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Encyclopedia Of Detroit
Berkey, Charles A.
Charles A. Berkey was born in Pennsylvania on March 28th 1870. He is most well-known for founding the first Exchange Club in Detroit. Berkey was a jeweler who learned the trade working in Chicago, Massachusetts, and Detroit. In 1900 he started his own business in Detroit, the Berkey Cash Jewelry Company, which became the Charles A. Berkey Company in 1906.
In 1896 Berkey regularly began meeting with other local businessmen for lunch. After fifteen years of meeting, the men decided that they could better serve the Detroit community. In 1911 they created the first Exchange Club. The Exchange Club focused on each member using his or her own means or talents to improve the quality of life in their local communities. The word ‘exchange’ was chosen at Berkey’s suggestion, as he had initially wanted to meet with others to exchange ideas about how to better serve their community.
Three other cities, Grand Rapids, Michigan; Toledo, Ohio; and Cleveland, Ohio, also saw the benefits of Exchange Clubs and enacted their own. In 1917 members of these four clubs came together and founded the National Exchange Club as a nonprofit organization, with Berkey serving as their first president.
Charles A. Berkey was an active member of the Exchange Club until his death in 1942 at the age of 72. At present, hundreds of clubs have been chartered in the United States and Puerto Rico with almost 28,000 members. The ideals he brought to those early lunch meetings continue to help and grow communities around the country through the modern day National Exchange Club.
Written by Caitlin Brennecke