Exchange Club has served Greencastle kids for 25 years

PAT FRIDGEN

Greencastle Exchange Club is 25 years old, fully involved in projects fitting the national organization's core values - family, community and country. The mission is to make the communities better places to live. The club was founded Oct. 10, 1987. It meets every Thursday at 7:30 a.m. at Casey's for a breakfast meeting, and welcomes new members to carry out its projects, which are directed at children.

"I joined because of the kids," said Angie Rice. "I'm a mom and children are important to me. That's why we're all here."

The Exchange Club sponsors programs that apply to youngsters of all ages over the course of a year. It produces personalized books for first graders, who find their own names, as well as those of their friends and family, in its pages.

"It excites them to learn to read," said Nathan Nardi. "Our club owns the publishing rights to the books, and it is really supported by the school."

Character Counts assemblies are sponsored at the elementary school and middle school students are recognized with the Young Citizenship Award each month. Three $750 scholarships are given to graduating seniors. Other events take place around the calendar, such as movie nights, snow tubing, and the popular pool party at Moss Spring at the end of each school year.

"Hundreds of kids come," continued Nardi, "which means hundreds of hotdogs."

One of the most public activities of the Greencastle Exchange Club is its Christmas project, to distribute up to $60 worth of gifts to 200 children in the Greencastle-Antrim School District, whose parents have indicated a need. The gifts are purchased from a wish list, wrapped and delivered to the parents a week before Christmas. They give them to their children during the holiday celebrations in whatever manner they choose.

"They are not presents from Exchange," said Nardi.

The club also works in conjunction with Susquehanna Bank to provide an opportunity for children to meet Santa during Heritage Christmas. The three Friday evenings of the annual downtown celebration find Santa at Center Square, although applications for helping out with the role are most appreciated. The Exchange Club has the suit. Kids get their picture taken with the jolly old soul. The club also provides hot chocolate during the tree lighting ceremony.

Money for the multiple projects comes from corporate and individual donations, as well as from the annual golf tournament in May.

"Our club is different than some service organizations," said Eric Gossard. "They fund initiatives all over. We focus on Greencastle and keep the money here."

The group has scaled back some activities because membership is down, mostly due to job transfers. It encourages others to join, to help make a positive impact on youth.

"People are not aware of who we are and what we do," Nardi said. "We do a lot in the community. If they know about us and found a project they liked, they'd join us." Anyone interested in learning more should call 240-347-2006.

In honor of the club's 25th anniversary, it is adding a new judging category to the Halloween parade in 2012. Greencastle Exchange Club has sponsored the parade for several years, since a previous host stepped down.

The parade will be at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26. Registration begins at 6 p.m. at Jerome R. King Playground in the southern-most pavilion. Traditional prizes go for best costumes for individuals, groups and floats. The new prize is for any entry that best exemplifies Exchange's focus on service to family, community and country. Each participant will also get a blue ribbon in honor of the organization's national project, Prevention of Child Abuse.