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A Brief History of the Brainerd Area Sertoma Club
 “A little club with a big heart” could be used to describe the early days of the Brainerd Noon Sertoma Club or the Brainerd Area Sertoma Club as it was known then.  The origins of the club might have something to do with Dick Endres and his efforts to get Camp Confidence community support and with the impetus of Bob Putnam from the North Minneapolis Club.  In any case, a group of people got together on May 28th,1978, at Harold’s Club and decided to form a Sertoma club.  Their first recorded minutes indicate they were meeting in May of 1978.  They chartered their club on June 21 with the following 25 members: Jim Torfin, Art Jentsch, Mark Innes, Lee Miller, Chuck Bartels, Mike Manion, Robert Baker, Tom Welle, Harold Phillipy, Lawrence Holman, Les Frans, Jim Webb, Rick Johnson, Rod Converse, Don Orth, Bill Platte, Bob Ehrich, Ron Hart, Chuck Steinbauer, Larry McGerr, Chuck Isackson, Dave Logue, Don Nyberg, John Pecarich and Don Willette.

The group immediately began to do what Sertomans in Brainerd have been known to do ever since.  They got involved in speech and hearing activities right away doing hearing tests at the Minnesota State Fair.  Sergeants at Arms started fining people so they could win money.  It was a “leg” affair–turns out you had to be at the meeting and get your name drawn twice to have two legs to stand on and collect the pot.  They were listening to programs and speakers.  Programs haven’t changed much but a few sounded very interesting.  The first speaker was Pete Humphreys who gave out information on the Brainerd Indian heritage.  Famous locals, Babe Winkelman and John Hassler, dropped by.  Some hilarious highlights of Vikings games, home travel movies and even some educational film  entitled “Will There Always Be an England” entertained people as they met in service to mankind.  Even the newsletter under the direction of Les Franz had its entertaining moments. Les was absent for a few weeks and his sub had to comment, “Joe Zake presented a program on Beekeepers.  I made the  mistake of stating Joe was going to talk about the birds and the bees.  Only 11 members showed, the rest figured they knew everything concerning the birds and the bees.”

The group wanted to combine service projects with fun and they did so from the beginning.  On January 28,1979 mention is made of going out to Camp Confidence for a get-together and woodcutting.  Other social events scheduled for the year included a stag fishing party, a Chanhassen Dinner Theater Trip, a summer BBQ, and a fall mystery trip.  This group early on made up their minds that they weren’t just dipping in their pockets to contribute money but they were going to contribute their time and talents to serving the Brainerd area.  They were out selling tickets for the Country Western Medicine Show which they sponsored.  They were helping with the Summer Olympics Fishing Trip, the Camp Confidence Celebrity Golf Tournament and organizing a Rose Sale for secretaries day.

The group continued along until the mid-eighties when the decision not to limit growth opened the club up to the first women members, Karen Owen and Lori Volkmuth.  And then along came Hopper and things really started to rock and roll.  As one of the charter members put it, “Jon knew everyone and he used his contacts to help the club grow and prosper”.  They moved from Harold’s Club to the Holiday Inn because they needed more room.  The Swinging Sertomans were born when Brainerd hosted its first ever Regional Convention.  Jon was elected to several different offices which culminated in his International Presidency.  Many of the long-time Sertomans and some of our newer members have held office above the local level.  The Club has received many awards.  They moved to Bonanza because of the increase in size.  In the last few year’s the highlights of the Club have included creating a living memorial to Jon Haapajoki who died in 1999 in the form of Camp Sertoma for deaf and hard of hearing children.

The group continues its spirit of being a club with a big heart even though it has achieved the honor of being the world’s largest Sertoma Club. Members still believe in working to serve mankind with time and talents not dollars while enjoying each other’s company and developing life-long friends.  Each one of the following  Sertomans of the Year represent the dedication and hard work of all the members who have made the club successful: Bob Ehrich 1983, Don Willette 1984, Chuck Bartels 1985, John Haapajoki 1986, Dennis Lutterman l987, Les Franz l988, Tim Volkmuth l989, Gary Loge l990, Dave Burggraff 1991, Karen Owen 1992, Mark Puschinsky 1993, Tom Swanson l994, Tom Rosenberger 1995, Rick Besmehn 1997, Reed Campbell 1998, Brian Skogen, 1999, Randy Phillips 2000, and Milo Johnson 2001.

Rod Converse, Sertoma’s first president, summed up the club very well when he said, “It was fun watching it grow because of its unique combination of the service and social aspects.  It has always been a a good mix of professions and a great group of people”.  Maybe that is why Rod continued to be a member even when he was in Iowa for five years.

Karen Owen is currently chairman of the new history committee.  They are currently compiling records and working on Committee Protocol to improve the chain of command.