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Barry Schrader
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I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website each week and be added to the archives.

The Articles started December 2007.

 

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This service club is worth growing

By Barry Schrader.................................May 3, 2011

If you want to join a service club where you can immediately head a major project or serve in an office, John Hughes has a place reserved for you.
Hughes is president of the Exchange Club of DeKalb-Sycamore, and he called me recently to explain the club’s situation. It has been around since 1993 in DeKalb and Sycamore, but it is overshadowed by the big three – Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions – so few people realize it exists.
Even though the local club was chartered 18 years ago with 30 members, membership had declined to just a handful of men and women. To their credit, two of the charter members – Beth Bollinger and Greg Anderson – are still in the club. The club now meets twice monthly at noon on Wednesdays for lunch at The Lincoln Inn in DeKalb.

Exchange Club president John Hughes displays their banner at the Lincoln Inn meeting room in DeKalb.
(Barry Schrader photo)

The National Exchange Club was founded 100 years ago in March, with similar objectives as the other major service organizations.
A centennial convention will be held later this year in Detroit, where the club was founded. The Exchange Club places its emphasis on Americanism, community service and youth programs, which is highlighted by its nationwide effort to prevent child abuse.
The local club has dedicated two Freedom Shrines – one at Sycamore Public Library and the other at St. Mary’s School – over the years. These permanent wall-mounted exhibits are a collection of important documents in American history and usually include 20-30 pieces, all readable with explanations attached.The idea originated with the Freedom Train that was a part of the nation’s 1876 centennial.
Hughes explained that each year the club raises money to purchase as many as 5,000 small American flags, which are passed out at the Sycamore Pumpkin Festival. The club also gives a financial award to a graduating senior from either DeKalb or Sycamore who has overcome adversity to get through school and writes an essay describing the struggles. Another program called “So Proudly We Hail” identifies citizens who fly the flag at their home or business on a daily basis. The local club selects a few individuals each year to recognize for their patriotism.
Hughes wears more than one hat in the Exchange Club. He was also elected Division 4 director for the northwestern Illinois portion of the Lincolnland District, which covers all of Illinois. That position involves traveling to other clubs to help them. He will be succeeded as the DeKalb-Sycamore club’s leader this summer by the club’s President-elect Justin Yahnig, a Sycamore banker. Yahnig faces a big challenge to revitalize the club. As Hughes said, “to make our programs successful we need more bodies.”
This is nothing new to all the area service clubs. You have to make membership recruitment and retention your top priority before you can do much else. I speak from experience, as I was once active in an Exchange Club in Dublin, Calif., where we had 40 members at the time I was president. Seven years later, it folded because of dwindling membership.
But I cherish the friendships made in that and other service clubs to which I have belonged. They epitomize volunteerism at its best, and many nonprofits and community projects rely heavily on their efforts.
Anyone wanting to know more about the Exchange Club can visit www.nationalexchangeclub.org or give Hughes a call at 815-991-5387. I bet he would even be glad to buy you lunch at the next club meeting.

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The columnist can be reached via email at :

barry815sbcglobal.net

or by snailmail at:

Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115