Civitan International in the United States is a product of a group of professional and business leaders who often held meetings at Birmingham as part of the national civic club. The national civic club was mainly founded on personal gain. In a meeting in 1917, the group of professional and business leaders reformed the club into one that would serve the needs of the community and the world at large. The group of men all held the thought that their actions would assist in building the community and world. The newly formed independent service organization formed on March 17, 1917, was named Civitan, which was derived from the Latin word civitas that meant good citizenship. This explains its mottoBuilders of Good Citizenship. The reformation of the Civitan club into the Civitan International in April 15m 1920 was mainly influenced by the club’s third president, Dr. Courtney Shropshire. Dr. Courtney doubled up as the club’s president and local surgeon. The elected leaders of the international club were Rev. J.A. MacSporran as the vice president, John Fry as the treasury, and John Mix as the secretary.
The Civitan International club introduced a 1’oclock weekly Friday meeting at the Emerson Hotel whose membership is limited to one representative of every profession or business (The Baltimore Sun, 1921). Since 1921, the leaders who have spoken in the luncheon include Col. Arthur F. Woods who urged the members to take advantage of the unemployment problem in the United States, Mayor Broening who substituted Howard Jackson, C. T Marshall Chief Justice of the U.S Supreme Court of Ohio who urged citizens to corporate in order to end the menace facing America, the Brazilian Consul George William Chester who remarked that the developed of international trade resulted from the abolition of slavery in 1880, Miss Edith M. Kempothorne who introduced the Camp Fire Course to train leaders, A.M Free of California who suggested that women were the reason for the unrest in the United States, and Bishop John Gardener who urged workers to donate to worthy courses only (The Baltimore Sun, 1921; The Baltimore Sun, 1922; The Baltimore Sun, 1923; The Baltimore Sun, 1925; The Baltimore Sun, 1924; The Baltimore Sun, 1925).
Several other clubs were formed across the United States in the following years with the Birmingham Civitan Club as the Mother Club of the Civitan International. In 1921, the Civitan Club acquired its charter from the national body. (The Baltimore Sun, 1921). During the first convention in 1921 held in Birmingham, the international club had a total of 30 clubs and over 300 delegates. In the second convention, the club had further grown into 115 clubs and over 3,300 civitans in 1925. During the second convention, Shropshire was given the titleFounder of Civitan International because of leading the international club for two terms as president. A luncheon organization was formed in 1921 that was to be held at 1’oclock every Friday at the Emerson. In 1932, the first international club was formed in Toronto, Canada by one of the Civitans who had relocated to Toronto for business purposes. In 1969, a European club was formed in Norway and later spread to Germany and Sweden in 1970, Asia in 1974, and Japan in 1975. Today, there are clubs in 47 nations like Jordan, Ghana, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Russia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Nepal among many others. The membership of the clubs is open to both male and females after membership was extended to female sin 1974. Among the famous members of the club include President John F. Kennedy, President William Clinton, racecar driver Richard Petty, and athlete Bo Jackson among many others.
The main projects undertaken by the early members revolved around providing aid to the less fortunate in the society. The first community services provided by the Civitan club were during the World War I that started just a month after the formation of the club. The club mainly helped the soldiers fighting and welcoming the veterans into the club after returning home from the war. Other outstanding aid projects conducted included Civitans in Knoxville, Tennessee raising $ 100,000 for the establishment of a three-story hospital for patients suffering from tuberculosis in 1923. Civitans in Rogersville, Alabama raised $40,000 to establish a high school in 1929 after the local school committee was put to an end. The Civitan club held club contests and raised $300,000 to establish an extra wing at the Children’s Hospital School adjacent to Druid Hill Park (The Baltimore Sun, 1922). The Civitan club held an affair at the Auditorium Theatre with radio and dance stars in order to raise funds to help the crippled children (The Baltimore Sun, 1922). A depot at 202 North Pearl Street was established and a truck was deployed for people to donate clothes and shoes. In 1960, the club started awarding scholarships to college students after forming the Civitan International Foundation. The foundation was formed in memory of Dr. Courtney Shropshire who died in 1965.
The Civitans also assists the disabled children to take part in physical activities like walking and building parks and taking part in their civic duty of voting. To further support the disabled in the society, the club built a Research Center in 1992 at the Univeristy of Alabama, Birmingham that focuses on conducting research studies on developmental disabilities. The Research Center was unveiled during the 75th anniversary celebrations of the Civitan International Club. The running of the Research Center is possible through a $20 million commitment fund from the Civitan International, the Civitan Chesapeake District’s Foundation, and personal donations from all Civitans. The yearly donations have aided the Research Center to purchase resources needed for the research studies.
The International Research Center has made tremendous breakthroughs since its formation. It has incorporated the Civitan Sparks Clinic that was formerly known as the Sparks Center for Learning and Developmental Disorders, a treatment center in Birmingham, and a clinical diagnosis. As a way of marking their centennial anniversary, the club formed a Young adults club known as the Young Professionals or the YP Civitan Clubs. A Civitan International Neuroimaging laboratory was formed in 2016 to assist scientists in conducting more advanced research about neurological disorders.
In order to conduct their aid projects, the club depends on donations from good Samaritans and the revenue generated from the sale of Claxton Fruit Cake. There is also candy boxes placed in restaurants where patron would donate their loose change into the candy boxes and get a mint in exchange. Since 1976 when the Civitans in Louisville, Kentucky formulated the idea, a total of $50 million has been raised to support the club’s aid projects. A Restoration Fund campaign was launched by the club to raise funds to renovate the International headquarters building in preparation of their Centennial International Convention in 2017.
To find more about the club’s course, one can visit the official website, www.civitan.org. Or call at 1-800-CIVITAN. Any media inquiries should be done at the PR and Communications Department by emailing them at [email protected]
https://civitan.org/centennial-history-timeline/ https://civitan.org/about-us/history-of-civitan/ The Baltimore Sun. (1921). Civitan Club Organized, ProQuest Historical Newspapers, p 4. The Baltimore Sun. (1921). Col. Woods Says Radicals Profits by Unemployment, ProQuest Historical Newspapers, p9. The Baltimore Sun. (1923). Jackson to Address Civitan Club, ProQuest Historical Newspapers, p 4. The Baltimore Sun. (1925). Bolshevism Cure offered by Jurist, ProQuest Historical Newspapers, p 3. The Baltimore Sun. (1922). Camp Fire Course Began, ProQuest Historical Newspapers, p.5. The Baltimore Sun. (1922). Clubs in Hot Contest To Aid Cripple Children, ProQuest Historical Newspapers, p 4. The Baltimore Sun. (1924). Brazilian Consul is Speaker, ProQuest Historical Newspapers, p 3. The Baltimore Sun. (1925). Women are Blamed for unrest in United States, ProQuest Historical Newspapers, p 9. The Baltimore Sun, Community Fund Teams Report $ 167,000, ProQuest Historical Newspapers, p 28. The Baltimore Sun. (1921). Civitan Clubs gets Charter, ProQuest Historical Newspapers, p 7.
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