The National Exchange Club a service organization with 700 clubs and more than 22,000 members throughout the United States and Puerto Rice is celebrating its 100th anniversary throughout the month of March.
To celebrate its parent organization's centennial milestone, the Exchange Club of Alpena has embarked on a fundraising and support campaign for a Child Advocacy Center project proposed through the Alpena Regional Medical Center. Once approved, the project is expected to provide a safe haven for victims of child abuse.
The local Exchange Club celebrated its own milestone of 85 years as an organization in September 2010. In recognition of the two milestones as well as the club's past and present contributions, Alpena Mayor Carol Shafto issued a proclamation at this week's City Council meeting.
The club has a rich history of service within the community during that 85-year period, including establishment of a Boys Club Camp at Long Lake and sponsorship of the Proudly We Hail program that promotes Americanism.
Club members also are known for their patriotic efforts during the city's annual 4th of July Parade when they walk the parade route handing out American flags to children.
The group conducts two major fundraisers each year selling the famous Tony Burgers during the summer at the Brown Trout Festival and conducting a golf outing at River's Edge Golf Course.
"We're proud to say every penny raised in Alpena stays in Alpena," said Lee Szczesniak, who has been a member for 30 years and has held a wide variety of local, district and state offices, including serving as state president in 1992-93.
Richard Kuchnicki has only been a member since he moved back to Alpena about six years ago, but he chose the Exchange Club because of what it stands for patriotism and the prevention of child abuse.
"I wanted to be involved in a club that gives back to Alpena. The prevention of child abuse also is one of my things," said Kuchnicki, who currently is a district director for the state-level Exchange Club and sits of the board of the local Child Abuse & Neglect Team (CAN/Team).
The annual golf outing is a joint fundraising effort of Exchange and the CAN/Team, with proceeds going to Hospice of Michigan, the Baby Pantry and the CAN/Team.
The National Exchange Club was founded on March 27, 1911 in Detroit, by businessmen who wanted to "exchange" ideas. The organization moved its headquarters to Toledo, Ohio, in 1917.
For the past 100 years, its volunteer efforts have supported the needs of the country and of local communities, making it the country's oldest American service organization operating exclusively in the United States.
Jim Hartley, executive vice president at the organization's headquarters said, "Many of our efforts promote 'Americanism' the concept that our country plays a special role as a beacon of freedom, democracy, equality and inclusiveness. We are always looking for new members to help promote these ideals to a new generation of Americans."
Exchange will mark its centennial anniversary with special celebrations during its annual national convention slated for July 6-9 in Detroit.
"We are looking to increase public awareness of the work done by local clubs and members that comprise the National Exchange Club and help attract new members so we can continue to expand our ability to serve families, our communities and our great country for a second century of service," Hartley said.
A contingent of members from the Exchange Club of Alpena expects to attend the annual conference in Detroit. The club currently is comprised of 52 members.
For more information about getting involved in this organization, contact Lee Szczesniak at 356-3643.