Exchange had its beginning near the end of the 19th century in Detroit when a group of businessmen got together as the “Boosters Club.” In a few years they discovered that they were exchanging news, views and ideas as they met (networking we call it today), so they decided on the name “Exchange.” They became a formal service club in 1911 and the second one was the Exchange Club of Toledo, Ohio, formed in 1913. Subsequently, two others were organized in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Cleveland, Ohio. These four clubs were the first to be chartered by the National Exchange Club after it was organized as a nonprofit, educational organization in 1917. Toledo became the national headquarters and the Dayton and Cincinnati clubs were among the first to join up as expansion efforts gained steam. Dayton’s status as the birthplace of aviation provided the impetus for Exchange’s endorsement of the wonders of flying. Clubs spent many hours in the 1920s painting arrows on barn and manufacturing roofs to direct those early pilots to safe landings. It also sponsored the first National Women’s Air Derby in 1929, in which the queen of aviation, Amelia Earhart, participated. She was the headline speaker at the National Exchange Club’s 12th National Convention in Toledo in 1928.
Our club welcomed Orville Wright and retained a connection to the Wright family into the 1990s as one of our older members, Harold (Scribbs) Miller, was married to a niece of the Wrights, Ivonette Wright Miller. She often entertained the club with stories of flying with Uncle Orville, plus other accounts of Dayton’s early aviation history.
Exchange members have always felt close to current events. Hence during the Great Depression the organization developed the National Recovery Crusade and reached out with relief efforts of many kinds from soup kitchens to job seeking. Then in 1941 “Exchange Went to War” along with the rest of the country and stressed the importance of our dedication to constitutional principles and patriotism to the war effort. This melded with the post-war effort to educate all Americans on their heritage and the development in Washington, D.C. of a concept that turned into the Freedom Train that toured the country exhibiting many of the founding documents. Exchange figuratively leaped on the train (some reports at the time said bandwagon) and from the Freedom Train came Exchange’s Freedom Shrines. Attorney General Tom C. Clark, an Exchange member, helped make it happen. In 1947 he said:
Indoctrination in democracy is the essential catalytic agent needed to blend our various groups into one American family. Without it, we could not sustain the continuity of our way of life. In its largest sense, preaching Americanism is an affirmative declaration of our faith in ourselves.
The Dayton Exchange Club over the years sponsored Freedom Shrines in many of the area’s schools, most recently with an outstanding display at Sinclair Community College. The shrines are designed to help students appreciate the founding years (Declaration of Independence, the Constitution) and then important historical markers up to the present (the Monroe Doctrine, Gettysburg Address, presidential inaugural addresses, Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech as examples). This program remains an important part of our educational mission today as we seek to strengthen civics education in our schools so that we are developing informed citizens as well as scientists and other technical experts.
It was in this post-war period that National Exchange developed what it called the Four Pillars of Service. The details have changed somewhat over the years, but today are Community Service, Youth, Americanism and Child Abuse Prevention. Our club history, in addition to the Freedom Shrines, includes crime and fire prevention, service to seniors, youth of the month and year, the ACE (Accepting the Challenge of Excellence) award (two national winners of $10,000 scholarships), Book of Golden Deeds awards to outstanding citizens, One Nation Under God events, support for CareHouse and other child abuse prevention efforts.
Indeed, the club was one of the earliest supporters of CareHouse which is located across from Children’s Hospital. This facility was conceived as a joint endeavor of the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s office, the Children’s Services agency, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department and the Dayton Police Department. These agencies investigate some 5,000 child abuse cases a year, of which about 500 are serious and require special attention to the safety of children. CareHouse centralizes the processing so that children are not pulled from one office to another across town. Medical care if needed is also readily available at Children’s. Our club worked with CareHouse to sponsor a series of classes, called Stewards of Children, for teachers, nurses and other caregivers so that they could recognize signs of child abuse and take the appropriate steps to deal with it.
Our club produced one National Exchange Club president, Judge F.W. Howell, in 1961 and has provided leadership in the Ohio-West Virginia District with a variety of officeholders and instructors. In 1962 the club formed a charitable foundation which was formally recognized by the IRS in 1963. It has provided college scholarships, grants to many community organizations and supported a number of National Exchange initiatives over its lifetime. The foundation is under the management of the club’s directors.
Members are urged to support our foundation with voluntary contributions (pledges can be made payable with quarterly dues) and then participate in decisions on who and what we want to help.