Local Sertoma club’s goal is to help Suffolk children with hearing, speech impairments

Published 4:56 pm Tuesday, January 10, 2023

A local service club has been assisting children with hearing and speech impairments for more than three decades.

Bennett’s Creek Sertoma is the local chapter of Sertoma International, an international service organization founded in 1912 that focuses on providing needed equipment to hearing and speech impaired children, as well as adults who cannot afford hearing aids.  For those not familiar with the group, Sertoma got its name from “SERvice TO MANkind.”

Having celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2020, the Bennett’s Creek Sertoma holds the local charter to provide support for children in the Greater Tidewater and Suffolk area. The club has provided support to various charities such as The Children’s Center, EDMARC and Access Virginia.

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Bennett’s Creek Sertoma President Andre L. Shipp, who joined the club eight years ago, spoke about what inspired him to join.

“I was introduced by the next door neighbor at the time who was a member of the organization,” Shipp said. “When he introduced Sertoma to me, I was recently retired from the military, working in industry. I was just looking for something that was philanthropic, a way to give back to the community.”

The club works alongside the Suffolk educational system and audiologists to provide hearing support to children in need.

“We work closely with Suffolk Public Schools and their audiology department and audiologists to identify children with a valid need, because their education is greatly diminished and they can’t hear what the teacher is saying,” Shipp said. “The teachers will identify students that have a valid need and don’t have the resources to purchase hearing aids and go to the audiologist to have hearing care.”

Last fall, he said the Bennett’s Creek chapter gave about $3,000 in equipment and supplies to Suffolk Public Schools.

“Basically we went out to the head audiologist, asked for a wish list, they sent us a wish list, then we then turned around and purchased all the materials and supplies that they needed, and brought it over to the head audiologist who then distributed it out the schools throughout Suffolk.”

Along with educating the public about hearing and speech impairments through public schools, local audiologists, and parks and recreation, Bennett’s Creek Sertoma also participates in events and fundraisers.

Fundraising events include the annual fall golf tournament at Cedar Point, a bowl-a-thon and supporting both Suffolk TGIF and Santa Calling events.

In addition to its support of children, the club also provides financial support to adults with a valid need for hearing aids, but lack the financial resources to afford them. Likewise, the club has contributed to five food banks, including The Salvation Army, Oasis Social Ministry and Virginia Peninsula Foodbank.

“Our primary focus is speech and hearing deficiencies for children, but there’s a lot of need out there,” Shipp said. “So we just take it on ourselves because we are fortunate enough to be able to raise the funds and our goal is to support the community any way we can.”

For more information, call 757-537-7057. To make a donation to Bennett’s Creek Sertoma, please mail to P.O. Box 5211 Suffolk, VA 23435.

Editor’s note: Updated headline at 10:14 a.m., Wednesday, Jan. 11 to reflect spelling correction.