Sertoma History

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For more than ten decades, mankind has been served by a special family of volunteers, originally known as Co-Operators, and now as Sertomans. Each member of this organization can take pride in the colorful history of the Co-Operative Club International and Sertoma International. This history is based upon information gleaned from old SERTOMAN and THE CO-OPERATOR magazines on file at Sertoma Headquarters. These highlights occurred from the day the first Club was founded as the Co-Operative Club to present day Sertoma International activities.

The Co-Operative Club

The first official luncheon meeting of the founding Club was held on April 11, 1912, at the Coates House Hotel, then the fashionable hotel in Kansas City, Missouri. The founders of the first Co-Operative Club were George W. Smith, M.D., Charles E. Allen, M.D. and William R. Rowe. These three men are now recognized as the Founding Fathers of The Co-Operator Club of Kansas City, Missouri, and of Sertoma International.

In December 1920, Edward G. Freed, then President of the Kansas City Club, invited representatives from other clubs to meet together to consider forming an organization. Representatives from the Wichita, Manhattan, and Topeka, Kansas Clubs, and the Kansas City Club attended. The International organization was immediately formed, and Freed was elected the first International President.

On June 21, 1921, the first convention was held in Kansas City. Attending were 32 delegates representing six Clubs: Kansas City, Topeka, Manhattan, St. Louis, Chicago and Omaha. James P. “Daddy” Summerville, Charter President of the Kansas City, Missouri Club, was elected the second International President.

The Co-Operettes had its beginning in 1923 when the wives of the Members of the Co-Operative Club of Manhattan, Kansas, organized the first auxiliary, called the “Co-Op Lassies”. In 1928, the Co-Operettes became a national organization.

Radio was used to promote the activities of the early Sertoma Club when Radio Station WHB in Kansas City – at that time one of the very few official government licensed broadcasting stations – offered the Club air time (the owner of Kansas City Station WHB, E.J. Sweeney, was a local member). This was another Sertoma “first”.

“Make Life Worthwhile” was the slogan accepted by the organization in 1926. It was as good then as it is today.

The well-known Sugar Bowl classic in New Orleans had its beginning in Sertoma. In 1934 the New Orleans Club began this very successful project when former International Director Warren V. Miller introduced the resolution that the Club sponsor a football contest to be held in New Orleans during the Christmas holiday season.

In the early 1940s, confusion emerged between the Co-Operative Club name and consumer cooperatives. A contest was announced with a $500 cash prize offered for a name which might be selected. A total of 49 names were submitted. The Board of Directors narrowed the list down to seven to present to the 1948 Albuquerque Convention: Ambassadors, Century, Cooperators, Monarch, Operative, Sertoma and Sponsors. Noble W. Hiatt, then President of the North Indianapolis, Indiana Club, coined the name SERTOMA from the slogan, SERvice TO MAnkind, and his idea was selected. The official name change became effective on June 21, 1950.

International Focus

The first Sertoma Club chartered in Canada was at Windsor, Ontario in 1946. The organization at this time became truly International.

The need for an International sponsorship became apparent in 1949 – 1950, and the first sponsorship recommended to Clubs by the International Board of Directors was in 1949 by the Sertoma Club of Phoenix, Arizona, when the Club introduced the YES Program (Youth Employment Service). Sertoma International today holds the copyright to the name “YES”, even though local, state and national government involvement in “employment services” has limited the need for Sertoma Club YES Programs.

The first Club chartered in Mexico was in Mexico City in 1956.

Dr. Charles Allen, Sertoma’s last remaining founder, died during the spring of 1961, shortly after he had attended his Sertoma Club’s luncheon meeting.

The original founder, Dr. George W. Smith, died in 1951, and Billy Rowe was listed as deceased sometime between 1951 and 1961.

The first International Convention outside the United States was the 1964 Convention, held in Mexico City, Mexico.

The first Sertoma Club established in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico was the San Juan Sertoma Club, chartered on August 14, 1965.

Plutarco Guzman became the first Sertoman who was not a United States citizen to be elected President of Sertoma International. The attorney from Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, was elected at the 1972 International Convention in Dallas, Texas.

The most significant milestone of the 1970’s was the introduction of Serteen and Collegiate Sertoma Clubs. The first Serteen Club, recognized in 1971, was the Page Equine Serteen Club of Greensboro, North Carolona. The first Collegiate Sertoma Club was the Collegiate Sertoma Club of the Kansas State Teachers College of Emporia, Kansas.

Women were welcomed as members of Sertoma in 1985 and comprise a vital part of our current membership. The first all-female Sertoma Club was the First Progressive Sertoma Club in Tampa, Florida, chartered November 22, 1985. In 1987, the International Board of Directors approved STAND (Sertomans Together Advocate No Drugs), an anti-drug education program, as an International Sponsorship.

In 1992 and 1993 the Communicative Disorders and Hearing Impaired Scholarships were established. Further 1990’s milestones included the 1997 introduction of the Sertoma Fantasy Baseball Camps and the surpassing of its $10 million goal by the Foundation for the Building A Legacy endowment campaign.

The New Century 2000 – 2002 saw the introduction of the first city-wide service project as a part of the International Convention in Tampa, which was a great success. The Community Service Matching Grant, funded by the Foundation, found enthusiastic support throughout Sertoma. And, the first female president, Diana Caine-Helwig SOARed during her 2001-2002 term.

The first issue of the Sertoman Digest was published in November 2002. This publication was designed with an organizational focus to be mailed between isssues of the Sertoman Magazine.

Sertoma joined the WISE EARS! Coalitioin, a health education campaign of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). Headquarters introduced the Sertoma International/WISE EARS! Campaign to the clubs for implementation during May’s Better Hearing & Speech Month. This national service project was focused on noise-induced hearing loss.

SERTOMA SAFEEARS! … to hear the future was introduced in January 2005 in order to rebuild Sertoma’s brand as the speech and hearing service organization. SAFEEARS! became the first national service project that had support from non-Sertoma corporate and organizational partners.

Sertoma Foundation

On November 15, 1960, the Sertoma Foundation which is now known as the Annual Fund was formed to strengthen the partnership between our international organization and our clubs. In 1963, after a long search for an International sponsorship, Sertoma clubs were encouraged to help the more than 24 million Americans who have speech and hearing disorders. This sponsorship continues to be of utmost relevance, as there are currently over 50 million Americans with speech and hearing disorders.

The Foundation began to establish Sertoma Centers for Communication Disorders in 1973.

Four years later, the Foundation began to encourage affiliation with existing speech and hearing facilities and departments. The Affiliate program has been very successful, with over 300 facilities now affiliated with Sertoma clubs and the Foundation.

The Foundation provides the funding for scholarships and grants. It has created public education materials and an advisory council of speech and hearing professionals. It was a founding member of the Council for Better Hearing and Speech Month. In 1986, the Foundation coordinated Better Hearing and Speech Month for the entire country.

In 1992, the Building a Legacy campaign was launched to grow the endowment. Pledge payments and new gifts perpetuate the benefits for Sertoma programs.

Recently, the Legacy 2000 Wills campaign was launched with the philosophy “A will for every Sertoman, Sertoma in every will”. Today, the Foundation continues to place strong emphasis on financially supporting the programs of Sertoma International through annual, planned and endowment giving.

Merger of Sertoma International and Sertoma Foundation

Approval of the “plan of merger” by the membership authorizes the Boards of Sertoma International and Sertoma Foundation to file, amend, and consolidate legal, governing, and operational documents and procedures necessary to implement the plan and meet the statutory requirements of the State of Missouri.  The result being a new Sertoma corporation operating as a national 501(c)(3) public charity effective July 1, 2008.

Present and Future

Sertoma’s history continues to flourish. Our milestones and accomplishments multiply as we build Sertoma, and our history is a virtual pictorial of events. We make history through our SERvice TO MAnkind.