HISTORY OF THE EXCHANGE CLUB OF GREATER NEWBURYPORT AND PROGRAM OF SERVICE
The current edition of the Exchange Club of Greater Newburyport, established in 1976, is the local chapter of the National Exchange Club, established in 1911 in Detroit.
Exchange is a service club made up of men and women wishing to make their communities better places in which to live. The national goal is the prevention of child abuse, with additional programs in community and children’s services and the promotion of the American spirit.
Perhaps the club is most noted for its annual “Field of Honor” around the September 11 date in which fire, police, military, EMT, and personal heroes are recognized through the dedication of up to 500 American flags on the Bartlet Mall. Ceremonies include remarks from notables such as the Mayor, the Veterans Affairs Officer, and other city, state, and national government representatives and patriotic musical selections, followed by a reading of dedicated names in a “Verbal Wall.” The traditional ending is the playing of bagpipes.
Surplus flags from the “Field of Honor” are used to line the race route for the annual Flag Day road race in memory of Newburyport native Lt. Derek Hines, lost in the war in Afghanistan.
Residents and visitors are also treated to Kids As Peacemakers murals in front of schools, churches, and civic organizations. Children in those institutions collaborate on creating a design for peace on a sheet of plywood that is mounted in front of their buildings. The Exchange Club purchases, primes, labels, and distributes the sheets of plywood.
The focus of child abuse prevention efforts is fundraising for the Michael B. Christensen
Community and Family Support Center in Lawrence, the Exchange Clubs of the Merrimack Valley regional model for breaking the cycle of child abuse through retraining and support for nurturing family practices and environments.
The club also donates teddy bears and coloring supplies to local police departments for use with children in distress at accident scenes or in domestic disputes.
Other children’s programs include sponsorship of a local Pioneer League baseball team, college scholarships for graduating seniors at Newburyport and Pentucket Regional High Schools, a free day of activities and food at “Kids’ Day in the Park” at Atkinson Common during Yankee Homecoming, and a holiday party for teen-age mothers to help create a positive child-rearing atmosphere.
General community service projects include two community dinners at the Salvation Army, an annual harbor cruise for citizens of two local adult day care centers, and a holiday party for a group home of developmentally delayed men, complete with dinner, gifts, an appearance by Santa Claus, and carol singing.
The local club meets on the first and third Tuesdays of the month at 6 p.m. at the Starboard Galley at 55 Water Street in Newburyport. Those wishing to participate in such a program of service while having fun and developing new friendships are welcome to attend a meeting.