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Fresh water wells in Western Africa, a sensory park in Germany, proms for disabled students across the United States and a research center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have more in common than merely being good deeds. All of the examples listed, and thousands of others, have one thing in common—they all started over a cup of coffee and a sandwich 100 years ago in Birmingham.
In 1917, Dr. Courtney Shropshire dropped by to visit Claude Hagan, a local pharmacist in Ensley, and a few hours later a new service organization—Civitan International—was born. Their first project was to raise money for the first street lights in downtown Birmingham but the ultimate goal was always to take a little bit of Birmingham hospitality to the world. They believed good citizenship and the “golden rule” were universal truths and set a goal to expand. By June of 1921, more than 30 Civitan clubs gathered in Birmingham for the first International Convention.
“A good citizen finds ways to serve his or her community,” says Kearney Hutsler, “Civitan provides me with a way to do that.”
Hutsler, a local attorney, is one of a long line of Birmingham residents—and one of 40,000 people globally—known as a Civitan. Today, the organization has grown to reach 49 countries and all age groups with clubs geared toward high schools, colleges and young professionals.
On March 17, 2017, the original Civitan Club of Birmingham turns 100 years old. Club members and friends will gather for a birthday reception at the Civitan International Research Center (CIRC)—the flagship program of the organization— in Birmingham’s Southside to mark the occasion on March 9th with food, drinks and a proclamation from the state designating March 17, 2017 as Civitan Centennial Day in Alabama.
This summer, Civitan will join with volunteers from around the world to hold its largest convention in history in Birmingham. For more information about Civitan International, please visit www.civitan.org
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