CISV & Our Chapter's History

In 1951 Dr. Doris T. Allen founded CISV – Children’s International Summer Villages. In those years, the philosophy for having a peaceful world was stated: “It is in the field of adult learning and adult teaching that the battle for peaceful world organization will be won or lost”. Dr. Allen strongly opposed this view. She said, “WE MUST START WITH THE CHILDREN; I know that the ultimate source of peace, long range, lay with the children.”  

After many years of hard work by Dr. Allen, the first CISV Village was held in Cincinnati, Ohio and from that time on CISV USA began starting chapters all over the country.

The plaque commemorating the first village.

Doris Allen and Barbara McKerley at the 1999 NBM

In 1962, Dr. Fred Wright met Doris Allen on New Year’s Day in New York City. After discussing the philosophy and the idea behind the CISV organization, he talked about starting a chapter in the Gulf Coast, MS area.  The more he thought about it and discussed it with his wife Nancy and others in the community, he finally said, “I know it can be done.” He and Nancy, along with three other interested and dedicated families, worked very hard for several years and in 1966 the Gulf Coast Chapter was founded.

Many years later, Dr. Wright and Nancy moved to Chattanooga with his job.  Because of his strong belief in CISV and what a difference it would make in the world, he decided to start a chapter in Chattanooga. He spread the word throughout the Chattanooga community and found several families that started working on filling delegations to travel and making plans to host their first Village (a requirement to becoming an official chapter). The first families responsible for helping to make CISV a reality in Chattanooga were Margaret Welch, Martha Sternberg, Dixie Warren, and Marilee Stites.

The Chattanooga Steering Committee became an official CISV USA Chapter in 1978.

Chattanooga’s first Village, the Choo-Choo Village, was held in 1979 at Covenant College. Since that time every two/three years the Chapter has hosted a Village. The Villages have been held at different sites and have had different directors and themes.

  • 1979, 1982, 1985 Choo-Choo Village
  • 1988 Choo-Choo Village (Travel For Peace)
  • 1990 Choo-Choo for Earth Village
  • 1992 Rainbow World Village (Peace Talks)
  • 1994 Time for Peace Village
  • 1997 Discovery Village (Discover The People, Discover The World, Discover Peace)
  • 1999 Discovery Village
  • 2001 Tracks to Peace Village
  • 2003 Destination Village
  • 2005 Stepping Stones to Peace (Laughter, Trust, Friendship, Love, Dream, PEACE)                                                                      
  • 2008 Village Earth

In 1984, the Chapter hosted a Seminar Camp.

  • 1984 First Seminar Camp
  • 2015 Raccoonooga Seminar Camp

The Chapter has hosted three Summer Camps (Now called Step-Up)

  • 1993 Tiny Drops Summer Camp
  • 1998 Planet Utopia Summer Camp
  • 2000 Peaces of Respect Summer Camp
  • 2013 Step Up and Free Yourself

Along with hosting the Villages, Summer Camps, and the Seminar Camp, 
the Chapter has sent Village, Interchange, and Summer Camp/Step-Up delegations, JC’s, and Seminar Camp delegates, and an IPP delegate all over the World.

The Chattanooga Chapter has had several members who have held positions on the CISV National Executive Committee, served as National Committee Chairs, and served on different National Committees. Some members have gone on to work with CISV International serving on the Board and on different International Committees.

The Chattanooga community has had hundreds of dedicated volunteers who have made the Chattanooga Chapter of CISV a wonderful non- profit organization for children and families. The children and the adults have had amazing educational experiences to take with them the rest of their lives. They have also made those same experiences possible for all the International guests who have come to Chattanooga.

In February, 2013, the CISV Chattanooga Chapter held a 35th Anniversary Celebration. The event was held at the Creative Discovery Museum in downtown Chattanooga.  There were 90-100 guests in attendance from the Chattanooga area and other cities and states. Three of the four original CISV Families joined in the celebration.

Besides celebrating 35 years of the CISV Chattanooga Chapter, the event was also held to honor the founder, Dr Fred Wright. It was a big surprise to Dr. Wright!

Dr. Wright and family

The entire Wright Family from Atlanta plus other Family members and friends from out of state came to enjoy the celebration. Cards and letter were sent to Dr. Wright by past members who were not able to attend the event.

It was a wonderful event bringing past and present members together to talk about all the life changing experiences that everyone has had over the past 35 years.

Dr. Wright was presented with a book containing the history of the Chapter. Refreshments were served, and he enjoyed cutting the CISV Chattanooga Chapter 35th Anniversary cake.

Dr. Wright is presented with custom history of CISV Chattanooga book and cuts anniversary cake

The Chattanooga Chapter would like to thank Dr. Fred Wright for bringing CISV to our community. He has touched many lives here in Chattanooga and others around the World. Dr. Wright arrived in Chattanooga and began working to make CISV a reality; since then he has continued to support CISV Chattanooga. 
Dr. Wright at the site of the first village.

It is amazing to think that Dr. Wright has founded two CISV USA Chapters, the Gulf Coast Chapter and the Chattanooga Chapter. In 1990 he was elected as an Honorary Counselor for CISV USA, a well deserved position on the USA National Board. 

CISV USA hosted their annual Board meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio in October 2011. The 60th Anniversary Celebration was held during this Board meeting.  Saturday night the Anniversary Celebration Banquet was held featuring the Founder’s Award, the JBer for Life, and the Rudie Memmel Award.

The Rudie Memmel Award is given each year to an individual who best exemplifies the qualities of a committed CISV volunteer. This award is meant to recognize the commitment and contributions of the finest of our many Chapter volunteers. To be eligible to receive the award, an individual must have been a member in good standing of CISV for a minimum of 10 years and must have made significant and continuous Volunteer contributions to his or her Chapter.

The recipient of the 2011 Rudie Memmel was Barbara McKerley.

2011 Rudie Memmel

Barbara receiving the Rudie Memmel award.

Barbara has been a member of the Chattanooga Chapter for 30+ years. During those years she has held many Local Board positions, has been a Village leader, for Chattanooga, 2 times, staffed 1 local Village and directed 3 local Villages. She designed the logo for several of the Chattanooga Villages.   She has hosted many local activities, including National and International guests, at her home. For CISV USA she has served on 2 National Committees and was the Chair of 2 National Committees. She went on to serve for 7 years on a CISV International Committee. Barbara continues to serve on the Local Board as the Historian.


Many thanks to Barbara for writing this section.