A Brief History of the Washington Area Butterfly Club
by Rob Simmons, December 13, 2011
The seven people originally interested in forming a butterfly club had met each other at a talk by Jeffrey Glassberg at the old National Wildlife Federation headquarters near Vienna in 1996. This was followed by two meetings: a planning meeting of just the three people who would be the Club’s cofounders, and an organizing meeting that was attended by most of the original seven and by several people who had met at Nate Erwin’s USDA class on butterflies in DC. These meetings were held at Arlington’s Long Branch Nature Center because it was near the geographic center of the homes of the original seven.
The organizing meeting decided to hold most meetings on the fourth Thursday evening of the month, in large part to avoid conflicts with the monthly meetings of other nature organizations on other Thursdays. These monthly indoor meetings have taken place in September, January, February, March, and sometimes April and/or May. We also traditionally meet at Audubon Naturalist Society (ANS) on the second Saturday morning of November. Occasionally, we have met at ANS on other Saturday mornings as well. In the spring and summer, the Club has both sponsored and publicized field trips and garden visits.
Thanks to our programs, web site, listserv, and Facebook account, Club members have learned about raising butterflies, photographing butterflies, and identifying butterflies and other insects. Members have obtained information on planting and maintaining gardens for butterflies and other wildlife not only by hearing engaging speakers and by reading our online resources, but also by visiting butterfly-rich locations both metropolitan and rural. Through the Club, members have also had opportunities to spread knowledge (by speaking to other groups and volunteering at local nature exhibits), and to create knowledge (by participating in research). The Club is formally independent of any other organization. The Club also never had the resources to establish itself as a nonprofit organization, and dues and contributions have not been tax-deductible. The Club now is looking into registering as a nonprofit organization in Virginia, Maryland, or DC. At last tally, a little over half of Club members lived in Virginia, about a third lived in Maryland, and the rest lived in DC. If we register as a nonprofit social club, dues and contributions will still not be tax-deductible. Because our long-time secretary-treasurer, cofounder Pat Durkin, has been spending most of her time since early 2010 out of the area, we stopped collecting dues and sending meeting announcements by postcard. The Club’s informal board currently consists of Dick Smith (listserv moderator), Alonso Abugattas (cofounder), Eric Raun (long-time and frequent listserv contributor), and Rob Simmons (cofounder, president, program chair, and acting treasurer). Others who have served the Club include:
• Barbara Farron, who publicized Club events for many years and who helped the Club get chosen over major national organizations for having the Most Fun and Educational Exhibit at a local nature show
• Jim Farron, who established the Club’s original web site
• Laura Farron, who made the Club’s web site so impressive that people thought we were a much larger organization than we were.
• Rick Borchelt, who, after the Club lost its web site, took over as interim web moderator and rebuilt the site as part of his own web site, accounts, thus restoring and enhancing our online presence as well as saving the Club money In addition to mailing costs, historically our largest single expense
The Club has donated money to the Monarch survey at Chincoteague, to NABA’s International Butterfly Park (now the National Butterfly Center), and for Baltimore Checkerspot habitat conservation in both Garrett and Montgomery Counties in Maryland. Dues were originally $15. Sometimes the Club receives contributions from individuals and organizations in addition to dues, including a thank-you contribution for consulting on the design of a butterfly garden behind a high-rise apartment building. Eventually, dues had to be raised to $18 to cover expenses. Anticipating that going mostly electronic will save money, however, dues have been reduced to $10 for memberships expiring December 2012. Whether we can continue this low rate beyond 2012 depends on how many new and renewing members opt out of receiving USPS mail, whether our meeting places continue to charge us no rent, whether we pay speakers for travel expenses, and how generous we want to be in funding conservation activities.