The other day, I stepped onto an elevator at work. The other passenger noticed my shirt which had “Kiwanis: Serving the Children of the World” stitched on it. He made a comment that he had been on a baseball team sponsored by Kiwanis as a child. I smiled and asked him if he was a member of a club, his response was, “no, I don’t have kids.” I closed my mind and reminded myself to not shriek; because this reasoning drives me nuts.
Our service clubs are not in place to serve our own children. They may benefit from some of the activities, but they are not the sole purpose. We are in place to serve everyone’s children, including the children who have no one to claim them as their own.
There are dozens of service organizations in our communities, they may have a single focus, such as a clean environment or assisting the deaf. Or they may be broad interest based focusing on the needs within the community, such as Lions, Rotary, Oddfellows and of course, Kiwanis. Chances are, if you grew up around here or have children, you have been impacted by a service club.
Did you know service clubs sponsor more community-based youth league teams than any other entity? We also support 4-H, Scouts, reading programs, Easter Egg Hunts, trick-or-trunk events, Secret Santa, Toys for Tots, Adopt a Family, Angel Trees, Adopt a Veteran and Food Drives. We support homeless shelters, deliver Meals-on-Wheels, provide scholarships, adaptive bicycles for individuals with special needs and sponsor Special Olympics teams and events.
You might see us from time to time as we clean up our adopted stretch of road, serve meals at the community kitchen or help with the Red Cross’s Blood Drive. We deliver winter coats, new shoes, school supplies and even packets of food to children who are in need.
We are coaches, drivers, tutors, mentors and supporters of children who are at risk. It makes sense to provide help to children before they are in trouble, so we help them by supporting literacy programs; some as simple as installing a reading corner at local laundry marts or donating books to libraries or schools. We partner with RIF, Scholastic and the Imagination Library, getting books into the hands of children who may not have reading resources at home. We support vocational education and veteran programs.
You may ask yourself, “why don’t we advertise this fact? Why isn’t ‘Kiwanis’ or ‘Elks’ slapped across the front of everything we are engaged in?” Simply because the focus isn’t on us. We exist to help others. Members benefit from doing so, by having better mental health, feeling better about ourselves and developing connections with our neighbors and community.
Spending money we raise through the public by fundraising on advertising ourselves in not the best way to utilize those funds. For the cost of a single billboard, we could supply an entire classroom with books to read as enrichment needed to improve reading skills, or sponsor activities which children in our community desperately need since there are few recreational resources available for low-income families.
We don’t need advertising, but we do need helpers. We need people willing to join our organizations so we can make our communities better, cleaner and safer. We need members — yes — even if you don’t have children — or if they are grown. Simply put, the more members and volunteers, the greater impact we can have in our community, more projects, programs and yes, more human connections.
There is room for everyone to help; our great grandparents and grandparents knew this — community engagement was expected of almost everyone. They were after all “the greatest generation” and their volunteering and helping one another was just another reason why.
Membership dues pay for liability insurance (necessary in this day and age to protect our volunteers), board and directors’ insurance (again, necessary) member education, training and service initiatives. We need people willing to step up and get their hands dirty, so to speak. We need people to give a few hours of their time each month, you get to pick and choose which activity you are involved in, and we encourage new ideas for service projects, partnerships, and fundraising.
We welcome individuals who care and are looking for connection regardless of age, ability and education. We need more “givers” because the number of “takers” never seem to diminish. So, ask yourself, which do you wish to be? The person who willingly accepted assistance when needed and never looked back? Or the person who paid it forward to ensure a better future?
Written and submitted by Sarah Roush for The Circleville Herald. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.