Fordney Club to Celebrate its Centennial with Gala

Fordney Gala set for October 14 at Horizons Conference Center

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Every organization has followed its own trajectory and has a unique story that derives from its  actions and its people over time.

The Fordney Club of Saginaw County is certainly no exception.

 Since 1923, when the club was founded by 70 prominent Saginaw-area businessmen, they have supported education, youth athletics, and the general community welfare by action, word, and deed.

The Fordney Club received its name from the Honorable Joseph W. Fordney who served in the House of Representatives from 1899 to 1923. Congressman Fordney was Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. He was named the club’s first honorary member. From the beginning, the club was well managed. Frederick O. Guider (Saginaw Show Case Company) served as president and George W. Baxter Jr. (Saginaw Publishing Company) was secretary. 

The 1923-24 dues were $3.00 per year. Dinner cost the members $.85. Income was raised from  event ticket sales and membership dues.

“The club is very community-minded and has a rich and historic tradition,” said current President Jason Glick. “The Fordney Club's founding purpose was charitable and we have remained true to our founding principles. We are constantly seeking out new ways to help and better the environment that we live in.” 

Glick encouraged community members who are working on a worthy project to contact the Fordney Club so they can discuss how they can help one another. Countless projects throughout the years are varied and have included:


• After World War II, the Fordney Club spearheaded the drive to construct the Arthur Hill High School Memorial Stadium. Many club members pledged their personal credit to back this successful effort. The result was one of Michigan's finest high school football stadiums, dedicated in 1949 to the schools World War II fallen heroes.


• Resourceful club leaders quickly found good charitable use for the stadium as the Red Feather Football Game was born in 1952. The inaugural Red Feather game took place on September 20th of that year and pitted Central Michigan College (now Central Michigan University) against St. Ambrose (Iowa). Under the Fordney Club leadership, 18 annual college football games followed. The games eventually netted thousands of dollars for Saginaw's United Fund Community Chest (now called the United Way). Many well-known Saginaw athletes competed in these exciting games.


• Records show that the club sponsored 17 band concerts during the summer of 1923. At the close of the first summer season, the club held a Mardi Gras event with street dancing, vaudeville acts, games and prizes for the best costumes. Businessman Julius Ippel remembered; "At Christmas time, we'd box candy at Al Williams' Ice Cream Factory to be given to school children at the courthouse steps. We also started a street decorating project for Christmas with 125 trees placed in pipes and decorated with lights."


• In 1973, Jim Granse chaired the first Fordney 300 golf outing. Dedicated committee members pitched in, including Ken and Rod McIntyre, Howard Mannion, Al Reinbold, Bill Kleekamp and Dave Burzyck. The event was a new concept for its time and continues to be one of the region’s premiere golf events. The Fordney 300 has raised substantial funds for club-sponsored charities throughout Saginaw County.


• The club expanded its benevolence to include the Boy Scout Jamboree (1925), Michigan Crippled Children Society, the American Red Cross, and the South School Telescope Fund (1926).


• Under the leadership of Dr. Raymond Hart, the Fordney Club sponsored the Arthur Hill High School Band Bounce which provided new uniforms for all band members.


• In 1997, an exciting new event revived an old tradition. Led by past presidents and active club members, the Fordney Red Feather Charities Classic football game was reborn. The inaugural game featured Saginaw Valley State University and Michigan Tech. The game has since moved from Arthur Hill’s Memorial Stadium to SVSU’s Wickes Stadium.


• Led by Past President Charles Calvert, $5,000 was raised for a new YMCA building and individual members added an additional $15,000. Contributions to the Big Brothers building and the new summer YMCA Camp Timbers were among other worthy projects.

Past president Kevin Schultz, Director of Athletic Development at Saginaw Valley State University, joined the organization in 2002. He explained that Fordney member and personal friend Andy Friend, owner of Panda Promotional Products, invited him to consider membership in the club. 

“I attended my first dinner meeting as his guest and then ultimately joined,” said Schultz, club president in 2013. “I enthusiastically encourage any younger, middle-aged, or mature men of Saginaw County to join the Fordney Club. Our mission provides a meaningful, positive impact for Saginaw County educational programs, youth athletics, and service organizations – all which provide life-changing services for those in need.” 

The bi-weekly dinner meetings feature different themes and are prepared by “dinner crews,” often headed up by a past president. The club’s most recent dinner meeting was its annual Riffel-Morford Chicken/Corn Roast, now in its 45th consecutive year of feeding the membership.  

The club began as the Fordney Luncheon Club but soon meetings were changed to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday evenings at the Fordney Hotel. By the 1925/26 season, club records show that evening meetings were also held at the YMCA, Vlassis Restaurant and Thomas' Restaurant. Eventually, the Pioneer Club became the primary meeting place until 1983; the club now meets at the American Legion Post 439, 5190 Weiss Street. 

Another past president, John Morey, has been a member for 20 years. Richard H. Crannell, founder of RC Engineering, Inc., urged Morey to join. He (Morey) served as president in 2015 and serves as the club historian. 

Morey, owner/partner of D&M Site Inc., was very succinct when asked to describe the Fordney Club: “Youth athletics builds strong adults,” he said. “We provide business networking while serving the community through different projects.”

A friendship with Fordney Club member Charlie Rousseau helped cement former 70th District Court Judge Christopher S. Boyd’s membership. He said Rousseau brought him to a couple of the meetings as a guest back in the early 1980s. 

“Back then the membership was held at 300,” said Boyd, who now serves as chairman of the Saginaw County Board of Commissioners. “You had to have a member nominated you and that could only happen when an opening occurred. Otto Brandt won a drawing at a dinner meeting to receive an application and he gave it to Charlie to nominate me. I had to appear before a committee to make my case as to why I should be admitted.”

I was president in 1999 and was chairman of the Red Feather Game from the time we reinstituted it until a few years after I was president. It was a lot of work getting it going again, but we had about a dozen past presidents and some regular members volunteer their time. It was a real challenge but the guys really got behind it and made it a success. We had it at Arthur Hill High School and 6,000 were in attendance. We raised around $30,000 that year and decided to start a fund to support youth athletics. We had so much fun doing it and being successful that we tried to do it again. Even more members jumped onboard and the rest is history. It took off and has been successful ever since.  

Boyd said the camaraderie and the mission of the Fordney Club are the reasons to belong: “Whether it is our Good Works Fund helping community services or our Red Feather Fund helping kids, it is a great vehicle for seeing the results of your efforts locally.”  

Fordney Gala set for October 14 at Horizons Conference Center

To commemorate 100 years of service to the community, the Fordney Club of Saginaw County will host a celebration on Saturday, Oct. 14th at the Horizon’s Conference Center. The black-tie optional gala will have an Hors D’oeuvre reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner and program at 6:30 p.m. Entertainment will be provided by The Sinclairs’ band. You do not need to be a member to attend. 

Tickets are $100 each and money raised will go toward its 100-year Project – purchasing portable Automated External Defibrillators for every high school in Saginaw County. For tickets, please contact Kevin Schultz at (989) 225-2715, or Andy Friend at (989) 798-6059.


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