To the Editor:
It was sad to read the recent cover story on the current status of the Hyde Park Kiwanis Club. I am not a member of the Hyde Park Club, but am a 39-year member of the Southeast Kiwanis Club. All of the reasons Kiwanis Clubs are diminishing as stated in the article by their club treasurer, Jon Will, are true. It is also true that Kiwanis Clubs in towns and communities with a strong business organization and/or strong church groups do not fare as well.
It might be useful for potential members to understand what Kiwanis is all about. There is no secret hand shake. Like Rotary and Lions Clubs, Kiwanis International is a worldwide service organization. A major difference between Lions and Rotary is that Kiwanis Club levels include Key Clubs (high school) and Circle K clubs (college level), which present opportunities to perform service to their communities. Through our sponsored youth initiatives, local Kiwanis Clubs support these youth organizations both financially and through direct mentoring.
Although the main objective of local Kiwanis Clubs is service to youth and senior groups in our communities, many clubs manage to enjoy their time with the club. Hopefully meetings have speakers that both inform and entertain the membership and guests. On a personal note, I was recruited to join the Southeast Kiwanis Club as a part of my duties as a commercial lender at a neighborhood bank. There was no pressure by the bank that I sustain my membership. The first thing I learned about Kiwanis was that every dollar raised from the public went back to the public. Meetings, conventions, membership recruitment parties and the like came from our pockets. Many projects in which our clubs participate are extremely rewarding to our members. Seeing the look on one of the inner-city kids’ faces as they disembark from a plane ride with a Tuskegee Airman or a pilot from the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) is priceless. Sponsoring trips for our area high school juniors to visit colleges as far away as Atlanta or just sending some kids to a White Sox game leaves us feeling pretty good about the time we give to our club’s service. We have not done it recently but we have rented a bus to take seniors downtown just to see how the city has changed since their retirement. I will never forget the effort the Hyde Park club made to get uniforms for a local high school who did not have them in their budget.
Hopefully the membership will vote to keep the Hyde Park Kiwanis Charter alive. If so, I, as well as a couple of friends, plan to allow ourselves to be sponsored as members.
Paul L. Carson