we have had a glut of new members that are willing to participate in the ongoing management of this herculean effort. In some ways we know that it is own 'burn-out' that is at fault.  How to turn interest into active participation is an ongoing battle.  Few easy answers present themselves, but year to year we persist.

This year our current sitting president is about to take a sabbatical abroad.  This will leave an obvious void. The issues, however do not take a holiday. Therefore we must have faith that because of the importance of what we do, we must prevail.  Myself & Tony Varga, sharing the role of Vice President , will co-ordinate the agenda and direction of the group until Jerry returns.

Our tireless chair of MEP issues. Rick Fowler, is the lone voice for those that are being impoverished by a powerful arm of the government.  With each year we are being asked to be the lone ombudsman for an increasingly growing constituency.  Meanwhile other issues are constantly pressing to the fore.  We seem to be the only group that represent these groups.

Our few members are stretched to their limits. Burnout is a very real danger to our organization. Yet the importance of what we do cannot be understated. Both men and women that are suffering from the effects of separation and custody issues are impacted by what we are able to do or not do.

Therefore, we have a great deal of gratitude to those like Verena for giving us some much needed fuel and optimism for her efforts.  To this end I appeal to anyone affected or impacted by the injustice of the current family laws to join in the fight to oppose the injustices. Get involved in the ongoing management of our organization. The general meetings are welcome to anyone.  We are more than happy to see new attendees.  The general meetings are never (we hope) confined to sitting board members. Anyone that wishes to learn more or get involved is always welcome.

New members are important in more ways than I can mention and are always appreciated, at least in this organization.

Robert Genis