One local organization which prides itself on creating a sense of camaraderie and community among its members, also plays a vital role in making sure local youth have a Club where they belong. The Sertoma Clubs in Springfield have a long history, intertwined with the progress and success of Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield (BGCS).
The Springfield Sertoma Club was chartered by the Joplin Sertoma Club in 1941, for the original purpose of supporting the Springfield Boys Club, which would later become Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield.
During its early years, Boys Club founder, Jennie Lincoln, found support for the program from community members, family and friends. However, in 1941 it became necessary for Lincoln to find support for the program that would stand the test of time and allow for more growth.
“The way I understand it, is that in the early forties, Jennie was like getting sick, and about that same time, the Springfield Sertoma Club was getting started here,” said BGCS Director of Safety and Heart of the Ozarks Sertoma Member, Jeff Long. “They took it over. If it weren’t for them, there might not be a Boys & Girls Club.”
Ambitious Sertomans joined hands with other Boys Club friends to elect a Board of Directors, change the name of the program to Springfield Boys Club, Inc., and initiate the Club’s first capital campaign, to purchase property at 1300 Boonville. This new facility, the Henderson Unit, became a reality in 1949, and it was the first building in Missouri to be used entirely as a Boys Club.
Long-time Sertoman, Delore Wetzel, remembers the Springfield Sertoma Club’s instrumental role during the early years. “Even back when we didn’t have a lot of money, we had a lot of people who would go over there and do the plumbing, or brick work, or fix the roof,” said Wetzel. “If the Club needed something, we tried to raise the money to get it done.”
In 1969, when the need for a Boys Club on the west side of Springfield became apparent, Springfield Sertoma Club members chartered the Heart of the Ozarks Sertoma Club (HOTO), providing a more broad base of support for the Boys Club’s expansion. Sertoma member, Darrell Love, played an influential role in this transition.
“Darrell was the type of person who would find guys and just say, “Hey, you’re going to join this Club,” said Sertoman, Don Wheeler.
An eight-acre tract of land was purchased partly by a sizable gift from the Sertoma Clubs, and a capital campaign was conducted in 1973 to help finance the construction of the Westside Unit, now known as the Musgrave Unit.
After the Boys Club and Girls Club merged in 1991, the Kynion Unit was established to serve more youth in Springfield. Later, HOTO members chartered a brand new Sertoma Club in town, which would become a sisterhood of women with a burning desire to give back to their community. Queen City Sertoma Club was established in 1999, for the sole purpose of supporting the Kynion Unit.
“When the new Stalnaker Unit was complete, the Kynion Unit became part of it, and to this day, the Stalnaker Unit is our main sponsorship,” said Queen City Sertoma member, Susie Duvall.
In 2013, when BGCS began the Bright Futures Capital Campaign, to establish a Club inside newly-built, Sherwood Elementary School, the Sertoma Clubs came together to provide a staggering $500,000 gift. This is where the new Club earned its namesake; the Sertoma Unit. To this day, HOTO Sertoma Club continues to support this program, by funding BGCS’s rental agreement with Springfield Public Schools.
Sertoman and BGCS retiree, Randy Carpenter, said, “Without the Sertoma Clubs backing the Boys & Girls Club, we wouldn’t be nearly far along as we are now.”
While all three Sertoma Clubs collaborate to meet needs in the community, each Club has its own established set of traditions and special fundraising efforts. HOTO, together with the other Clubs, hosts the Sertoma Chili Cook Off each year. This amazing fundraiser provides much-needed support for BGCS, primarily funding its fleet of vehicles.
“The first time the Chili Cook off made a little money, we were able to buy a shuttle bus to pick up kids,” said Carpenter. “We had just started picking kids up from schools at that time.” Today, BGCS transports thousands of youth afterschool and the Sertoma Chili Cook Off earns over $100,000 annually.
HOTO has led many other fundraising & volunteer efforts throughout the years, including the annual Christmas to Remember celebration and weekly bingo games. Wetzel said that bingo has raised upwards of $350,000 some years.
Springfield Sertoma’s event, Wingapalooza, began in 2001, in order to raise money for youth in Springfield to attend summer camp. Today, Wingapalooza brings in over 30 restaurants, 8,000 attendees and $80,000 each year.
Springfield Sertoma is also responsible for a grant program, which assists local non-for-profit organizations in their efforts to improve the quality of life for children in the Ozarks. These grants total $25,000 annually.
Queen City Sertoma holds a very lucrative Christmas wreath sale each year. This sale, originally started by the Women’s Auxiliary, assists with BGCS activities such as the Power of Music program, teen Christmas parties, the annual fashion show, veteran’s day celebrations, and Safe Ears, a program which provides youth with free hearing tests. Plans are also underway for Queen City’s first annual Skirmish fundraiser, on April 23.
Members of the Sertoma Clubs are responsible for providing many, many other meaningful opportunities for youth at BGCS, like field trips to local fishing spots, hockey games and Springfield Cardinals baseball games. Sertomans also provide hours of volunteer service each year and help fund important improvements to Club facilities. They sponsor fundraising events such as The Great Elixir Mixer, FORE! The Kids Golf Tournament and the Steak n Steak Dinner, among others.
Sertoma Clubs in Springfield work diligently to support BGCS and many other local children’s charities, but at the end of the day, being a Sertoman is also about friendship. Long describes the Sertoma Club as a brotherhood. “To know that if I need anything, I can send an email and then, Boom!” said Long.
Wetzel also recognizes this special camaraderie. “You’re concerned about each other and worried about each other, and you create a pretty good bond with quite a few people,” said Wetzel. “In fact, they used to have a saying, your next best friend will be a Sertoman!”
Being a Sertoman is about living up to the Club’s name- providing SERvice to MAnkind. It is about building community and improving lives. “It’s just been the best experience of my life, really,” said Wheeler. “I don’t understand why people don’t get involved more in the community and give back.”
We are so thankful for this special partnership and the vital role that the Sertoma Clubs have played in our rich history. Together we say, “I’m proud to be a Sertoman!”
The Sertoma Clubs lead many other fantastic efforts for area youth throughout the year. To learn more, visit them on the web.
We are thankful for our sponsors!