In February of 1825, the Marion Altrusa Club was organized with the help of a club from Columbus. They started with twenty members, just eight years after the Altrusa Institute was founded in Nashville, Tennessee in 1917. This organization is now known as Altrusa International, and the local club is the Marion Altrusa International Club.
In 1917 the club started because many women were going to work during World War I. This began a need for women’s civic organizations. Some of the first people that helped to start the Altrusa clubs were Dr. Alfred Durham and Mamie Bass. It was Mamie Bass, who had served as the Superintendent of the Women’s Division of the United States Employment Services and was a partner in her brother’s architecture firm, who felt Altrusa could serve a higher purpose. In June of 1918, Altrusa held its first convention in Indianapolis and became a service organization for women.
This made Altrusa the first club of its kind for businesswomen in the U.S., and the Marion chapter was started in those early years. The purpose of Altrusa is to serve the community. They believe that everyone is able to make a positive difference to the world around them, leading to a better community.
The Marion Altrusa International Club has been involved in so many service projects over the years. Some of those projects have been the American Red Cross, Mobile Meals, the Palace Restoration, Newspapers in Education, the Women’s Homeless Shelter, Bingo at Marion Manor, Relay for Life, GED Scholarships and Big Brothers & Big Sisters. They have also helped in projects with other organizations. They can be found helping Kiwanis to help with their Pancake Day and the Peace and Freedom Committee with their MLK event.
Their current program focus also includes the Dress for Success program. This local program helps schoolchildren. It provides a new outfit for thirty students’ first day of school, along with a book bag with new school supplies. These underprivileged students get a great start to school success. The Club does this with collaboration from Big Brothers and Kohl’s Department Stores.
The Marion Altrusa Club also helps with the RxMarion program. In cooperation with the Ohio Health Marion General Hospital Foundation, they help provide one-time prescription medications to those in need. All of these projects illustrate the organization’s core principle of serving humanity in our community.
The Marion Altrusa members are involved in district conferences annually, national conventions every other year and every sixth year the international conference. Altrusa now is an international organization welcomes both men and women.
From the Marion Club, through the years, two of their members have served on the International level and several on the District level. Virginia Howard has been a member since 1963. She currently holds Emeritus status. She was the owner of Howison-Howard Interiors on S. Prospect St. in Marion. The longest active member is Norma Castanien. Norma has been a member since 1971. She was employed at General Telephone Company.
Phyllis Hendrix, director of the Wyandot Popcorn Museum and long-time member of the Popcorn Festival committee, became a member in 1985. She has served on many Altrusa committees and held office over the years. Phyllis shared, “The best thing about being in Altrusa is the friendships and relationships you make over the years on the local, district and international level. It takes networking to a never imagined level. Altrusa provides members the opportunity to be more involved in their local community with people they might never have met while extending the efforts of the organization.”
Today, the Marion Altrusa has twenty-five members that meet the 2nd and 4th Tuesday, from September through May. Like many service clubs, they are experiencing a loss in membership.
But the Marion group hopes to encourage the next generations to become a part of a group that continues to be involved in the growth and progress of our community.
The Marion Altrusa International Club is an outstanding organization that has served our community in so many ways for almost 100 years. For more information about Altrusa and our local club, contact Phyllis Hendrix at email@example.com