Civitan International was founded in Birmingham 100 years ago. Today, Civitan has clubs in 50 nations around the world focused on the idea of service to others. Civitan has an appeal to people of all ages beginning with high school clubs and senior clubs.
This week, we are talking to Bobby Farley, a young professional who currently interns at the headquarters of Civitan in Crestwood.
How old are you?
There is a misconception that service organizations don’t appeal to younger people. How old are you, where are you from, and how old were you when you first got involved with Civitan?
Service organizations are designed for people of all ages. Take Civitan for example. Youth and young adults are able to join special organizations at any stage of life. Middle and high school students can join Junior Civitan. College students are able to join Campus Civitan. Young adults can join the Young Professionals program. Younger people can find comfort in knowing that they make a difference within their community and around the world with just a few people.
I am 25 and born and bred in North Carolina. It was tough moving away a few years ago, but fortunately I relocated to some pretty amazing places. It seems like there is always something to do in Birmingham.
I first joined Civitan through the Junior Civitan program when I was a freshman in high school. I spent those four years volunteering within my community and leading the organization at both the district and international level.
What was it that interested you in Civitan then? Was it a specific project, cause, event or maybe friends and family who were involved already?
A very dear person to me was diagnosed with low-functioning autism when she was just two years old. Her life would be forever limited. I attended a recruitment meeting at my high school’s Junior Civitan club and was intrigued by Civitan’s mission and its international research center.
I became a member that day. Being part of the team that is forefront in the research and treatment of developmental disabilities has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
What were some of your favorite projects or events you have worked on? What made them special?
Many years ago I had the opportunity to participate in Junior Civitan’s annual international fundraiser, Sno-Do. Every year, Junior Civitan leaders from all over the United States and Canada spend the fall and winter fundraising for the Civitan International Research Center (located at UAB). They gather in Barrie, Ontario, Canada to discuss the year’s performance and plan for the future of the organization, as well as celebrate the tens of thousands of dollars collectively raised as a group.
My fellow leaders and I grew close with one another through our strong desire to make a difference in this world. This past January, I went to Sno-Do as a volunteer. I was excited to find the Junior Civitan leaders making the same bonds that I was fortunate to make almost 10 years ago.
Something for Everyone
A lot of people don’t know that Civitan has something for everyone—from high school to retirement age. What do you see as the appeal of Civitan to the next generation?
Civitan is celebrating its 100th year of service now. The organization has seen monumental times in the history of the United States and the rest of the world and has been a defining force during these times. While it is smaller than the other major humanitarian service organizations, its impact is not.
The next generation will find that all it takes is a close-knit group of people to make an impact in their community.
Civitan International’s 100th Anniversary
You’re working at Civitan HQ at a pretty exciting time in the life of the organization. It’s the centennial year, the convention is in Birmingham, and the Junior Civitans are merging into the big convention this time. What is your role at the office leading up to the convention and what are you going to do when it is over?
I spent the last 10 years attending Junior Civitan conventions as a Junior Civitan and then a volunteer upon graduation. I recently started traveling with the program for its international fundraisers. This has given me invaluable experience and knowledge about Junior Civitan within its internal operations.
When a spot opened up in the Junior Civitan program, I immediately jumped on board. To be a part of the Centennial Celebration is an honor, but to be a part of the beginning of the next one hundred years is a chance to make a difference. After convention is over, I am focused on growing the youth programs into what they will be when we celebrate another one hundred years of service.
What did you study?
You just graduated with your Master’s, right? What did you study and how did it prepare you for this job? Are you involved in other organizations? What are the factors you look for when you join any organization or project?
I completed my undergraduate studies in Economics at the University of North Carolina and went right into graduate school at Louisiana Tech University. The plan was to use my Masters of Accounting and MBA in public accounting; however, sometimes life leads you in a different direction. Life is funny like that.
My position as an intern here at Civitan does not require the degrees I have; yet, I am fortunate to have them. They prepared me to understand the ins and outs of business and while I did not study non-profit, I have been able to jump right in because of the overlapping fundamentals and advanced concepts covered.
I am currently on the prowl for an intramural sports league here in Birmingham. I just moved to here a few months ago and now that I have pretty much adjusted, I feel its time for some fun. Competitive sports to take my mind off work seem to be the answer! Also, now that I am finally settling in, I will be joining one of Birmingham’s Civitan clubs.
When joining any organization, I ask myself three things. Do I support the mission, can I stand by the members, and will the impact be relevant?
Sense of Purpose
For a lot of people, college graduation is a time to celebrate and start looking for that first career opportunity. But after a few years of academia, many people start to look for that sense of purpose in life or a way to help others. In college, plugging in was easy. In the career world, it can take some effort to find an appealing cause. If you were talking to a recent college graduate, maybe over a beer or coffee, what would you tell them about Civitan?
It is important to focus on your career for stability and growth for you and your family, but do not let it be your only focus. Unite with your neighbors and address the humanitarian needs within your community.
The world is much more fast-paced today than it was one hundred years ago. The slow pace made it easy to see the need for service organizations within communities, throughout the nation, and around the world. Be aware of what is happening around you and do not let it pass you by before it is too late.