One community-minded organization in the Upper Ohio Valley is currently celebrating its 35th anniversary and will stage a number of events in the coming months.
The Ohio Valley Jaycees was founded in 1981 by a group of local residents between the ages of 18 and 40 years old. The international organization has chapters in as many as 70 countries worldwide and nearly 10 in the state of West Virginia alone, and the mission is to assist with building communities, strengthening lives, building friendships, and creating local leaders.
“One of the things a lot of people may not understand is that the Jaycees is an international organization, and along with having local chapters all over the country, there are also state organizations,” said Brad Joseph, the organization’s current treasurer. “There are seven chapters in West Virginia, and we also have a national convention each year.
“And there is also an international convention where you have the chance to meet Jaycees from throughout the world,” he continued. “There are Jaycees chapters in a lot of different countries, and by joining this organization, you have the abilities to move up to an international level if that is what you wish to do.”
And the primary goal of every chapter of the Jaycees is to promote community and positive change, according to Mallory Clegg, the president of the Ohio Valley Jaycees.
“The Jaycees is a group of young adults, and our target membership ages are between 18 and 40 years old,” she explained. “And our primary focus is to provide opportunities that empower people to create a positive change. It can be within themselves or within the community where they live.
“It’s important to us that we are making an impact throughout the great Wheeling community. That’s our main objective,” Clegg continued. “We do a lot of networking, and we do many service projects within the community. We just need to get out there and do our best with as many people as possible.”
The organization meets twice monthly and conducts a few fundraisers, several community projects, and also a variety of annual events that focus on fun while raising funds for local community-based efforts.
“If you want to initiate a project for something in the community, you will have the chance to work with many others who have the experience with making those things happen,” Clegg said. “If you want to come to every project and every event, you can do that, but if you can’t make every meeting or event, that’s OK, too.”
The Ohio Valley Jaycees once again served as the management firm for the campgrounds surrounding the annual Jamboree in the Hills near Morristown, Ohio, and for campground parking during the event.
“We did that again this past July and that’s something the Ohio Valley Jaycees have done since the inception of our group in 1981,” said Joseph, a 17-year Jaycees member whose father was a charter member when the organization was founded. “We manage the campgrounds, get all of the campers parked, and we work to ensure that those people are having a good experience while they are there.
“That is our largest fundraiser of the year, and it allows us to maintain our chapter so we can continue to do a lot of good in our community,” he continued. “This year went very smoothly because we had pretty decent weather. Last year, though, we had a lot of tractors out there so our campers could get in and out because it got to be a pretty muddy situation because of the rain.”
This Saturday the OV Jaycees will stage their annual, “KidCare I.D. Day” at Boscov’s from 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Ohio Valley Mall.
“We have the Medevac helicopter coming as well as local firefighters and police officers, and they will teach the kids about what they do in order to protect the public,” Clegg said. “During the event we are also offering fingerprinting for the children so the parents would have them in case of a horrible emergency.”
Then, on Saturday, Sept. 17, the organization will introduce a brand new event that will benefit a local scholarship fund. The local chapter of the Jaycees has had a pub crawl each spring for the past five years that benefits Relay for Life.
“On Sept. 17, we will have our very first ‘Fall Crawl,’ and the charity that will benefit is the Joe ‘Tuna’ Allen Scholarship Fund,” Clegg said. “Joe was a wonderful person to everyone in his life, and there isn’t a person who met him who didn’t love him.
“He was a member of the Jaycees, so we couldn’t think of a better charity,” she said. “Tickets for that went on sale at the beginning of August, and they are $60 each, and those in attendance will get transportation to each of the establishments, a T-shirt, a free beverage at each one of our stops, and each person can choose to have dinner either at the 19th Hole or at River City.”
The crawl will begin in the parking lot of Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack, where a pair of buses will be loaded with those in attendance. The first stop for the group will be McGovern’s Pub at 200 Ruth Ave. in Wheeling. Following dinner, the final stop will be Generations Pub and Restaurant in the Fulton neighborhood of the Friendly City.
“We also have a block of hotel rooms at Wheeling Island for those who choose not to drive following the ‘Fall Crawl,’” Clegg reported. “This event is about having a good time and raising funds for a great cause, but we always have safety in mind.”
The Ohio Valley Jaycees will offer one more event before the colder months arrive to the northern panhandle region, and that is its annual Halloween Steak Fry at the Italian American Club in Elm Grove. Tickets are $25 each for the steak, baked potato, salad, and dessert, and a costume contest will take place near the end of the event.
“It is an event we do each year and we pick a different charity each year,” Clegg explained. “This year we have decided the proceeds will go to the Kevin Purpura family because Kevin was the young man who passed away in the Boury Lofts while working there.
“The tickets are on sale now, and along with everything else we’ll also have live music by Jason Milton,” she said. “We always have a contest for the best costume along with raffles and auctions so we can raise as many dollars as possible for Kevin’s family.”
Clegg, an OV Jaycees member for the past seven years, said the best parts about belonging is the networking, the work in community, and the fun aspects involved with fundraising.
“And one of my favorite things about being a Jaycee is that you have the chance to make it what you want it to be,” Clegg added. “If you have a passion for anything in our community then the Jaycees would be a great organization for you because you get to meet a lot of people you may not have the chance to meet otherwise and make an impact where you live.”
(Photos provided by the Ohio Valley Jaycees)