When people think of the Windsor Jaycees, the Shad Derby is often the first thing that comes to mind. The civic group has run Windsor’s annual festival on the green from start to finish since the 1970’s. But while the Jaycees are known as that group of dedicated few who give their all each year to make Windsor’s premier community event happen, many may not know how far the group’s efforts reach.
The Jaycees are running one event each month this year, save for one. In February, the group of 45-and-under community servants paid a visit to residents of the Windsor Rehabilitation Center, handing out carnations for Valentine’s Day.
The gesture was not on the same scale as the Shad Derby, nor was it publicized as such, but it was equally, if not more important. And it is critical to understanding the efforts and impact of the Jaycees.
“A lot of times they get forgotten,” said Jaycee John Jary in reference to Windsor Rehab residents. “They are Windsor residents.”
The Jaycees’ goal is simple: affect everyone in town — a place that is special to each member of the group.
Making a difference in the lives of each member of a community pushing 30,000 members and with a diverse population like few towns its size is a tough task, but the group has done so, particularly through the organization of events that strike a chord with community members — events like their Valentine’s Day carnation outreach program and the Sheila Schmidt Family Fishing Derby.
The fishing derby, named after Windsor’s first special education teacher, was initially a day for the town’s special education students to spend the day at Washington Park, enjoy fishing and eat a picnic lunch. The Jaycees continue to stock the pond with trout each May, and the fishing tournament has blossomed into a day of family fun for all to enjoy.
The same can be said of their Jaycee Jog. The 5K run/walk held each August in Northwest Park has developed into an opportunity for Windsor residents to experience Windsor’s unique outdoor resource while staying fit and giving back. All money raised by the Jaycees during the jog goes towards cancer research.
And the list goes on — whether its their car wash in exchange for food or coat donations, Christmas tree sales to fund scholarships for local students or this month’s horseshoe tournament to raise money to fund postage for Windsor's troops abroad, the Jaycees are completely dedicated to getting everyone in town involved in giving back.
It sounds like a lot of work, and the group does work long hours on days like the Shad Derby, but, according to Jary, anyone can find the time and there’s no excuse.
Jary offers up the Jaycees' current members as an example. The nearly 30 members come from a variety of backgrounds — town employees, parents, local shop owners and employees — and are able to commit a few hours each month to make Windsor a better place.
While the Jaycees have a rich history in town, their influence has fluctuated at times, something Jary attributes to equally fluctuating membership numbers; however, the group, which is nearing 30 members, is currently “stronger than ever,” he said. And the group’s ability to flourish is something Jary sees as essential to the town’s development, especially considering it is a civic group for young people.
According to Jary, the group serves as a forum for young people who care about Windsor to network, expand contacts and continue to give back to the town over the years, like many prominent members of the community who are former Jaycees, like Mayor Don Trinks.
Because there is no other group for young Windsor professionals and residents, Jary sees the work done by the Jaycees is critical in the development of Windsor’s leaders, and he encourages those interested in giving back to attend one of the group’s monthly meetings at the Windsor 75 Diner to realize that they do have the time to give back and they can make a difference. “There’s nothing you can’t do,” he said.
The Jaycees will continue their hard work this month with their annual Jaycees Classic Doubles Tournament and Cookout, held on Sat., April 30 at 1 p.m. on the horseshoe courts on Mechanic Street. Proceeds will benefit WIN-TV's Postage for the Troops.
The Jaycees meet on the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Windsor 75 Diner.
*A previous version of this story erroneously said that proceeds from the Jaycees' Horesehoe Tournament and Cookout will go to the Windsor Food Bank. The proceeds from this year's event will in fact go to fund WIN-TV's Postage for the Troops program.