Ruritan began in Holland, Virginia in 1928. Tom Downing of Suffolk, Virginia and Jack Gwaltney of Holland, Virginia are known as the co-founders of Ruritan. Downing and Gwaltney recognized the need for an organization where community leaders could meet and discuss ways to make their communities better places in which to live. Daisy Nurney, a reporter for the Virginian- Pilot newspaper in Norfolk, suggested the name “Ruritan”. The new organization unanimously adopted “Ruritan” for its name.
Since then, the Ruritan tradition of local community service has expanded to include more than 34,000 Ruritan volunteers. This continued tradition has earned Ruritan the reputation of “America’s Leading Community Service Organization” in more than 1,200 communities across the nation.
Ruritan is dedicated to improving communities and building a better America through Fellowship, Goodwill, and Community Service. Club membership represents a cross section of the community the club serves and is available to all persons interested in their community. Unlike most service organizations, Ruritan has no national project or program; instead each club surveys the needs of its own community and then works to meet those needs.
Ruritan National is an organization consisting of Ruritan clubs. Individuals are members of clubs and clubs are members of the national organization. Ruritan National operates under a constitution and bylaws. Each Ruritan club is entitled to send delegates to the national convention and only these delegates can change the National Constitution or the National Bylaws. These delegates elect a National Board of Directors and Officers and a Foundation Trustee at the National Convention. The Board of Directors is a policy-making body that acts on behalf of the delegates throughout the year. The Executive Committee of the Board of Directors consists of the National Officers and the immediate Past National President.
The National Board of Directors employs an Executive Director who in turn employs a national office staff. The Executive Director is directly responsible to the Board of Directors. The National Board of Directors also establishes geographical areas called districts and the president of Ruritan National assigns one director to each district to assist district leaders in following approved procedure and policies of the organization.
Club delegates at district conventions elect a district governor and a lieutenant governor for each district. The district governor appoints district officers and zone governors who constitute the district cabinet. As a recommendation to the governor, elections may be held for the other district offices and zone governors. The national director assigned by the national president is also a member of the district cabinet.
The purpose of the district cabinet is to provide assistance to the clubs within the district and organize new clubs. To facilitate providing these services, districts establish subdivisions within the district called zones, with a zone governor in charge of each zone. The zone consists of three to ten clubs at the discretion of the district cabinet. Basically, the delegates at the National Convention and Board of Directors create the policies and programs of Ruritan National. The district officers and national office staff are the administrators who implement the policies and programs.
The “Objectives of Ruritan” as set forth Article II of the local club constitution are as follows:
1. To promote fellowship and goodwill among its members and the citizens in the community, and to inspire each other to higher efforts.
2. To unify the efforts of individuals, organizations, and institutions in the community toward making it an ideal place in which to live.
3. To work with those agencies that serve the community and contribute directly to its progress.
4. To encourage and foster the ideal of service as the basis of all worthy enterprise.
5. To create greater understanding between rural and urban people about the problems of each, as well as about their mutual problems by striving, where possible, to maintain both rural and urban representation in the club membership.