- Associated Press - Sunday, June 26, 2016

NEWBERG, Ore. (AP) - When the Newberg Rod and Gun Club was incorporated in 1946, the owners who bought the land for a reasonable $10 probably did not envision a 70-year existence for the Dundee-based organization. But here we are in 2016, with the member-owned club stronger than in the past 20 years. The major change and boon for the shotgun-only range is its exposure and receptiveness to the area, the Yamhill Valley News-Register reported (https://bit.ly/28O8SoT).

Embracing the community was a near-unanimous decision of longtime members like Jeff Hrdina, who is acting club president and a member since 1980, vice president Rick Grauer who joined NRGC 10 years ago, and jack-of-all-trades Lori Cahill, who joined with her parents in 1983. Officers like Hrdina and Grauer are volunteers, and must devote their own time to keeping NRGC running. Cahill doesn’t seek an official position at the club, but she helps when a scorer is needed, or when the kitchen demands attention.

Financial success and community interest were also brought to the club by husband and wife David and Melissa Craig. The Craigs transferred their business owner experience to NRGC in 2007 at a time when the club needed it most. Prior to their arrival, the NRGC was in financial difficulty, with targets and grounds fees neglected on a regular basis, even by members.

“We improved the accountability and the transparency of the club. I came in and looked at the books, and I immediately saw a problem with how we were paying for our expenses. I knew we had to make changes to set our financials straight,” said David.

“Finances in the last 10 years have improved, and that has allowed us to put in new traps. We now have voice calls, where you can talk into the speaker and activate the trap; it’s great for solo shooters,” said Hrdina.

Improved economics have directly affected the way NRGC has been able to improve its facilities, and how it caters to the community. There are plans to renovate the bathrooms, including an addition accessible to disabled shooters. New sidewalks and ramps are planned, also for the purpose of serving the disabled sportsmen who would like to visit the club.

While solving the financial woes at NRGC have been important for the club and its outreach to Yamhill County, the shift toward community involvement had to come directly from the officers and leaders. Both of the Craigs continue to work as officers; David as treasurer and Melissa as secretary, and those positions have allowed them to witness the rising involvement of NRGC in the area.

“I think the club brings a lot more to the community than it has in the past. We had a core group of members who wanted to make it a more family oriented place. We kicked out the members who didn’t want women and children around. Now we have the Boy Scouts coming out to the range, youth shoots for the OHA (Oregon Hunters Association), 4-H hosts a shoot here. That’s all because we have made ourselves more available to the community,” said David.

“The club is much better known in the area now. When David and I joined, the place was basically a secret. It was a good ol’ boys club when I started shooting here. It was a bit intimidating as a woman and a newcomer to be here. But the recent shift to a family oriented environment has been the biggest improvement at Newberg Rod and Gun,” added Melissa.

The good ol’ boys club mentality of NRGC in the 2000’s prevented much of the exposure required to grow. Current members have mentioned how the club was almost meant to be a “secret” and that previous members were mostly concerned with keeping everything the same at the range.

However, with a new focus on community outreach, the club is no longer a secret. A booth at the Newberg Old Fashioned Festival was especially promising as attendees were able to learn for the first time about the nearby gun club. As a result, membership holds steady in the low 100’s, and continues to rise.

Retired McMinnville Water and Light linemen Robert Huson, who once served the NRGC as its president, appreciates the changes in recent years.

“It’s good to have local kids out here, learning their gun and hunter safety. We are a part of the community here now, and to teach kids not to be afraid of a shotgun, to teach them that it is just a tool is important,” said Huson.

Some of those local kids attended a recent OHA kids shooting event at NRGC on June 11. Volunteers from the club assisted 10 kids and their families in trap shooting and gun safety, while also providing a barbecue lunch.

One family, Eli Friesen and his two sons, Boulder, age 13, and Cougar, age 11, particularly enjoyed their experience. While Boulder and Cougar were lined up on the practice range, Eli watched their progress 20 feet away, taking note of the special instructions that vice president Grauer gave to each child on the line.

“(Grauer) is really good with all these kids. He doesn’t even know them, but he is out here helping each one of them with tips and improvements,” said Eli.

“The first time I shot, I could barely hit anything, but the last couple times the staff has really helped me to hit more targets,” Boulder said.

“They are really helpful here, teaching me how the gun worked and where to aim,” added Cougar.

Eli mentioned that the family shoots once or twice a year, and that it is a great bonding and learning experience for him and his sons. Eli, who began shooting guns at 18, is content to just watch his sons enjoy the sport these days.

“If we start coming out more, I know they’ll get me to start shooting again. I’m afraid they’ll show me up,” Eli said.

It’s the work of members like Grauer that really signals the change in atmosphere at NRGC. With every youth shoot and hunter safety course, visitors can witness the effort people have put in to make NRGC a family-friendly organization.

The outreach of NRGC is a proud new chapter in the club’s history, one that Hrdina believes will impact the entire Yamhill County area.

“I think we are a staple of our community. We have changed a lot to make this a welcoming place, and anyone can see that we are willing to accept newcomers and avid sportsmen alike. I want anyone driving by to see our sign and strongly consider giving trap shooting a try.”

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Information from: The News-Review, https://www.nrtoday.com

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