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American Society: Welcome mat rolled out as new members sought

One of the main objectives of the American Society of Bermuda is to promote and foster harmonious relations between US citizens living here, and Bermudians.

However the organisation gives back to the community in other ways too.

Over the past few years it has donated $200,000 to charities such as PALS, Age Concern, Bermuda Diabetic Association, Boys Day Out, Carter House, the Portuguese Association and the Bermuda Red Cross, whose premises they use for their monthly meetings.

“Our charitable donations are not advertised, but we give money quietly to many organisations,” said society vice president Ellie Najac. “If you’re going to so something good you don’t have to tell the whole world about it and I think the other board members feel the same way.”

The American Society was formed in 1961 by a small group headed by Col F VanWych Mason. It had the encouragement of the American Consulate, which believed that it would be beneficial for United States citizens in Bermuda to get together from time to time.

Wil Weber is serving his second stint as president. He first got involved with the American Society in 1993 after seeing an ad in the paper for the AGM and decided to go check it out.

“We had a very good fella in charge of the organisation at that time, Bill Cook, who retired and was heading back to the States so I became president in 1996 in my first go-round. I was president from ‘96 until 2002 and figured I had served my time but in 2008 I was drafted in again as president for a second term. I’ve had a lot of fun with it, we’ve done a lot of barbecues, I’ve enjoyed the cooking, I’ve enjoyed the camaraderie.”

Mr Weber remembers the society having a good growth period when Bob Farmer was US Consul. Those numbers have been depleted somewhat in the last few years as some international companies have left the Island and taken their American staff members with them. A drive is underway to attract new members and anyone, Bermudians included, interested in becoming a member can sign up by the end of the month. Presently there is a membership of about 200.

“I do membership as well and our numbers are down because a lot of Americans have left,” said Mrs Najac. “I get lots of e-mails saying ‘I’m returning home, I won’t be rejoining’ when we send out e-mails to remind people to renew their membership.

“I’ve gotten at least a dozen so far this year and I know there are many more.”

Said board member Renee Carter: “Some people thought it was an unapproachable group, that it was exclusive and you can’t get in, but you can. When you come to the July 4 event you find there are more Bermudians there than Americans. Although that is one of the most pronounced celebrations we have on the Island it is not the only event we have.”

One long-standing member is Bermudian Barbara Chasty who joined 18 years ago. “I started to get interested in it because the American company I worked for at the time we had the day off for the fourth of July and it started like that,” she explained.

The society also helps new residents to the Island settle into the Bermudian community as the change of culture and pace can be challenging for some.

“Most of the expats who come here have a period of adjustment,” said Mrs Najac.

The society will hold its annual general meeting on April 19, where a US Consulate spokesperson will discuss tax issues. The society will host its Memorial Day picnic at Astwood Park on May 26.

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Published March 19, 2012 at 8:00 am (Updated March 18, 2012 at 6:54 pm)

American Society: Welcome mat rolled out as new members sought

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