As one of two LaSertoma clubs still active in Canada, the Chatham LaSertoma Club wants the community to know its doors are open to new members, and that applications are available for scholarships the club supports.
At a meeting recently, club members, including President Helen Williston and Treasurer Barb Rylett, explained the many scholarships and charitable donations the club is involved in.
With a current roster of 25 registered members and several more volunteers, the Chatham LaSertoma Club was founded in April of 1959. The only other club in Canada is in Thamesville, which is quite active in this area.
Williston said while in the beginning, LaSertoma was comprised of wives, sisters and moms of Sertoma members, the clubs now have both male and female members, all dedicated to giving back to the community.
“We are open to all new members and people who are interested in giving back to the community,” Williston said. “We have three-hour meetings once a month and we are always looking for new members with new ideas for fundraising or sponsorships.”
The club is responsible for a number of scholarships in the community, according to Rylett, including ones for continuing education, persons with special needs enrolled in graduate studies, special nursing scholarships for those in a baccalaureate degree nursing program entering third or fourth year, Youth Service Award citations to recognize young people involved in community service, the Youth Campership Program, as well as supporting literacy, and persons who are hearing impaired.
Williston said the club also will give sponsorship to groups or individuals in need who come to the club with a request if the funds are available and the need is there. While maybe a specific scholarship is available to only one or two winners, the club will try to help all the people who apply.
“We look at each application separately and if we can afford it, we will find money for those as well,” she noted.
February is LaSertoma International Youth Service Month, Williston said, with an emphasis on what are youth are doing in service to the community. Last year, Rylett added, the young man whose name they put forward to LaSertoma International was involved with ACCESS Open Doors mental health program for youth.
“He volunteered there and represented his school. He was a great speaker; at 14, he sounded like he was 25,” Rylett said.
To apply, the youth, 19 years or younger, needs to write an essay about themselves and fill out the application form. The deadline is Feb. 28 but Williston said the club would consider all applications right up until they need to submit a recommendation the week before March 23. The regional winner is announced April 21 and will go on to the international convention this year in St. Louis.
As a supporter of literacy, Rylett said they have given away many books, including books for children with autism.
“We want to get books into the hands of kids who normally don’t have books, and now Bibles for Missions is also on board with donating books to the WISH Centre in Chatham,” Rylett said. “Basically anyone who is in need can make a presentation to us and we will consider it.”
To raise funds each year to give away the approximately $30,000 the group puts back into the community, LaSertoma holds Quarter Auctions, including one coming up on May 12 at a Mother’s Day luncheon at the WISH Centre. Tickets are $12 with a 50/50 draw and all proceeds going to local charities and the scholarship fund.
Williston said any newcomers would be welcomed with open arms into a fun and friendly club that has a mission of working together, fellowship and community service and promoting youth and education.