Community service focus of Exchange Club

By Todd Cohen

DURHAM, N.C. — Exchange Family Center, formed 25 years ago by members of Exchange Clubs in the region to help prevent child abuse, received $15,000 in the fiscal year ended June 30 from the Exchange Club of Greater Durham.

Through its Durham Blues & Brew Festival and a beer concession its volunteers staff at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, the Club raises about $30,000 a year to support the Family Center and other local causes.

“The premise of Exchange is to promote Americanism and community service, to do good in our community,” says Debbie Mangum, president of the all-volunteer civic group and co-owner of Mangum Benton Ventures.

Since it was formed in 1981, the Club has contributed roughly $700,000 to community groups, including a total of $83,000 in the past three years, when half the funds each year have gone to Exchange Family Center, and half to another to 10 to 12 groups that each receives a grant of $500 to $1,000.

Operating with an annual budget it generates from $150 dues each member pays each quarter, the Club meets for lunch the first four Thursdays of each month from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the University Club in University Tower.

Three of those meetings each features a speaker from a local nonprofit, or a local expert to talk about a community issue, with the fourth meeting focusing on Club business.

Each quarter, in a month with five Thursdays, it also hosts an after-work social event at various locations for members and their families.

“We believe our Club can only be successful if we have the support of the Club members’ families,” Mangum says.

The Club awards funds to nonprofits once a year based on recommendations from, and then a vote by its members.

A nonprofit is eligible for funding if a representative of the organization has been a speaker at a weekly lunch meeting of the Club within the previous two years, or if a Club member has a strong relationship with the nonprofit, such as volunteering, making a donation or receiving services.

In addition to making contributions, the Club also provides a range of programs, typically once a year for each program.

To promote Americanism, for example, it works with all the teachers, typically on three grade levels, at a local elementary school. The teachers assign essays on the American flag, and a Club committee selects a winner from each grade level.

Then, at a school assembly, an ROTC drill team from a local high school performs, U.S. Rep. David Price typically presents the school with an American flag that has flown atop the U.S. Capitol, students read their winning essays and receive a gift of $25 to $50 each, and each student receives a small American flag.

Other Club activities range from promoting fire safety and crime prevention to recognizing a student of the month and shopping for Christmas presents for children served by a local organization the Club selects.

“We’re all very different,” Mangum says of Club members. “Our ages are from the mid-20s to mid-70s. We’re like-minded but we’re very different. I’ve met people in our Club that I never would have met on the street otherwise.”

Two years ago, she says, the day after her father suffered a heart attack, “the very first person I called was an Exchange Club member. I just needed to talk to a friend, different from family.”

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