News

Sertoma Club Raises Funds For Hearing Loss

May 26, 2015
By John Lovett – Times Record – jlovett@swtimes.com

The Sertoma Club, the “Service To Mankind” civic club which primarily raises funds for those in need of hearing aids, is in the middle of its local and national fundraising campaign.

The Downtown Fort Smith Sertoma Club also provides the track and field medals for the Special Olympics as well as support for a number of other local service organizations like the Gregory Kistler Treatment Center For Children and the Fort Smith Boys & Girls Club.

Following the cancellation of its annual golf tournament two years ago, the 62-year-old Fort Smith club has relied entirely on donations from private individuals and businesses. The tournament usually raised between $7,000 and $8,000, which was about 95 percent of the group’s annual budget and enough for three or four hearing aids.

Since March, the club has raised about $6,000.

“These donations are our livelihood,” Downtown Fort Smith Sertoma Club President Robert Young said. “We need contributions to continue to serve at the level we want to.”

The club sponsors at least two people a year to buy custom-made amplifiers that can run $1,000 each for basic models. Due to their negotiations with hearing aid companies and local audiologists’ help, the club is able to purchase hearing aids for those in need at a discounted rate, Young said.

Banks and Walmart have been very supportive of the 501(c)(3)-status nonprofit organization, Young said.

Donors are listed at the club’s website, fortsmithsertoma.com, and levels of sponsorship range from $100 bronze to $1,000 platinum levels.

Audiologists donate their time and offer discounts negotiated by Sertoma Club members, he added.

Dr. Lori Boyd at the Center for Hearing said the hearing aid company Starkey has a charitable program that allows patients to apply for donated hearing aids, but there is an application fee of $125 per hearing aid. The fee is a challenge to meet for those who are financially strained. The Sertomans take candidates for sponsorship to the Starkey program.

Harley Strang, a retired local banking executive who interviews candidates for hearing aids, said what keeps him going is seeing the smiles, and sometimes tears, on people’s faces once they are able to hear.

The American Academy of Audiology says untreated hearing loss has serious emotional and social consequences for older people, according to a study by the National Council on Aging.

“For those who feel like they can’t go to an audiologist because they can’t afford it, there is a source where they can apply for help, and that’s us,” Strang said.

In the past 10 years, 20 members of the Sertoma Club have passed away, Strang said. The group now has 16 members. Meetings are held every Friday at noon in the Golden Corral, 1801 S. Waldron Road, in Fort Smith.

While Sertoma’s primary focus is on assisting the more than 50 million people with hearing health issues and educating the public on the issues surrounding hearing health, the group also sponsors community projects to promote freedom and democracy, to assist youth and to benefit a variety of other local community needs, according to the Sertoma Club website.

Some of the other local groups the Sertoma Club supports are Single Parent Scholarships, Crisis Center for Women, Hanna House, Camp Dream Street and the Fort Smith Police Department. The group also works to help local families with children during Christmas and gives “heritage speeches” and copies of the Declaration of Independence to area ninth-grade students.

Sertomans Offer A Sound Service

Swtimes Monday Matters December 30, 2013
By John Lovett – Times Record – jlovett@swtimes.com

Dr. Lori Boyd

When Ludwig Van Beethoven began to lose his hearing at age 30, it is said, he became so sullen that he considered suicide. Thankfully he didn’t, because his most lasting pieces like his “9th Symphony” were composed in those final years before his death in 1827.

For the past 60 years, the Downtown Fort Smith Sertoma club has helped many people who have lost their hearing but are unable to afford hearing aids. The club sponsors at least two people a year to buy custom-made amplifiers that can run $1,000 each for basic models.

Sertoma is an acronym for Service To Mankind. The club’s primary mission is to provide hearing aids for the hearing impaired.

“We have empathy and compassion for those who are hearing impaired,” Sertoma Club member Harley Strang says. “We have provided hearing aids for many, and we can tell you from experience that when we provide hearing aids to those who need them and you see their eyes light up and the smile on their faces, it makes it all worthwhile.”

One young man the club sponsored for a hearing aid was an excellent student, Strang said, but hearing loss was hindering his educational progress. Candidates for sponsorship by the club go through an application process. Sometimes they are referred to the club by audiologists at the Center for Hearing, 4300 Rogers Ave.

Leeann Harrelson, office manager at the Center for Hearing, said the audiologists know the Sertoma club has limited funds and only refers those who may have no other way to pay.

Dr. Lori Boyd at the Center for Hearing said the hearing aid company Starkey has a charitable program that allows patients to apply for donated hearing aids, but there is an application fee of $125 per hearing aid, which is also a challenge to meet for those who are financially strained. The Sertomans take candidates for sponsorship to the Starkey program, too.

While simply losing the ability to hear the birds sing is unfortunate and can bring on a sullen mood, hearing loss can actually lead to more serious conditions, from depression to dementia, Boyd said.

“People will begin to isolate themselves, because they feel it’s just too much trouble to communicate,” Boyd said. “With just a mild hearing loss, people are twice as likely to develop dementia.”

The American Academy of Audiology says untreated hearing loss has serious emotional and social consequences for older people, according to a study by the National Council on Aging.

Of 2,300 hearing impaired adults age 50 and older, the study found that those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report depression, anxiety and paranoia and were less likely to participate in organized social activities compared to those who wear hearing aids.

In addition to helping those in need buy hearing aids, Sertoma also supports local charities, including the Gregory Kistler Treatment Center, the Fort Smith Boys & Girls Club, Special Olympics and Policeman of the Year. They also name a Sertoman of the Year and give a Service to Mankind Award annually.

The local Sertoma club was founded on Dec. 5, 1953, and still has one charter member, Wayne “Smitty” Smith. With only 16 current Fort Smith Sertomans, membership has fallen in the past few years as older members pass away, Strang said.

The Sertomans hold two fundraisers a year, the annual Jim Griffith Memorial Golf Tournament at Deer Trails Golf Course at Chaffee Crossing in June, and a cookout at the Greenwood Fall Festival in November. The golf tournament raises 95 percent of the club’s donations. With the cookout and sponsors, the club raises about $7,000 a year for donations.

Meetings are held every Friday at noon in the Golden Corral Buffet & Grill, 1801 S. Waldron Road, in Fort Smith.

Sertoma International is the third oldest civic organization in the United States, its website states, and one of the smallest with only about 17,000 members. There are Sertomans in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The organization’s main focus is “communicative disorders,” but member clubs are given the latitude to sponsor those activities that will most benefit the community.

Club activities are also intended to increase public awareness of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss.

Sertomans, Smith Have Served Area Well

SWTimes Letters December 27, 2013

The Fort Smith Downtown Sertoma Club is 60 years old this year. We meet every Friday at noon at the Golden Corral.

Sertoma stands for Service to Mankind. Our primary mission is to provide hearing aids for the hearing impaired who can’t afford them. We have empathy and compassion for those who are hearing impaired. We have provided hearing aids for many, and we can tell you from experience that when we provide hearing aids to those who need them and you see their eyes light up and the smile on their faces, it makes it all worthwhile.

We also support some local charities, including the Kistler Center, Boys and Girls Club, Special Olympics, Policeman of the Year, etc.

We have the Sertoman of the year award to the member who has given outstanding service to the club. Also, we select a local citizen who’s contributed much to the community for the service to mankind award. This being our 60th year, we have one active charter member, Wayne “Smitty” Smith, who has served the club faithfully for the past 60 years. He’s a living example of service to mankind.

Harley Strang
Sertoma member, Fort Smith