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Chums, Incorporated National History

Chums, Inc., a 501C3 nonprofit organization, promotes civic, cultural, educational, and social improvement. An ancillary focus of the organization is to enrich the lives of children by helping them to develop to their fullest intellectual, moral, emotional, physical, and social potential.

Mary Barnes, Joyce Tate Brown, and Theodora Jackson Cora became friends during their college days at Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia.  In February 1946, the three women decided to form a social club and named it after their friendship "Chums." The group functioned locally as a club until 1952 when it was incorporated in Norfolk, Va. as Chums, Inc.

Through the years, Chums has devoted itself to the improving social, civic and cultural relationships in their communities. Until 1966, Chums chapters were located only on the Eastern Seaboard. The organization expanded to include Midwest and Western states and now has 36 active chapters. There are also more than 20 associate members in areas where there are no chapters.

The national theme "listen to the children… enrich their lives" guides each chapter in determining its community's needs. Chums chapters volunteer, donate money and give scholarships to help fulfill those needs. In 2017, local Chums chapters served more than 15,311 people, gave 54 scholarships and donated $121,270 to nonprofit organizations and scholarships.  Chums, Incorporated gave a $5,000 scholarship and more than $10,000 to organizations that support children including the United Negro College Fund and the National Children’s Defense Fund.


Annually all chapters commemorate Founders Day in February and attend the annual Chums, Inc. Conclave held the third weekend in October. During the Conclave the Board of Directors, which consists of national officers and chapter presidents, hold their annual business meeting including the election of national officers every two years. 

Although the name is not an acronym each letter has been given its own meaning.

  • C - Character and charm we strive to attain.

  • H - Honesty and humility are always our aim.

  • U - Understanding and unselfishness we exhibit each day.

  • M - Modesty and moderation light our pathway

Chums, Inc. adopted the yellow tea rose as its official flower; for Chums the yellow symbolizes "brightness" and the green symbolizes "awakening."

"A good archer is not known by his arrow but by his aim" is our motto. The official logo captures both of these concepts and links them with the handshake symbol of fellowship in a shield surrounded by a sunburst.

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