Exchange is a national service organization of approximately 33,000 men and women in nearly 1,000 clubs throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.
The first club dates back to 191 1 when Detroit jeweler Charles A. Berkey met with some business colleagues to exchange ideas. Two years later, a second club was formed in Toledo, Ohio, still the national headquarters of Exchange (above). With the addition of two more clubs in Grand Rapids and Cleveland, the National Exchange Club was organized in 1917 as a non-profit, educational organization, Exchange thus celebrated its 90th anniversary at the start of the new millennium. Purpose
The Mission Statement of Exchange reads: “Exchange, America’s Service Club, is a group of men and women working together to make our communities better places to live through programs of service in Americanism, Community Service, Youth Activities, and its national project, the Prevention of Child Abuse.”
The purpose of Exchange, therefore, is to serve our communities through improving the quality of life of their citizens. In serving others, members at the same time bring out the best in themselves. reaching out to others while at the same time developing organizational skills, networks with new people, leadership abilities, and new friendships.
As for the programs of service, Americanism projects are designed to promote awareness of the privileges of American citizenship. The Freedom Shrine is a set of wall-mounted plaques of thirty selected documents from American history, including the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address. Shrines are installed in schools and public buildings across the country to expose the youth of America to the words that changed history.
Accompanying the Freedom Shrine is the Milestones of Freedom program, which is a test based on the Shrine documents. Top scorers in schools are presented with Liberty Bell Medallions and, at the option of local clubs, such incentives as US Savings Bonds.
Other projects include “Giveakidaflagtowave,” which is the distribution of free miniature flags at public functions to cultivate patriotism and appreciation of the flag. “One Nation Under God,” which derives from the Pledge of Allegiance and promotes the message of the pledge; “So Proudly We Hail,” which encourages the flying of the American flag by honoring businesses and private citizens with plaques, and “Get Out the Vote,” which encourages citizens to participate in American democracy by exercising their right to vote.
Community Service projects Include crime prevention education and the honoring of police officers, fire prevention education and honors, the “Book of Golden Deeds Award” for unsung community heroes, and a variety of service to seniors projects, often determined by the needs of the community and the skills and resources of the local Exchange Club.
Such is also true of Youth Programs, though national projects include the Youth of the Month/Year Award to recognize high school students for scholastic achievement. From monthly winners, a grand winner is selected for a local scholarship through an essay contest. which qualifies the winner for a district scholarship competition. District winners proceed to a national competition for a possible $10,000 college scholarship.
The “Young Citizenship Award” honors those who display the qualities of honesty, hard work, helpfulness, and fairness. Similarly, the ACE (Accepting the Challenge of Excellence) award recognizes high school students who have made dramatic changes in their attitudes and performance to overcome adversity. As with Youth of the Year, local ACE award winners proceed to district and national competition.
Finally, Exchange promotes the formation of both high school (EXCEL Clubs) and collegiate Exchange Clubs to improve members’ schools, communities, and country, as well as to develop personal service and leadership skills and attitudes.
Exchange’s grand project, however, is the prevention of child abuse. The National Foundation has set up a model for parent volunteers (described later) that is then applied to district and local prevention centers. In addition, Exchange has begun a campaign to promote awareness of the shaken baby syndrome.
As has become apparent, Exchange is divided into the national level, district levels, and local levels.
National Exchange is the umbrella organization that formalizes projects. provides support and education, dispenses supplies and merchandise, and coordinates publicity A staff of paid personnel, including an executive director, mans the central office the bimonthly EXCHANGE Today magazine promotes the spirit of Exchange, informs readers of upcoming events, recognizes local achievements, and offers food for thought. A mid-winter educational conference in January prepares upcoming leaders, while the national convention in July celebrates Exchange, expands education, and conducts official business, such as by-law changes and the election of national officers.
National Exchange is then broken down into twelve regions, each represented by a vice president. The regions are then divided into districts, each with a slate of officers, a mid-winter education conference, a spring convention, and a newsletter, alt echoing the national formats.
Finally, within each district are the local clubs, where the actual delivery of services takes place. Local clubs make use of national projects and/or identify their own community needs, for which funds are raised as needed. Some clubs meet weekly, others semimonthly. Meeting times range from breakfast to luncheon to dinner time. Local dues include the cost of meals and club operations, plus quarterly dues forwarded to district and national levels Charity expenses are covered through fund-raisers. Each club chronicles activities and upcoming events through a local newsletter.
Local clubs are encouraged to participate in national projects, but they make decisions based on local needs and interests. Some members find their greatest satisfaction at the local level, while others are inspired to continue on to district and national levels, whether for programs of service or as officers.
Whatever the level, the focus of Exchange is the service to communities, making America a better place in which to live.
The following accounts are the stories of one little Exchange Club in Greater Newburyport, Mass. We offer our works and our ideas as samples of what can be done by one dedicated group of individuals, whatever the size, in bringing about changes for the better. Those that we serve are the beneficiaries. but we ourselves grow as human beings in the process. The same is true for Exchange Clubs across America.
Other local clubs, of course, will find different needs in their communities and different motivations in their members, and that is how it must and should be. But together. we make a difference.