ALBANY, Ga. -- Members welcomed the first woman member into the Albany Exchange Club a little after 1 p.m. at their Friday lunch meeting.
Melissa Bullard became the first woman to wear a club member's badge in the club's nearly 75-year history.
"I've been working on projects with the members since I was about 12 years old. I grew up in this club," Bullard said. "My dad has been a member for 20-plus years, and he encouraged me to become a member. The club does such great things for abused children. I love this club."
Although it seems it took a long time for the club to accept a woman member, the reason is simple.
"No one ever asked to be a member before," said club President Barney Knighton. "She was the first one."
Nationally, the club modified its bylaws to allow women as members in 1985, said Jim Hartley, the club's executive vice president.
"We have thousands of woman members throughout the country. In fact, our national president, Margie Miller, is a woman," Hartley said. "I just think it is great that they got a woman member."
Albany Exchangites seemed to think that having Ray Hinman's daughter in their ranks was great, too. Bullard hardly had time to talk because one member after another would ask to shake hands and congratulate her.
Before welcoming Bullard, the Exchange Club did what it does best. Knight handed over a $500 check to Silke Deeley of Liberty House to support the organization's work in sheltering battered women from 17 counties.
Another $500 check was accepted by Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul for his office's Crime Prevention and Intervention Program. The program works extensively with youths in character education and other areas.
"We reward good kids," Sproul said, "and help kids in trouble."
The speaker for the lunch meeting was Bobby Wilson of Crossroads Financial Group. He spoke about the economic downturn and the possible upside to investing in our current economy.