Sertoma got its start in Kansas City in 1912. The brainchild of three good friends who were having lunch one day,
the intention was to start an organization of acquaintances that might experience fraternity and also do a little business with one another. At first, they named the association the “Stand Together Club” but quickly it was renamed “The Co-Operative Club”.
There was no indication at first to start a national organization but as members moved to other cities and interest grew some started their own clubs. By 1920, an association of clubs were formed – mostly in Kansas – and a national president, Edward Freed, was selected. The first national convention was held in Kansas City in 1921. By 1923 a ladies’ auxiliary arose in Manhattan, Kansas and they called themselves the ‘Co-Operettes’. By 1928, that organization became national.
Sertoma Club of Downtown Indianapolis
Although the Great Depression was a difficult time for the Co-Operatives, they did continue to grow but not yet in Indiana. However, on a visit to St. Louis, an unnamed gentlemen from Indianapolis was a guest of a Co-Operative club in that city and decided such an organization would probably be popular in the Hoosier state. In those days, the Co-operatives had national organizers and they were called upon to help put together a Co-Operative Club in Indiana’s capital city. One thing led to the next and on October 15, 1938, the Indianapolis Co-Operative Club was chartered as club #120 with a banquet at the Indianapolis Athletic Club, with 44 charter members in attendance. Among those charter members were R.J. Pile, whose accounting firm is now one of the largest in Indianapolis, Noble Hiatt, who later penned the name Sertoma, Harold Hood, a renowned patent attorney, and Fae W. Patrick, the club’s first president.
The club continued to expand and by 1946, an issue of the Co-Operative Magazine, the national organization’s monthly publication, featured the local club. By then, the club had 73 members and had begun sponsoring Camp Delight, the Campfire Girls’ central Indiana campsite, building their infirmary and kitchen among other camp additions. They were about to hold their first major fundraiser, declaring an intention to bring the world-famous explorer Frank Buck for a lecture “… in an 11,000 seat auditorium” in the city.
In 1948, the national Co-Operative organization decided a new name would better connote its service purpose as it moved away from being businessmen’s clubs. They asked member clubs for naming ideas and offered a $500 prize for the winning entry. There were 49 finalists and the winner of course turned out to be Sertoma, submitted by Indianapolis Co-Operative Club member Noble Hiatt. The name was officially adopted by the international organization on June 21, 1950. Interestingly, the Indianapolis Club did not change its name to the Sertoma Club of
Downtown Indianapolis until several years later.
The Indianapolis Co-Operative Club started club-building in 1949 with what became the North Side Co-Operative Club. Mr. Noble Hiatt was the first charter president of the North Side club. Every other club in Indiana is an outgrowth of the original club and its early club-building.
Downtown Sertoma prospered over the years and kept its focus on downtown Indianapolis and speech and hearing projects. In 1973, the club honored Mr. Harold Hood as the last charter member of the club to still be active. In 1988, when Sertoma International finally approved a motion to allow women members, Downtown Sertoma became the first club in Indiana to have a female president, Sandra Wilt, an executive with Goodwill Industries. Also, in that year, the club celebrated its 50th anniversary with an event at the Columbia Club, with Sertoma International president, Karl Hanner, present.
During the past 25 years, the club has raised and given away nearly $200,000 in sponsorship funds. The club was instrumental in forming, with Indiana University, a speech camp for stutterers, and a deaf diving camp, in conjunction with the University of Indianapolis.
At the Club’s 60th anniversary event in 1998, a fund was created to build an endowment to provide speech and hearing service recognition. That fund was named the Noble Hiatt Sponsorship Fund.
Sertoma Club of North Indianapolis
On February 23, 1949, a group of twelve men met at the home of Noble W. Hiatt, a member of the Indianapolis Co-Operative Club to discuss the possibility of organizing the North Side Co-Operative Club of Indianapolis. Mr. Hiatt was designated as the first president of the club. A second meeting was held at the home of Dr. William Peet, the president of the Indianapolis Co-Operative Club. The next meeting was held at the Marott Hotel at noon on
March 10, 1949, as a friendly get-together to announce that Co-Operative International had approved April 16, 1949, as the charter date for the North Side Co-Operative Club. A dinner dance and charter party was held and the Co-Operative Club of North Indianapolis was chartered with 22 members.
Member Dr. K.R. Manning talked to the new club about the Crossroads Rehabilitation Center on July 11, 1949. This was the beginning of a relationship that still exists to this day. In September 1950, the club approved “The Sertoma Sheltered Workshop” at Crossroads and supplied the first powered sewing machines and two work tables. In the 60 years of sponsorship, the club has donated more than $1,000,000 to what is now known as Easter Seals Crossroads.
As noted earlier, the name Sertoma was coined by member Noble Hiatt who submitted the name in a contest in 1948 when he was a member of the Downtown Club. But he won the contest when he was president of the North Side club. Therefore, North Indianapolis Sertoma is credited with being the home club for the name Sertoma, a title the club is most proud of.
The club continued to meet at the Marott Hotel until 1977. Since that time the meetings have been held at the Chuck Wagon Restaurant and the North Meridian Inn (currently the location of Walgreen’s at 16th and Meridian). In 1977, the club settled at the current location of the Scottish Rite Cathedral in the George Washington Room.
In 1977, the club was the successful bidder for handling the concessions at the U.S. Clay Court Tournament, a relatively small event held at Woodstock Country Club. Through the efforts of member Mel Earley, the club completed the first year with a successful fundraiser by obtaining sponsorship money from the concession project. Records show that 13,168 sandwiches and 3,312 candy bars were sold the first year. Unknown at the time, this was to begin a long, continuous run of being involved with this tournament’s concessions. The run continued for 33 years in until 2009.
During the early periods the club provided all the materials and labor for all the concessions at the tournament. In 1998, a catering company took charge of the food portion and the club has provided the labor to man the concession stands for that caterer. Over 3,200 volunteer hours were required to complete this fundraiser. In 2009, the Club was asked by the tennis tournament caterer to provide manpower for a portion of the concessions at the 2009 U.S. Men’s Senior Open golf tournament at Crooked Stick in Carmel. We also have been asked to consider providing manpower for a portion of the concessions at the 2012 PGA BMW Championships at Crooked Stick.
The Sertoma Club of North Downtown Indianapolis
In April 2008, the Downtown Indianapolis Club and the North Indianapolis Club began discussion about merging the two clubs. The joint venture was a natural progression in their histories since the Downtown Indianapolis Club gave birth to the North Indianapolis Club in 1949. On July 1, 2008, the clubs officially merged to form the Sertoma Club of North Downtown Indianapolis. The name is significant in that it allows the retention of the important history of both clubs. When Sertoma International learned of the new name they were very excited that both clubs wanted to retain
their past accomplishments within the new club. As a result, Sertoma allowed the new club to retain the original charter date of the Downtown Indianapolis Club of October 15, 1938. Members of both clubs retained their seniority in the new club. The new club combined fundraisers from both of the old clubs with the Indianapolis Tennis Tournament and the Penrod Festival being the main events. The new club also retained the Noble Hiatt Sponsorship Fund for Speech and Hearing.
These are challenging times in our society. By belonging to a service club, personal satisfaction comes from helping others who are not as fortunate in life. There is also the friendship that comes from being a part of a group that is working for the good of the community. The Sertoma Club of North Downtown Indianapolis is a respected member of the community and will continue to strive to expand our reputation as a valued contributor to the betterment of Indianapolis.
The history of Sertoma and the Downtown Indianapolis Club was written by Chuck Corbin. Mr. Corbin is twice past president of the Sertoma Club of Downtown Indianapolis. He is currently on the Board of Directors for the Sertoma Club of North Downtown Indianapolis.
The history of the North Indianapolis Club and the North Downtown Indianapolis Club was written by Rick Craig. Mr. Craig is past president of the Sertoma Clbu of North Indianapolis.
Mr. Corbin and Mr. Craig were the two principals in arranging and organizing the merger of the Downtown Indianapolis and the North Indianapolis Clubs