A Project for Students and Citizens

Living Democracy in Selma/Old Cahawba: Week Nine

In Selma / Old Cahawba on July 30, 2013 at 9:10 pm

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“Behold how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.”

By Taryn Wilson

Inspired by the 133rd Psalm, the Exchange Club operates by this motto. Two years removed from its centennial anniversary in 2011, the Exchange Club stands at 21,000 strong with more than 700 chapters all over the United States and Puerto Rico. Founded in Detroit at a luncheon gathering by a group of businessmen who wanted to “exchange” ideas, the Exchange Club continues to be an organization in which members are encouraged to bring their respective talents and interests together to accomplish goals in the community.

The largest service organization operating solely in the United States, Exchanges places an emphasis on “activities designed to benefit, award and develop our nation’s youth, promote crime prevention, serve senior citizens and recognize military and public safety service providers.”

Selma’s chapter of the club meets at the St. James Hotel every Wednesday and has its gatherings over lunch. Motivated by the club’s three core values ofimage-1 Family, Community and Country, Selma’s Exchange Club places its focus on projects that improve these three areas. Selma’s Exchange has new leadership in command and a renewed desire to make a positive impact on the community.

The club has a history of receiving national awards for its projects, and the desire to repeatedly meet these goals continues into the present. Most of the awards focus on the number of projects undertaken by the Club, but some have the added caveat of recognizing the group for increasing membership. Maintaining members in a time when many are too busy to be active in activities outside of work and family has proven to be a difficult for civic organizations across the board, but the Exchange Club here has made it a goal not only to maintain the current membership, but also grow it. With multiple civic organizations in the area, joint members are welcomed and encouraged to participate.

image-3The members are now assessing the viability of existing projects and looking for new opportunities. The projects that the Selma Exchange Club undertakes generally fall under one of their Four Pillars of Americanism, Youth Programs, Community Service and Child Abuse Prevention. Projects under discussion include passing out flags at patriotic celebrations and honoring a local law officer or firefighter with periodic awards for their service.

The group is also discussing the Freedom Shrines they sponsor in the area. Freedom Shrines are “permanently mounted collection of 20-30 of the most important and historic American documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States and the Gettysburg Address.”

Freedom Shrines are a way for the Exchange Club to give local citizens, especially youth, “proof that the freedom and greatness we enjoy today were not purchased easily.” The displayed documents are intended to remind citizens of gifts that should be cherished and protected.

The Selma area currently has at least 12 Freedom Shrines in varying locations, including schools and in the Selma Mall. Rededicating current shrines and dedicating new ones is a goal of every Exchange Club, with the eventual goal being to have a shrine in every junior and senior high school in the nation.

The group also supports the Book of Golden Deeds Award. The National Exchange Club’s longest running project, the Book of Golden Deeds Award recognizes community members who volunteer above and beyond to make their communities better places. This year’simage-2 recipient was Howard Tinsley, a local Exchange Club member of more than 27 years. A 22-year military veteran and longtime American Red Cross member, Tinsley has been serving the community in various capacities for many years. Present at the recent awards ceremony were many of the past Book of Golden Deeds Award recipients, including AU Living Democracy Community Partner Sheryl Smedley.

In a society where negative headlines get more attention than positive ones, Selma’s Exchange Club continues to do positive work in the community. Its members show dedication and a desire to better their community, and that is all that can be asked of any civic organization. They have a strong commitment to family, community and country, and it is organizations like Exchange Club that will continue to create and utilize engaged citizens, wherever they may be.

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