Roads We've Traveled

Ordinary Heroes: The Lawrence Exchange Club

While stopping at a local Middle Eastern restaurant called Shadi’s in North Andover, I saw a poster advertising a charity boxing event. As someone who’s boxed on and off since college – and someone whose lamented the sport’s gradual decline, I decided to enquire further about the event. I met the folks involved in sponsoring it and, as it turns out, they’re a group of dedicated residents of the Lawrence area who help raise money for the betterment of their community and its youth. I asked if it was all right to talk to them about their work in their community and as a result, I have the first of several articles about volunteering. It’s called “ordinary heroes” and part one, starts with the Lawrence Exchange Club.

Twenty-Seven and Counting

LAWRENCE, MA – Sponsored by the Exchange Club of Lawrence and now in its 27th year, the annual Charity Fight Night will take place this Friday evening at the Doubletree Andover Hotel in Andover, Massachusetts. Since it’s birth, the event has raised a great deal of money for the communities of Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover.

“It’s been a great success,” said Dave Ferguson, an Exchange Club member, “We have raised over half-a-million dollars off this event.”

Promo Poster of the Charity Fight Night

According to the National Exchange web site, the very first Exchange Club was founded in Detroit, Michigan in 1911. In 1917, the National Exchange Club was founded as a nonprofit educational group. Now, the group is spread across the United States and its Lawrence branch is one of many. They are a group that prides itself on its volunteer efforts so the money they raise can just go to where it is needed.

“We’re a hundred-percent volunteer organization,” Ferguson said. He said the club does not employ paid fundraisers, and no employees.

Larry Yameen, another member of the club explained that they weren’t simply folks who wrote checks. They volunteer, they get involved and they raise the money themselves.

“Every dollar that we donate is money that we’ve raised or that someone has donated to us,” said Ferguson. “We don’t have huge grants. We don’t have an endowment.”

“And when the cupboards are empty, the cupboards are empty,” Ferguson said. “That’s when we have to go out and find another way to raise some money.”

“We’re not in it to get our name in the newspaper,” Ferguson said about the Exchange Club and volunteer groups in general. “We’re not in it to get our picture taken.”

Ideas and Events

The Charity Fight Night is just one of many upcoming events. Also, up and coming is a charity golfing event. Any idea on how to raise money for charity is welcome.

“Anyone who’s got an idea,” Ferguson said, “we’re willing to run with it.”

Whether it’s a member who plays in a local band who’s playing for charity, comedy nights, even “night golf” where participants hit glow-in-the-dark golf balls, or their food truck which is out and about during the Lawrence Feast of the Three Saints, the club doesn’t shy away from new ideas.

The Feast of the Three Saints in Lawrence Massachusetts, 2016

“There is no idea that we won’t do. If someone has a good idea on how to raise money,” said Ferguson, “we are on board.”

“Every dime of that goes right back into the community,” said Ferguson. “That’s the beauty of what we do.”

When asked why they got involved in this service organization, an Exchange Club member named Bob Wescott simply stated: “Somebody asked.”

Ferguson himself said he got the idea of being involved with the community from his own parents. He said he grew up in upstate New York, and his parents were greatly involved in their community.

“The level of involvement they had in their community,” Ferguson said, “it just was amazing.”

He said his parents were involved in multiple boards for local libraries and hospitals. As he got older, Ferguson said he began to ask himself what he was giving back to the community? And, now when he helps with the Exchange Club, he knows he’s not only giving back, but honoring the memory of parents.

The Exchange Club’s Major Principles and Causes

The Exchange Club itself, Ferguson said, is built on three major principles.

“It’s built on Americanism, it’s built on community services,” Ferguson said, “and it’s built on youth services.”

Part of the youth services involved the guiding of smaller “Junior” Exchange Clubs in Lawrence Public Schools. For example, Ferguson said, students at the Wetherbee K-8 school wanted to build a walking path from the school to a local boathouse. To do so, these students needed funding.

“They went in front of the (Lawrence) City Council,” Ferguson said, “and these are elementary kids.”

Ferguson said a large part of these clubs is to give kids the opportunity to do something good for their community. The adults guide the clubs, but the students ultimately run them and come up with the ideas for community service.

“They put us to shame more times than not,” Ferguson said, “Their level of energy, their level of excitement, their ideas…”

Ferguson said there were about half a dozen of school-based clubs that range in age from elementary to high school. He hopes that the students in these clubs grow up and continue to help their communities in the same way.

“We’re developing people who are become hopefully going to become future members of the exchange,” said Ferguson.

Another major focus of youth services is one that the National Exchange Club declared, back in the late 70’s, that it would be it’s major focus. That cause,  according to Ferguson, was the prevention of child abuse.

The Lawrence Exchange Club does its part by raising money for places such as the Michael B. Christensen Family Support Center in Lawrence. Michael B. Christensen, Ferguson explained, was a former Exchange Club President and a police officer who unfortunately died of cancer at a relatively young age. He said it was a real honor that the center was named for him.

The Exchange Club also raises money for other clubs and organizations that serve Lawrence’s youth and poor such as The Lazarus Lazarus House of Lawrence as well as the Boys and Girls Club. But it’s not just organizations that receive Exchange club aid.

“We give to nonprofits but we also give it directly to individuals,” Ferguson said. “If there’s a family in need, certain circumstances.”

He said that all donations and requests are reviewed by the Board of the Exchange Club and special circumstances include a family that may need immediate, and temporary help such as if the family were displaced by fire.

“Wherever there’s a need,” said Ferguson.

There’s Never Enough

Ferguson said they are not a religious organization and people of all faiths within the group. And that Americanism was about “keeping our country great” and remembering all of the folks who serve the community including police and fire departments as well as the nations armed forces. Last summer Ferguson said, the Lawrence Exchange Club banded together with other Merrimack Valley area clubs to raise money for 1st Lt Derek Hines Soldiers Assistance Fund. The money was sent to the Hyams Foundation, who put it back into the Merrimack Valley for homeless troops for troops.

“Unfortunately, we never have enough,” said Ferguson, not just for homeless troops but all the worthy causes for which they try to raise money.

“But,” he said, “we do our very best.”

For more information about the Lawrence Exchange Club or to get tickets to the upcoming Charity Fight Night or other charity events, please go to the Lawrence Exchange Club web site:

For more information on the Michael B. Christensen Center and other Family Resources in Lawrence, click on the following links:

Michael B. Christensen Center:

Lazarus House:

Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence:

For more information about the National Exchange Club, try the following link: