I have a significant announcement about the Arizona Mushroom Club that will be of interest to current, prospective, and former members. A major reorganization is now well under way. If you have ever said to yourself, “I wish the Mushroom Club did X”, or “I wish they didn’t do Y,” or “I think they could do Z better if they did it a different way,” read on. You now have a chance to help make your vision of amateur mycology a reality in Arizona.
Retirement of AMC Leadership
For several decades, the Arizona Mushroom Club has thrived under the leadership of its founder and president, Dr. Chester Leathers. However, this year, Chet has decided that it is time for him to step down. He has resigned as President of the club, and several other longtime leaders of the club have decided to take the opportunity to retire along with him, including Membership Steward Gary Melgaard, Treasurer Sandy Melgaard, and Foray Leader/Chief Scout Terry Beckman.
All of us who have benefited from their diligent efforts and knowledgeable instruction are in their debt. I was appointed interim President of the Club when Chet resigned in November, and since then I have come to see clearly just how much work goes on behind the scenes to run even a small volunteer association like ours.
Presenting the Arizona Mushroom Society, Inc.
Now, in my most important function as the temporary president, it is my duty to inform those of you who were not present at our annual meeting on December 10 that the Club has voted to dissolve itself.
But not to worry, because another organization is succeeding our old Club. Together with the other members of the Board of Directors, I am pleased to announce the formation of the Arizona Mushroom Society, Inc., a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) Arizona nonprofit corporation. The former Club will turn over its assets and records to the new Society. Club members, former club members, and registered users of this Forum can expect an email or two soliciting their membership in the Society to arrive in the coming weeks.
The retirement of Dr. Leathers coincides with a desire on the part of some of the longtime members of the club to formalize its organization with a duly registered and incorporated non-profit Arizona corporation. This will reduce the liability exposure to officers and members, as well as ensuring that membership dues remain non-taxable, and (we hope) will allow dues, grants, and other donations to the organization to be tax-deductible to the donor.
Scientific, Educational, and Charitable Orientation
As scientific organizations have an easier time being approved for tax deductions than social clubs, we also decided to change the name to the Arizona Mushroom Society. We intend to live up to the scientific, educational, and charitable purposes that this change implies. We’ll be expanding our outreach to novices and new residents of the state, and introducing additional forays and workshops geared to intermediate and advanced mycophiles. Further details below.
AMS Board of Directors
At the same meeting where we dissolved the old club, we also held a vote of the members for elections to the new Society’s Board of Directors. The following individuals were elected to the Board, and then appointed by the Board to the executive offices listed.
- Christopher May – President
- Bill Warner – Vice President
- Erik Nelson – Recording Secretary
- Laurie Herring – Corresponding Secretary
- Anton Stern – Treasurer
In addition, the bylaws adopted at the first meeting specify that Dr. Chet Leathers shall hold a seat on the Board of Directors for life. The Board also appointed mycorrhizal expert Dr. Catherine (Kitty) Gehring of NAU as an outside at-large director, with no executive office or responsibilities, and she graciously agreed to serve.
For this new effort to succeed, we will need a significant number of volunteers to step forward. The new Society has a number of committees that require staffing, as listed below. Naturally, we will look first to the current Club membership (now about 130 people) for taking up the mantle of leadership. Good numbers have already enlisted, but we are looking for more. As the Arizona Mushroom Forum group page on Facebook has recently exceeded 1000 members, we know you’re out there! We expect our reorganized structure and new program and orientation will attract many former members to re-join, as well as non-members who have not previously considered joining the Club.
Committees that will soon be organized under our new Bylaws include the following:
- Foray Committee, responsible for setting foray dates, scouting foray sites, and organizing forays.
- Scientific Committee, responsible for dealing with mushroom identification, toxicity, and other scientific matters.
- Culinary Committee, responsible for disseminating recipes and organizing food-related events.
- Venue & Hospitality Committee, responsible for booking meeting venues and welcoming members and visitors.
- Program & Education Committee, responsible for classroom and workshop instruction and guest speakers.
- Communications Committee, responsible for the newsletter, web site, and social media outreach.
- Membership Committee, responsible for keeping member records and promoting the Society to new members.
- Cultivation & Medicinals Committee, responsible for the needs of those interested in growing their own mushrooms or using wild mushrooms for medicinal purposes.
Please, give some thought to where your own talents might be best put to use in making this organization more vigorous, active, and diverse than ever. We could especially use a detail-oriented Membership Steward to chair the Membership Committee, as well as a Newsletter Editor. Those with bookkeeping or budgeting experience would also be particularly welcome. Scouts in all mushroom-growing areas of the state would help ensure the success of our plans for smaller but more frequent group forays.
But however you think you can help this Society, I assure you, we can find a place for you to do so. Please contact me if you would like to join our team, and include your email and telephone number.
In other meeting-related matters, the Board approved a small bump in member dues for the first time in years, from $12 to $15 per year. This will help take care of the one-time reorganization costs, and build a surplus that can be used for guest speakers or other additions to our program. This sum is still substantially less than the $25-$40 dues often requested by mycological societies elsewhere, and we think that the expanded program we will offer will make it money well spent for every reader of this page who lives in the region.
Part of our reorganizational process will introduce an easy on-line method of member registrations, dues payments, and annual renewals.
Meetings and Educational Programs
We hope to expand the number of member meetings we have each year, and hold them in other parts of the state such as Flagstaff, Show Low, or Tucson from time to time. This would coincide with additional presentations by well-known speakers, as well as workshops in topics such as photography, microscopy, cooking, or fabric dyeing, and perhaps joint meetings with other related organizations such as herbal, horticultural, naturalist, or photographic societies.
We’re hoping to increase the number of forays each year, but limit the numbers of participants in each foray, while scheduling them farther in advance and introducing themes or topics for each. Such themes might include instructional forays designed specifically for novices and new residents of Arizona; scientific/photographic forays, perhaps even hosting a NAMA Regional Foray; adventurous forays to especially remote sites requiring a 4×4 for access; out-of-state forays or joint forays with other mycology societies in the region; or lengthy, strenuous forays intended for high-volume collections of edible species by knowledgeable collectors in good physical condition.
Future of the Arizona Mushroom Forum
This Arizona Mushroom Forum website and the affiliated Facebook group that I host have always been separate and distinct from the Arizona Mushroom Club, and at least for now, they will remain so under the Arizona Mushroom Society. Those who are not the “joining” type will still be free to use both resources without paying membership dues.
However, as president and director of the new organization, my primary allegiance and efforts will now be directed towards the Society’s success. Updates here will necessarily be less frequent. It is likely that scouting reports of current mushroom fruitings will be confined to members-only pages until after our group forays are completed. Readers are still free to use these pages to report their finds and organize their own casual group forays, but I will no longer be taking any such informal groups into the woods outside of the Arizona Mushroom Society’s schedule.
Therefore, I implore everyone who has found these pages of mine to be useful in the past to now give strong consideration to joining the new Society, and helping shape it into the kind of organization they think is suitable to their needs and desires. This organization can be anything its members make of it, but it will require the effort of many people.
Information on how to join the new Society will be forthcoming early in the New Year, once the Board and Membership Committee have established a mechanism for member registrations and payments.
Reorganization in Perspective
We are undergoing the most significant changes in the activities of the organized amateur mycological community of Arizona since the founding of the Club by Dr. Leathers all those years ago. We have identified some modifications of our governance, our forays and meetings, and our educational program that we think will build further upon the strong foundation that has previously been laid down for us by Chet and his colleagues in the former Club leadership; but if we succeed as we hope to, and make this new Society one of the strongest local mycological societies in the country, it will only be by “standing on the shoulders of giants,” in the words of Sir Isaac Newton.
Dr. Leathers, the Melgaards, Terry Beckman, and all others who have brought us to this juncture with their many years of hard work for the Club deserve to be most gratefully commended. Now, won’t you join this new organization, and help us build upon their brilliant legacy in the years to come?