The MSP Retiree Banquet Committee has decided to cancel plans for the annual MSP Retirees Banquet this year, which had been scheduled for Friday, September 20, at our traditional location at the Crowne Plaza West in Lansing. There are no current plans to resume this same event in future years absent an unexpected surge in demand.
This was a difficult decision, but it was based on the reality that times have changed. Our society is quite different now than when the tradition of formal annual banquets began over 40 years ago. People today have different interests and priorities, and different preferences for how, or whether, to maintain connections with friends and colleagues from their years of active service with the department. Many other groups and organizations are also struggling to adapt to this new social phenomenon of declining membership or attendance at scheduled events.
Attendance at our annual banquet has continued to decline in recent years, with no prospects that this trend would be reversed by continuing to follow the same format. We have averaged only about 180 attendees the past ten years (down from an average of 220 the previous ten years), with 155 or less for several recent years--including spouses or widows of retirees. This seems a very small number considering that we probably have over 3,000 total retirees, civilian and enlisted.
There are probably as many reasons why some never attended, or only joined us a couple of times over the years, as there are individual retirees out there, making it almost impossible for the committee to identify a single overall factor that could be easily resolved.
It has also become increasingly difficult to recruit retiree volunteers who have the time, interest or ability to attend planning meetings in Lansing, or perform various tasks during the banquet program. Many retirees have graciously volunteered to help with this endeavor over the years, and their willingness to contribute their time, talents and efforts has been greatly appreciated. The fellowship we shared during the planning meetings and banquets was truly enjoyable. This year, the number of members remaining active with the committee has shrunk to just a half-dozen. However, even if we had a surge of new volunteers, there is no reason to imagine that this in itself would generate greater attendance if we continue to follow the traditional format for the banquet.
The Department has always supported the annual banquets in many ways. This has definitely helped maintain the bonds between active and retired members as part of the extended and enduring MSP family. The department remains committed to supporting a dynamic connection with its retired members, but that requires a shared responsibility with active participation by retirees.
Perhaps the wave of the future involves greater emphasis on decentralized, more casual, less expensive, local or regional events and activities such as those that already occur throughout the year on a regular basis. This includes local breakfast and lunch gatherings that district or post commanders can also attend to answer questions or dispel rumors about what’s going on in the department today; post open houses; winter gatherings of MSP snowbirds in Florida and Arizona; retirees volunteering to be interviewed during recruit schools; and social media groups for MSP retirees. There may be other options or opportunities as well.
The Retirees Banquet Committee won’t officially dissolve, but will become somewhat dormant, waiting in the wings to assist should other retirees step up to assume a leadership role in proposing fresh and creative ideas for events or activities that may be more likely to attract participation from a greater number of both civilian and enlisted retirees from all generations.
The committee may collaborate with the department to generate a survey to assess the interests or preferences of retirees, and to elicit suggestions. You are also welcome to contact me at any time if you have ideas. The committee will continue to assist with the selection process for the MSP Retiree of the Year Award, which can still be presented at formal departmental recognition ceremonies in Lansing, where family members can also attend.
Thanks to all for your past support of the MSP Retirees Banquet. We look forward to helping sustain the resilience of the extended MSP family in new ways in the future.
Phil Schertzing, chair
MSP Retirees Banquet Committee