In the early years of aviation, the National Exchange Club was at the forefront, establishing airports and landing fields, installing landing markers and lighting runways. One of the first community projects sponsored by the Quincy Exchange Club was a model airplane building class for boys, followed by a three-state model airplane show and contest at Baldwin Field.
Exchange’s Programs of Service – Americanism, Youth Activities, Community Service and our National Project, the Prevention of Child Abuse – form the core of what the Quincy Exchange Club is about. Through the years, the club has identified needs in the community and sought ways to address the issues. Beginning in 1947, and running for many years, the Exchange Club would bring Santa Claus to Quincy on a specially charted Ozark Airline jet to visit with children in a specially constructed house located on the square in Washington Park. When the Saukee Area Council of the Boy Scouts needed space for summer camp, the Exchange Club, along with other service clubs in Quincy, purchased 600 acres east of Lima, Illinois and donated it to the Council. That camp – Saukenauk Scout Reservation – features a Court of Flags and Nature Shelter provided by the Exchange Club, along with McGavran Fire Ring – named after Dr. Harry McGavran, who served as President of the Club in 1951.
Many of those early projects continue to this day. In 1953, The Quincy Exchange Club awarded its first Book of Golden Deeds to Harry Love. The Book of Golden Deeds recognizes dedicated volunteers who give endless hours of their time and talents toward making our community a better place to live. In 2012, the Club recognized Mrs. Hazel Mills as the 60th recipient of the award. Since 1964, the Club has hosted a deaf children’s Christmas program, where students in the deaf education program of Quincy Public Schools perform Christmas skits at one of the club’s meetings. Afterwards, Santa provides presents to each of the children, along with a check for the program to purchase equipment that wouldn’t normally be available in their budget. For the past 45 years, the Club has honored members of the law enforcement community with the Law Officer of the Year award. Members of the Quincy Police Department, Adams County Sheriff’s Department, Illinois State Police, Missouri Highway Patrol, FBI and Illinois Conservation Police have been selected for this award over the years.
In addition to community leaders, Exchange recognizes our youth. For more than 25 years, over 150 outstanding students from Quincy High School and Quincy Notre Dame have been recognized as Youth of the Month, with the best of the best selected as Youth of the Year. Those Youths of the Year have then gone on to District competition, where several have been selected as District Youth of the Year – including the 2012 Lincolnland District Youth of the Year, Sarah Vahlkamp from Quincy Notre Dame. The Club also recognizes that some students have many obstacles to overcome in order to graduate from high school. The Bud Willer Accepting the Challenge of Excellence Award recognizes high school students who have had to overcome great physical, emotional or social obstacles in order to graduate. A $1,000 scholarship is awarded to both our Youth of the Year and Bud Willer A.C.E. winners each year.
Americanism projects are at the forefront of our Exchange Club. The Give-a-Kid-a-Flag-to-Wave project has distributed hundreds of thousands of American flags in Quincy to kids of all ages. Whether it’s during the Dogwood Parade or Flag Day Concert in the Park, there’s an Exchangite there to hand out flags. Look around town and you will find a number of Freedom Shrines. Derived from the 1947 Freedom Train that toured America, these monuments contain replicas of some of America’s most historic documents – from the Declaration of Independence to the Gettysburg Address to the German Instrument of Surrender ending World War II. These Freedom Shrines are located in schools and public buildings throughout town, including the newest location dedicated in the winter of 2012-13 at the Quincy Mall.
How does the Exchange Club pay for all of these projects? The answer to that is fund raising. Over the past sixty years, The Quincy Exchange Club has raised more than $1 million – and invested all of it back into the community. From Turkey shoots, antique shows and raffles from days past to Gus Macker Basketball and Smoke on the River BBQ contests today, the money the Club raises goes to pay for the projects it carries out. Over the years, the Exchange Club has built a soccer field at the Paul Dennis Soccer Complex, provided funding for the Quincy University softball field, provided matching and endowment funds to help prevent child abuse, and provided foster children and their families with Christmas dinner and gifts.
For more than 65 years, the Exchange Club of Quincy has served the Community – as the National Exchange Club begins its next Century of Service, the Quincy Exchange Club will continue to serve the Quincy community and improve the quality of life for its residents.