The AMERICAN MUTUAL LIFE ASSN., a fraternal insurance society established on 11 November 1910 as Slovenska Dobrodelna Zveza (Slovenian Mutual Benefit Assn.), in 1994 was the largest Slovenian-American organization in Ohio. By 1910 over a dozen Slovenian fraternal benefit societies operated in the city. All were small, independent lodges, except for a handful affiliated with national organizations based in other states. One group, the St. Barbara Society of Forest City, PA, held a convention in Cleveland in 1910. Lodge No. 6 of Cleveland protested an increase in assessments and seceded shortly thereafter. Dissenting members met at Grdina's Hall on St. Clair Ave. to establish a fraternal society. The group wanted local control of finances and to keep investments within the community, plus impartiality to religious and political beliefs. They voted John Gornik president and elected auditing and jury committees. Membership of the new Slovenska Dobrodelna Zveza was open to any Ohio resident of Slavic descent of good health and character age 16-45.

The group's first convention was held in 1912; by 1913 the association numbered 1,100 members in 9 lodges. An office opened in 1914 at 6120 St. Clair Ave., and the first real-estate loans were given. SDZ created a juvenile department (1919), the first English-speaking lodge (1920), bowling clubs and basketball leagues (1929), and held popular sports olympiads. Life insurance plans were issued beginning in the 1920s, starting at $500 coverage. Its official newspaper, Our Voice (Glas), debuted in English and Slovenian in 1939. SDZ had as many as 65 lodges and membership of over 20,000 in the 1960s. In 1962 a youth chorus was established in NEWBURGH, and the first college scholarships were given to qualified students. The group was renamed the American Mutual Life Assn. in 1967. Ground was broken for a 110-acre recreation center in Leroy Twp., opened in 1969. After nearly 50 years in the SLOVENIAN NATIONAL HOME building, association offices moved to South Waterloo Rd. (1981). In 1995 AMLA had $21 million in assets and $23.5 million of insurance in force. The president of AMLA in 1995 was Stanley Ziherl.

Klima, Margot A. The Seventy-five Year Anniversary of the American Mutual Life Assn., Diamond Jubilee, The American Home Publishing Co., (1985).

Black, white and red text reading Western Reserve Historical Society

American Mutual Life Assn. Records, WRHS (microfilm).

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