The year 2020 saw the end of an era in Turlock, as the city’s oldest service club gathered for the last time.
The Turlock Exchange Club, founded on Dec. 9, 1925 (just weeks before the Rotary Club was officially started in town), had its final meeting on Oct. 28, 2020, ending an almost 95-year tradition in Turlock.
The Exchange Club is a nationwide organization, originally formed in 1911 in Detroit, Michigan, with the goal of bringing like-minded individuals together to exchange ideas and information about how to better serve their communities.
The Turlock chapter of the Exchange Club was formed by local merchants, businessmen and farmers in 1925, with L.E. Neel serving as its first president. Soon after the club was formed, members donated the playground equipment at Crane Park and sponsored a stage production at Turlock High School.
During the Great Depression years, it became an annual tradition for the Exchange Club to feed the needy children of Turlock at Christmas and provide gifts. The club also hosted a community Easter egg hunt for the children.
During the World War II years, the club was responsible for the construction of the Youth Center on East Avenue and competed with the Rotary Club to see who could sell the most war bonds.
A philanthropic competition between Turlock’s Exchange Club and its fellow service club, Rotary, persisted throughout the years — with the community reaping the financial benefits of their antics. An annual golf tournament between the two clubs lasted for decades.
More recently, the Exchange Club has hosted social events and its famous annual crab feed with the goal of raising money for local charities including Teen Challenge, Turlock Gospel Mission, Westside Ministries and youth baseball teams.
Twenty-five-year Exchange Club member Scott Atherton said he is going to miss the camaraderie of the weekly club meetings and seeing members “fined” with the proceeds going to good causes.
“It became like a family,” said Atherton.
Many have served the club through the decades, with Tim Sanders being the Exchange Club’s final president at its last meeting held at Pedretti’s (formerly Latif’s) in October. The club will, however, forever remain a part of Turlock’s history.