The Charleston West Virginia PT'ers had been struggling for the last year or so. It seemed like whatever we did, we were getting just the same three or four dependables who always showed up. One of our members suggested having an event and inviting anyone who had ever been a member in the seven-year history of our club and this did sound like it had some potential.
Easier said than done. Who would have thought finding a room for 30-40 guys to have dinner would be such a headache? Hours were spent calling possible venues and caterers with no luck: too small or too expensive. Then, we stumbled upon the obvious. One of the older restaurants in town had just been purchased by a new owner who was interested in working with us. What made it even more relevant was the basement of the restaurant had for decades been the home of the oldest gay bar in the state. Most of our members had very fond memories of evenings spent there and as we talked about the possibility the theme gradually emerged: "A Family Reunion at the Tap Room".
When we met with the owner, he was as excited as we were about the prospects for our event. The last location of the bar had been upstairs in the building, in a room reverting back to its original purpose – a banquet room, now with an elevator. This was the answer to our prayers: space large enough to accommodate our group, easily accessible with the elevator, lots of parking, and a great theme that would be easy to market to our members.
We scoured our membership rolls and found 42 current and former members still in our area. Those with emails got weekly teasers in their inboxes, advising them to hold the date for the biggest event in our history. That was followed by a letter to all 42, inviting them to join us for a free meal on November 11th and also enclosing a membership form, just in case. It took a round of phone calls to get the last responses but we had 30 positive RSVPs and the evening looked like it could be successful.
The room was full of charm when we walked in that evening. A Happy Hour allowed people to trickle in and enjoy a drink with an assortment of finger food before we settled in for the evening. Tables with specially printed menus welcomed our group, wine glasses with folded napkins, centerpieces on each table – it definitely wasn't just a regular dinner on our schedule.
When we left, it was with three renewed and three new memberships and the challenge to find ways to build on the interest and enthusiasm that our Family Reunion had created.