by Nick Nash
How many people in Toastmasters are still as enthusiastic after 25 years as they were when they started out?
John Arthur from Champion Toastmasters Club in Adelaide is one such person.
In 1991 John was working at AMP when a Senior Sales Manager thought it would be a good idea to start a club in Adelaide for staff and sales agents. He’d previously worked in Melbourne where he had been involved in a Toastmasters Club.
At that time, AMP had a large staff and team of sales personnel. The venture was very well supported with about 25 signing on as initial members. It was determined that Champion would be a morning club due to the number of sales people involved who often had evening appointments with clients. AMP sponsored the club and the name ChAMPion was chosen because it had the letters “AMP” within the name.
Champion’s initial club mentors were the husband and wife team of Rod and Christina Emblem who were very supportive and stayed for many years. Darryl Footer was the Area Governor at the time and he too assisted in the establishment of the club. Champion chartered on 1 April 1991; it celebrated its 25th anniversary on 17 May 2016.
During the 1990s, like many organizations, AMP went through staff restructuring and company reorganization resulting in a large reduction of the purely AMP people who maintained the club. Not only that, but people outside AMP became aware of the club and showed an interest in it. It was a natural progression to open up the club to anyone who was interested in becoming a member. Today, there is no one from AMP who is an active member despite the club having tried over the years to rekindle their interest.
Champion’s first meeting place was an AMP training room. Moves to two other AMP offices followed. One of the advantages of meeting in AMP offices was that there was no hire charge for the room.
Over the years, AMP restructuring downsized their training facilities and eventually Champion had to find an alternative meeting location. For a while the club met in an office at Kent Town where on one occasion a meeting took place outside as nobody had brought the keys with them.
The club’s current meeting place is the Hutt Street Library. Even here the club has needed to be very adaptable. For example, meetings have had to take place in the small room at the back of the coffee shop next door when access to the library was unavailable at the last minute.
People are often amazed that Champion start their meetings at 7am, yet this is seen as a major benefit for members who lead active and busy lives and who treasure the evenings with their families. It is also very convenient for full-time students committed to their study. Members themselves suggest there is no better way to start the day. They leave the meeting on a high, motivated, and with a smile on their face.
All Toastmasters clubs have a regular turnover of members for a number of reasons, but Champion is very lucky to have retained a strong core of experienced Toastmasters. This has ensured new members can learn and grow. Currently, five members have been with the club for over ten years.
Members come from a variety of backgrounds, vocations and age groups. It has always been intriguing to hear the stories of their life experiences, opinions, goals and plans for the future. Without fail, people who have spent time at Champion Toastmasters say they have learnt a lot and grown as individuals through the experience.
Over the years, the club has had many members who performed well in speech competitions at Area and Division levels. Others often volunteer to be judges and officials at Area, Divisional and District levels. Several members have served at Area, Division and District in various executive roles.
One of Champion’s highlights occurred a few years ago when the Club organised the highly acclaimed District Convention at Hahndorf. Toastmasters came from WA, Victoria and Tasmania to join South Australian Toastmasters. Even the International President of Toastmasters International, Jana Barnhill, came from the United States. Champion received wide recognition for running an outstanding convention.
Champion has also run several highly successful Speechcraft courses in recent years and these have been major growth opportunities for our members, as well as providing a source of new members.
All these activities have helped Champion members as individuals to be better and more rounded people, leading to their being more confident and successful in their daily lives.
People often ask John Arthur why he has remained involved for so long with the club. It is simple. John has thoroughly enjoyed helping other toastmaster members grow and develop. It keeps him sharp and mentally alert, and he enjoys riding the Toastmaster journey with so many other Toastmasters.