After more than three decades of educating the public on a wide range of issues, fostering vigorous debate and community activism, and having a knack for keeping candidates and elected officials on their toes, it took only 30 minutes for the remaining members of the Greater Rockdale Civic Association, formerly known as the South Rockdale Civic Association, to bring the nonprofit to a permanent end in a 12-5 vote Tuesday night.
The 501c3 was facing shrinking membership and insufficient funds to cover the cost of basic liability insurance, which was about $1,400 annually, plus about $600 a year to rent a meeting space, according to GRCA President John Hammond. Membership was down from 50 members in 2012 to 23 members in 2013 paying dues of $25 a year. The organization needed at least 56 members.
The organization's leadership said it was a sad day in Rockdale, to see the end of the storied nonprofit, but pointed out a community organization needed support from the community Many of the original members that were a driving force behind the group had either passed away or moved away.
However, attending members focused on the possibility of starting a new organization or groups of civic-minded citizens continuing the public education efforts.
GRCA board member Don Meyer said, "New young blood will have to come in."
Cary Bond, one of the original members of the group, said "The community has a choice. Whether they want a civic organization that promotes and supports education wtihin itself. But SRCA liablity is ended with this vote."
Moments before the vote, Monastery of the Holy Spirit spokesperson Brother Callistus had offered possibility of a free meeting space at the Monastery for the group. But, with the dissolution of the 501c3, that changed what the Monstery would be able to offer.
"I really feel losing the status is a bigger thing that you realize," said Brother Callistus. The Monastery would not be able to offer meeting space in the same way to an informal group of individuals in the same way as a 501c3. "That does put the Monastery on the hook as far as public relations," he said. "Whenever there's a political view, one way or another, it puts us at risk."
The group started meeting 1978 due to an education issue - Bond could not recall the exact issue - but coalesced around the issue of the Florida Rock Company wanting to form a rock quarry in the county. Having the group in place allowed residents, concerned over the impact on their aquifers and the impact of the traffic, to come together to stave off the quarry. Membership, when it started, was upwards of 80 or 90 people, said Bond, and was always open to the entire county, although it was located in the south part of the county.