The first Ruritan Club was chartered May 21, 1928, in Holland, Virginia. Since that first club, Ruritan has grown throughout the United States of America, and in doing so, has become "Americaís Leading Community Service Organization."

Tom Downing of Suffolk, Virginia, and Jack Gwaltney of Holland, Virginia, are known as the co-founders of Ruritan. Gwaltney and Downing recognized the need for an organization where community leaders could meet and discuss ways to make their community a better place in which to live.

The name "Ruritan" was suggested by Daisy Nurney, a reporter for the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot newspaper, and the clubís charter members unanimously adopted "Ruritan" as the organizationís name. The word is a combination of the Latin words for open country "ruri" and small town "tan," interpreted as pertaining to rural and small town life.

Ruritan National has nearly 34,000 members throughout the United States, that work to improve more than 1,200 local communities. Since the organizationís beginning in 1928, Ruritan Clubs have served America with Fellowship, Goodwill, and Community Service. Ruritan is a civic service organization made up of local clubs in small towns and rural communities.

Ruritan's purpose is to create a better understanding among people and through volunteer community service, make America's communities better places in which to live and work. The slogan of Ruritan is "Fellowship, Goodwill and Community Service." Club membership represents a cross-section of the community in which the club serves, and is not restrictive with regard to occupation, social position, or any other specific criteria.

Unlike most civic service organizations, Ruritan rarely has national programs. Rather, each club surveys its own community as to the needs of that community and then works to meet some of those needs. Nearly all clubs work locally with FFA, 4-H and other organizations serving youth. Nearly one in every three Ruritan clubs sponsors a Boy or Girl Scout unit.

Many clubs provide and supervise community recreational centers, sponsor Little League and other athletic programs, involve themselves in anti-litter campaigns, help the sick and needy, and perform a wide range of services to help their communities.

Sixteen members are required to form a Ruritan club, usually with the assistance of an existing club. When a club applies for membership in Ruritan, it submits a charter application along with a charter fee. Upon chartering, the club receives supplies and assistance necessary for its organization and continuance.

Of special interest to young people are two growing, expanding Ruritan programs: The Ruritan National Foundation and the Ruritan Student Program.

The Ruritan National Foundation each year provides about $250,000 in financial assistance to students to further their education past high school.

In the Ruritan Student Program, many Ruritan clubs select two or more high school students and pay their entire membership (including meals) in the club for one year. The purpose of the Ruritan Student Program is to introduce students of all ages to the Ruritan spirit of Fellowship, Goodwill and Community Service.