Altrusa International was founded in Nashville, Tennessee in 1917, originally as Altrusa Institute. During that time, a record number of women were going to work during World War I, and there was a need for women’s civic organizations. Dr. Alfred Durham, a member of Kiwanis, began organizing clubs throughout Nashville, TN, Louisville, KY, and Dayton, OH, before he moved on to Indianapolis, IN, where he met Mamie L. Bass.
Mamie L. Bass had served as the Superintendent of the Women’s Division of the United States Employment Services, and was a partner in her brother’s architecture firm. She also assisted him in organizing a Rotary chapter in Indianapolis. While she admired Dr. Durham’s Institute, Bass felt that Altrusa could serve a higher purpose. In June 1918, when Altrusa held its first convention in Indianapolis, Mamie L. Bass’s vision became reality. The Altrusa Institute became a classified service organization for women.
Later, the Altrusa Institute was renamed as the National Association of Altrusa Clubs and adopted By-Laws that laid the groundwork for today’s Altrusans. Soon after, Mamie L. Bass created the Principles of Altrusa which defined Altrusa as "a builder of women" and an organization based on merit and accomplishment. The Principles were officially adopted in 1921 along with a major club building effort. By 1922, Altrusa had 20 clubs.
In 1935, Altrusa became international when the first club in Mexico was organized. Since that first step over US borders in 1935, Altrusa moved into Puerto Rico, Chile, Equador, Mexico, India, Korea, Russia, Ukraine, Ireland, Great Britain, Bermuda, Canada, and New Zealand. In 1946, Altrusa sent its first representative to the United Nations.
In 1962, Altrusa International established the Altrusa International Foundation, which is dedicated to improving economic well-being and quality of life through a commitment to community services and literacy. In 1966, the organization began to look to America’s youth as the future of Altrusa and established ASTRA service clubs. ASTRA encourages young people, ages 13 to 21, to participate in community service. Expanding on its commitment to youth, Altrusa adopted literacy as on-going area of service in 1977.
The eighties and nineties brought many exciting changes to Altrusa. With the end of Communism, the former Soviet Union saw its first Altrusa clubs. Increasing its global outlook, Altrusa expanded projects beyond literacy and education by adopting a resolution to promote environmental concerns in 1989.
The new millennium continues to bring new ideas and opportunities for Altrusa. In 2011, the association launched a new branding and marketing campaign with the purpose of increasing Altrusa’s image in the communities, and reaching out to an evolving membership.
Dona was elected International President-Elect by the delegates to the 2009 Indianapolis International Convention for the 2009-2011 biennium. Currently, she also serves as Association Representative to the Altrusa International, Inc. Foundation, an appointment by the International President. Dona has been a member of Altrusa International, Inc. of Grand Junction, Colorado since 1987.
She served as President of her Altrusa Club from 1992-1993, and has also served in various other offices and chaired an array of club committees. Dona served as the first President of the Altrusa International, Inc. of Grand Junction, Colorado Foundation in 2001-2002.
Service on the District level began in 1993. Dona has held many offices, including that of Governor of District Ten in 2001-2003, at which time she was also a member of the International Board of Directors. She was elected to serve as International Director, 2003-2005, and participated as a member of the International Board of Directors. She also served as International Leadership Development Committee Vice Chairman, 2003-2005. Dona was elected as International Treasurer, 2005-2007, and most recently as International Vice President, 2007-2009.
Dona is active in Grand Junction club activities although her service at the International level has necessitated time away from her dearly loved home Club. As a Board member of Child and Migrant Services, Inc., she participates in local projects and fundraising for the organization. She also serves on the finance committee at First United Methodist Church. A Peace Corps Alumnus, Dona and her husband lived in El Salvador for two years. She continues her endeavors to learn to speak Spanish and is determined that one day she will master the language.
Dona and husband, Ted, are retired CPAs. They are currently focusing on the pleasures of retirement and, of course, Dona continues increased volunteer participation in Altrusa working toward ensuring Altrusa’s growth and future in the world community. They enjoy traveling, but casual trips have been put on hold while Dona has the pleasure of volunteering as much time as possible in the name of Altrusa.
They are parents to two wonderful daughters of whom they are so very proud. Daughter, Amanda, and her husband live in Loveland, Colorado and recently blessed the family with a beautiful first granddaughter, Tatum. Their other daughter, Hilary, and husband live in Corvallis, Oregon where Hilary is employed by Oregon State University and where her husband is pursuing a Masters in Wildlife. In December of 2010 Dona had the pleasure of taking part in the initiation of Hilary as a member of the Corvallis Altrusa Club. Hilary now wears her mother’s pin that Dona proudly received when she became an Altrusan twenty-three years ago.