There are a few things Rita Toalson knows for certain. “It may sound trite, but when you become a member of Royal Neighbors, you become part of a family. And while the look and feel of the magazine may have changed over the years, the spirit of the organization behind it has not.” Having recently retired from over 40 years of service with Royal Neighbors – half of which she spent as Managing Editor of this member publication – Rita would know.
Rita joined the Society back in 1977, coming on board to work as an editorial assistant for The Royal Neighbor. “It was an opportunity to do something I love as a career (writing) and, at the same time, give back to my community.” She notes how rare it is to achieve both objectives at the same place. In addition, she adds, “Back then, when women were gaining more prevalence in the workforce, Royal Neighbors was also known as one of the best places for women to develop a long, successful, and fulfilling career.” She credits this to the Society’s ability to adapt when needed to stay relevant in the lives of its employees and its members.
Rita’s perspective on how Royal Neighbors has changed over the years is close-up and personal. And she compares the successful evolution of the organization to that of the magazine to which she dedicated so much time through the years. “There was a time when we literally had to cut and paste strips of typed copy onto galley sheets,” she recalls. “As technology changed, so did we.” When Rita started, the editorial staff typed their articles on a typewriter using carbon paper. Now, it’s all digital. “For process, you have to stay with the times or be left behind. But, for content, you need to remember your roots.”
For Rita, those roots are firmly planted in the traditions of community and service on which Royal Neighbors was founded almost 125 years ago. “Working on the magazine gave me a front-row seat to seeing our members make a difference in their own neighborhoods and across the country.” She still finds it heartening to hear stories about how even the smallest chapter can make a big impact. “It’s also amazing to see how much Royal Neighbors has meant to its members over the years, and we consistently try to celebrate that.” She especially appreciates how people have taken the time – sometimes in the shadow of loss – to share their stories or send family photos, letters, and other artifacts to the Home Office. “The legacy is strong. It feels good to have been a part of that. And it will remain a part of me long after my retirement.”