SERTOMA . A curious word until three very important words come together in unison: SERvice TO MAnkind. Sertoma's primary service project is assisting the more than 50 million people with speech, hearing and language disorders. Sertoma also sponsors community projects to promote freedom and democracy, youth causes and a variety of other local community needs, as identified by the individual clubs.
Headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, Sertoma is a 501(c)(4) not-for-profit international organization dedicated to "SERvice TO MAnkind", with 20,000-plus members in nearly 700 clubs across Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the United States. Every year Sertoma clubs raise more than $20 million for local community service projects. Through these projects, as well as grants and scholarships, Sertoma clubs return those funds to their respective communities - and they have lots of fun doing it while building life-long friendships.
The Richland Sertoma Club is one of the oldest civic clubs in Columbia. Founded in 1959, its members have devoted more than five decades to improving the lives of Midlands citizens. Richland Sertoma’s leaders have been involved in launching numerous health, educational and recreational projects.
Since 1959, Sportsarama has been the club's major fund raising event of the year. For the annual high school football jamboree, held in late August, the club sells advertising and publishes souvenir game programs as well as running the concession booths during the event. During the Sportsarama, the club crowns Mr. and Miss Sportsarama who are chosen from those nominated by each participating high school. Nominees are judged on the basis of scholarship and school/community involvement. Participating Midlands schools at Sportsarama have included AC Flora High School, CA Johnson High School, Cardinal Newman High School, Columbia High School, Dreher High School, Eau Claire High School, Heathwood Hall, Keenan High School, Fairfield Central High School and Lower Richland High School.
In 1960, Sertoma International recognized the Richland Club as the best first-year club with the Wilshire Award. The Richland club was the first to be awarded the Diamond Circle for having qualified as a Gold Honor Club for ten years.
In the early 1960s Richland and Columbia Sertoma Clubs pulled together to raise funds to build a zoo in Columbia. Richland Sertoma members contributed $3,500 for preliminary plans. The Sertoma zoo fund eventually raised over $40,000 and the expanded project evolved to become Riverbanks Zoo.
During the "Stop-Polio" Campaign of the early 1960's, the Richland Club, in cooperation with the Columbia Medical Society and Columbia Sertoma Club, contributed 500 volunteer work-hours resulting in over 90,000 Richland and Lexington County residents receiving the Salk vaccine.
In 1965 a similar program offered tetanus vaccine to thousands in this community. The Richland Club also sponsored the initial Boy Scouts of America Explorer Program in Greater Columbia and in cooperation with the Boy Scout Council, contributed funds to hire the first full-time director.
The Richland Sertoma joined other Sertoma Clubs in South Carolina to make Camp Sertoma a reality with donations of more than $4,600 to build this Clemson managed facility for underprivileged speech and hearing impaired children on Lake Hartwell. Since that time, an additional $2,500 has been contributed toward a swimming pool and a $10,000 pledge has been fulfilled for the Sertoma Foundation camp fund. Every summer the Club funds tuition for four to six Midlands children for a one-week session.
In addition to Camp Sertoma, the Richland Sertoma Club also sponsors other civic and educational programs. Some of these include the Columbia College "Collegiate Club," Columbia College scholarships for Speech and Hearing majors, and Columbia Base Camp, a structured home environment for veterans. The club also brings a “Signing Santa” each Christmas to the hearing impaired children at Brennen Elementary School.
For over 50 years the Richland Sertoma Club has earned dozens of national awards and recognitions by consistently providing service-to-mankind. Since its charter, the Richland Club has earned Gold Honor status twenty-two times and has raised well over $1,000,000 for various causes in the Midlands.
Richland Sertoma Club members have contributed significant leadership to Sertoma International. The late Pat Thrash was President of Sertoma International, 1965-1966 and Judge John Mason was elected International President in 1975. Joe Berry was International Director, 1965-1967 and District Governor, 1964-1965. Ten other club members have served as District Governor - Henry Turner, 1963-1964; Grover Richey, 1965-1966; Tom Lydon, 1975-1976, Jim Mason, 1978-1979; George Kosko, 1984-1985; Steve Etheredge, 1989-1992; Paul Ross, 1992-1993; Jack Sterne, 1993-1995 and again in 2003-2004; Bill Capilos, 1995-1996; Jeff Hanson 1997-1998 and Steven Langer, 2010-2012. Additionally, Steve Etheredge served as District Secretary-Treasurer, 1992-1993 and International Director, 1993-1995 and Jack Sterne served as South Carolina State Director, 1995-1997.
The Richland Sertoma Club offers several major community awards each year. Primary among those is the Service to Mankind award, which is given to a member of the greater Columbia community who has donated unselfishly of his or her time and effort to improve the quality of life for those in need. This award goes to a non-Sertoman whose community work is on a volunteer basis. Some of the past winners of the Service to Mankind award include: DeeAnn Jones of Children’s Chance, John Fling of the John Fling Ministries, Sister Kathy Riley of the Women's Shelter and Hank Chartos of Homeworks of South Carolina.
In conjunction with National Heritage Month each February, the club sponsors an annual essay writing contest on the topic "What Freedom Means to Me." The competition is open to all middle school students in Richland and Lexington counties and United States Savings Bonds are awarded to the top essays.
The group currently meets for lunch at the Capital City Club at 1201 Main Street, 25th Floor, on the first and third Thursdays at noon. Speaker topics range the gamut from community affairs, education, ethics, health, history, humor, politics and speech and hearing issues.