History of the Altrusa Club
The Altrusa Club of Kansas City held its first organizational meeting on November 7, 1936 and in June 1938, with a membership of 23, the new officers and board were installed by International President Harriett Quisenberry. In October 1938, the Club held a luncheon which featured as speaker a famous Altrusan, Dr. Lillian Gilbreth of New York, the mother in “The Cheaper by the Dozen.” The Club was officially chartered in April 1942 and International President Nina Fay Calhoun presented the Charter. We lost our last charter member, Nell Donnelly Reed, in November 1991.
The Club’s first service project, in 1938, was furnishing clothing for two girls living at the Interdenominational Home for Homeless and Wayward Girls. The project was expanded in 1939 to giving each girl $1 each month for her personal needs.
During World War II, the Club volunteered with Red Cross first aid projects, US Bond drives, Servicemen’s Clubs and Canteen. After the war, other service projects included financial aid and personal service to children (Gillis Home, Jackson County Welfare, Cradles and Crayons, Ronald McDonald House, Operation Breakthrough, St. Vincent’s Day Care Center, City Union Mission Summer Camp for Kids), including emotionally disturbed children (Spofford Home), destitute women and alcoholic men and women (Jefferson Home, Winona Simmons Home, Kansas City Community Center), financial support to “build” women, in line with The Principles of Altrusa (NEWS House, Alternative Opportunities, Women’s Employment Network, Friendship House), and a wide range of others such as Harvester’s Community Food Network, Snoopy’s Pumpkin Patch UNICEF fundraiser, DeLaSalle Education Center, a voter registration drive for disabled individuals, and contributions to the Greater Kansas City Women’s Foundation and Altrusa International Foundation. In recent years, the Club has distributed approximately $20,000 to $25,000 in service funds each year.
In 1979, the Altrusa International Convention was held in Kansas City, which required lots of help from all members and resulted in lots of fun. We hosted the District Eight Conference in 1996 as well. We celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Club’s organization in November 1986, with the attendance of International President Norma Jean Najim, who initiated four new members into our Club that night. In 1992, the Club celebrated, in gala style, the 75th Anniversary of Altrusa International and the 50th anniversary of the chartering of our Club with a lovely fundraising dinner. Proceeds went to a local literacy foundation serving the local public schools and library.
A number of our members have been elected and selected to serve in various capacities at the District and International level, and we continue to win important awards at both levels. March Norvell served as International President. Katherine Vineyard served as District Governor. Jane Hart served as District Governor and International First Vice President. Sue Hart has served as District Treasurer. Suzanne Gladney topped them all by being named the 1999 recipient of the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award, given occasionally by Altrusa International Foundation to a member who has provided stellar service to all three levels of Altrusa and has demonstrated exemplary service to her community. All members of the Club have provided time and talent to all of the Club’s service and fundraising projects over the club’s 70-year history.
We continue to seek out service projects where our individual hands-on work and the proceeds of our fundraisers will really make a difference. Often, we take on small, new projects which have great ideas and great needs. In almost all of our projects, we find literacy to be a core need. Our monthly speakers keep us aware of our changing community and the challenges it faces. In all of this, we find friendship and fun we all enjoy.