The Ruritans, which is a nationwide organization, is made up of service clubs located in small towns and rural areas which aim to achieve “fellowship, goodwill and community service.”

Local clubs are independent from the national organization and each decides what community care they are going to provide. Many Ruritan clubs sponsor local clubs or chapters of 4-H, Future Farmers of America, or a Boy Scout troop. Many provide and supervise community recreational centers, sponsor Little League and other athletic programs, sponsor anti-litter campaigns, help the sick and needy and provide a wide range of other activities to help improve their communities.

The Ruritans were founded in 1928 in Holland, Va., and clubs have now spread to the foothills of the Rockies and from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. It has become the largest rural civic organization in the United States.

Members include farmers, business and professional people and other concerned citizens of the communities. They come into the club through invitation and approval of a membership committee, the board of directors and agreement by 90 percent of the club members.

The Ruritan “cause” is its communities — and in Moravia, the Ruritans take that cause seriously.

Some of the Moravia Ruritans accomplishments are scholarships to students, serving at the Rural Electric Co-op dinner, acting as guards at the Appanoose County Fair, serving a Groundhog Day supper, they bought a dishwasher for the Moravia Community Center, helped make improvements on the city park, put the town’s Christmas lights up each year, hold an annual ice cream social on the Fourth of July, hold fundraisers and distribute the funds in the local community, have planted trees, put up flags for holidays, they pick up litter on the roads and the club has sponsored the Blue Grass Festival at Sundown Lake and Unionville.

Mark Uhlenhake has been a member since 1973. When he joined there were 32 members - all men.

“Ruritans were exclusive for men and in 1985 when the national headquarters ruled women could join, I was against it,” said Uhlenhake.

“But I was wrong! Women have been a great addition to the organization.”

The members meet once a month over dinner to discuss current projects and to make plans for the future. They elect officers to the board and all the members participate in planning and achieving the club’s goals.

“Ruritans are very active in small towns like Moravia all over the United States,” said Uhlenhake.

“The small towns usually can’t support the larger organizations like the Lions Club. Ours is the Tall Corn District in Iowa and covers 12 clubs in different towns. I think I am the last of the charter members in ours.”

He said when they hold fundraisers, members decide how to distribute the funds to help the community in the best possible way.

“We care about Moravia and the people here. If there is someone needing help, we help them. If a farmer got sick and needed help with crops or something, the Ruritan members would be there,” said Uhlenhake.

New members are always welcome at the Moravia club, he said.

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