Club History

In 1951, a small group of Lawrence business women formed the nucleus of the Altrusa Club of Lawrence. The organizer, Faye Brown, was intent upon forming a local Altrusa Club and set about encouraging women from various businesses and professions to become charter members of the local organization. The Altrusa Club of Lawrence was chartered, with a membership of 18, on January 14, 1953.

Soon after being chartered, Altrusa members installed and operated a snack bar at Lawrence Memorial Hospital – no such facility having been available to hospital visitors or staff before that time. Altrusa members were responsible for the entire operation and tended this operation for many years, until the hospital installed its own cafeteria. The money earned from the snack bar eventually provided the means to help start Hospice Care of Douglas County in the early 1980s. Hospice was a principal recipient of our annual fund-raising efforts for many years.

In support of Altrusa’s international goal of helping to alleviate the problem of illiteracy, the club has undertaken a variety of projects. The Club’s longest standing literacy service is providing a new book to each newborn baby at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. More than 15,000 books have been given out in the more than fifteen years this project has been operating. In recent years, we formed a partnership with New York Elementary School to provide items for students, support for various projects, conducting a Book Club for 5th graders, and members read to elementary school students one day a week.

The River City Reading Festival was born out of one woman’s desire to bring to the Lawrence community an event which celebrates reading at all ages. The enthusiasm for the project was contagious and energized Club members to take on the challenge of creating the event from the ground up. The mission of the River City Reading Festival was to celebrate literacy through an annual free festival for children, teens and adults. The Festival debuted in 2007, with author presentations, readings and workshops available, including keynote speaker and author Jim Lehrer, a Kansas native. In 2008, the River City Reading Festival was relocated to the Lawrence Public Library and the focus remained on all age groups – adults, youth and kids – and the day’s activities included activities for all. The last River City Reading Festival was held in 2009 with the focus on literacy programming for children.

Although none of our original charter members are still living, Altrusa of Lawrence, Kansas continues to benefit from the standards they set and the beginnings they made for us to contribute needed and valued services to the community. We need look only as far as our past District Eight Governor, Patie Fielding, to appreciate the groundwork they laid for us to train leaders among our own members. We look forward to continuing for many years the traditions established by our charter members.

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