A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE OVERLAND SERTOMA CLUB
FORT COLLINS, COLORADO
Forty years ago, in June of 1974, a group of young Fort Collins businessmen decided to form a local chapter of an international service club called SERTOMA. The word is actually an acronym for three words: SERvice TO MAnkind. The international focus was assistance to those with speech and hearing disabilities.
After obtaining their charter from Sertoma International, the members the Overland Sertoma Club gathered each Wednesday for a noon luncheon at a now defunct Italian restaurant named Giuseppe’s which was located in the space most recently occupied by The Armadillo restaurant. The main focus of those early meetings was to identify worthy causes to assist, and how to raise the funds to provide that assistance.
One of the first fundraisers was picking cucumbers at the old pickle factory off of Riverside. The club was grateful for the opportunity to earn some money, but feedback from the members indicated that it was not a project that we wanted to repeat. Other early fundraisers included selling bedding plants in the spring, and cutting, splitting, selling and delivering firewood in the fall. Another sweat producer was the aspen tree and potentilla plant sale. This writer recalls quite a lot of digging on that one. These projects were supplemented with activities such as delivering floral arrangements on Secretaries Day and Mothers Day (Thanks to Spiro Palmer!), car washes and The Reverse Raffle, which was thought to be a real moneymaker at the time, NOT! The club, having limited funds in those early days, let it be known that we would be available to participate in hands on “hammers and nails” type projects for the common good. Repainting City Park Pool one beautiful fall Saturday was memorable in that a quite a bit of turquoise paint ended up on clothing and shoes as well as the on the pool itself. We also pitched in on several minor repair projects for various non-profits such as Crossroads Safe House.
Fundraising in the early days of Overland was always the elephant in the room. We helped a sister Sertoma club with manpower for a haunted house in 1981 and realized that was a project that we could undertake ourselves. Over the next few years our haunted houses were held in such venues as the Opera Galleria Building (then vacant) and the basement under present day Coopersmith’s (Thanks Scott Smith!). These were very successful fundraisers for us during the eighties but our most notable claim to fame happened in August of 1982.
In the spring of 1982, an Overland member by the name of Jay Kammerzell heard of a fishing contest up in Washington’s Puget Sound and floated (no pun intended) the idea that it might work in our own Horsetooth Reservoir.The stars aligned as Coors Brewing Company was introducing a new brew called George Killia. One thing led to another and before we knew it we had locked down a fishing contest named Killian’s ’82 Rainbow Challenge with Coors/Marshall Distributing and United Bank as major sponsors. If a specially tagged trout nicknamed Charlie Sheldon (the founder of United Bank) was caught between the hours of 7AM and 7PM on Saturday August 28, 1982 $250,000 would be paid to the lucky angler who made the catch.
In the weeks leading up to the contest the publicity generated rivaled the on campus stadium issue of today. Over 5000 tickets were sold at $5.00 ($2.50 kids), and Horsetooth became a very busy place on that day. Alas, Charlie was not caught on August 28th, however, the club agreed to pay to $1,500 to whovever caught him by December 31st. Not quite a month later, fisherman Lloyd Burk, hooked Charlie offshore of Dixon Dam. Lloyd was pleased with his winnings and our then President Ben Robertson told the press that "we were very happy because the caught fish lends validity to the contest.” Unfortunately, we were unable to repeat the contest the next year as we had hoped for a variety of reasons.
The funds raised from that project allowed us to provide the Speech and Hearing Department at CSU with the latest high tech electronic audiovisual equipment that was sorely needed but not budgeted for.
In 1990 the club found its fundraising calling. We were asked if we had interest in manning beer stands for a percentage of the profits on the west side of Hughes Stadium during the Rams home football games. The answer was an overwhelming YES, and we began the tradition of pouring beer for thirsty CSU fans with smiles on our faces and cow bell recognition of the fans who honored us with tips of appreciation for our service.
That summer, we helped our sister club once again with a manpower issue. They had undertaken the job of manning the beer garden at a recently introduced festival called New West Fest. We jumped at the opportunity to help, being much more experienced in beer pouring than the other club at the time. The festival was a success, however by the next year their club had disbanded and we had the sole responsibility of running the the beer garden by ourselves.
The years have flown by. The Overland Sertoma Club still mans the beer gardens at the now Bohemian Nights at New West Fest (thanks Pat Stryker!) A few years ago, the club decided to give up the CSU beer sales and concentrate solely on the big summer project. It has become the most lucrative fundraiser we have ever undertaken and has enabled us to contribute in excess of $50,000 annually back into the community over the past several years. We are happy to be able to further the successes of organizations such as Childrens Speech and Reading Center, Boys and Girls Club, Food Bank for Larimer County, Special Olympics and many more.
It’s been quite a ride.We continue to meet on Wednesdays for lunch. Now we gather at The Texas Road House. Over the years, many of our former restaurant venues have disappeared and are now part of history. Tico’s, The Out of Bounds and the Elk’s Club come to mind. Rumor had it that if Overland Sertoma ate there it was just a matter of time before before the doors were closed. A few of our founders have passed away, a few remain….all with gray hair now, some with not much hair now. We continue to recruit younger members. In fact, our current President Ryan Wedel looks like he just graduated from college. Hey young guys. It’s up to YOU to lead us into the next 40 years of SERvice TO MAnkind!