Chris Saylor knows the value of the Southwest Conservation Club’s (SWCC) education efforts. In fact, his children are direct beneficiaries.
“We really see our club as a chance to educate and support,” said the current club President, who’s been a member for about three years. And the SWCC’s slate of upcoming programs supports Saylor’s philosophy.
Saylor said the club’s on-going programs benefit not just the conservation efforts in the club’s name, but local kids, older youth, and firearm enthusiasts, as well.
Perhaps one of the club’s most concentrated efforts is its Eddie the Eagle course, designed to teach kids in first and second grades about gun safety. The class teaches kids that if they find a firearm, they should stop; not touch it; run away; and most importantly, tell an adult what they’ve found.
Saylor said gun education for kids and adults alike is imperative. “Firearms are a part of the club,” he said, “and it’s very important that if people are going to own a firearm, they know how to use it correctly.”
Also upcoming on the club’s agenda, is a firearm education class aimed at teens that will teach proper gun safety, as well as allowing them to practice with air rifles.
The club is also partnering with St. Francis University, allowing students studying environmental sciences to visit the club’s grounds and perform such tasks as field studies, plant identification, and water and soil testing.
The club has also been working with the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, allowing its teen volunteers to help weed out invasive plant species from club property, Saylor said. “We’re trying to show them what to do there, to use our land out here” so they can help similarly elsewhere. The goal is to get the SWCC land back to all native Indiana plants,” he said.
The club also partners with Southwest Honey Co., teaching children about the importance of protecting pollinators. The club supports Southwest Honey Co. in their mission of teaching about honey bees, Saylor shared.
Local Cub Scouts also will be part of the club’s teaching efforts, according to Eddie Coble, who’s been a SWCC member for about five years.
On September 17, the club plans to host a fishing derby for local scouts, “just exposing them to rods and reels and the whole fishing aspect,” Coble said.
And, in a club-first, SWCC plans to begin offering a paid firearms course for adults beginning in October. All other SWCC programs are free to the public. Fees for the new course will be nominal, Saylor said. “Our goal is to simply get people to take it,” he said.
Located at 5703 Bluffton Road, the club has been around about 80 years, and sits on about 37 acres of land, comprising of four ponds, trap and skeet shooting fields, an archery course, a campground, a hiking trail, and the bright-red club house near the front of the property.
The whole point of all this education? For Saylor, it’s all about helping the public.
“We want to find ways to benefit our community,” Saylor said. “And we want to teach the next generation about conservation efforts and responsible outdoorsman-ship.”
Saylor, a 40-year-old information security officer for a local bank, even said his teenage son and daughter are part of the zoo program which lends teen volunteers to help at the club. And helping youngsters like Saylor’s kids is kind of the whole point, Coble explained.
“It’s all geared toward our youth, which is the future of conservation, and the future of everything,” Coble said.