Kiwanis is definitely not a ‘rich man’s club’

By Gary Nelson

    Who are these crazy people we see going to breakfast at 6:30 a.m.? They must be rich. Are they all men? Oh, I know; I’ve heard they’re rich businessmen. Perhaps it’s a secret society — you know, with secret meetings and secret handshakes.

    Welcome to Kiwanis! We may be the best-kept secret in your community but we’re definitely not a secret organization.
    Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world one child and on community at a time. To that end, yes, we meet for breakfast, lunch or dinner; or perhaps we just sit and talk about how we can make life a bit better for a child or his or her family.
    Life can be hard for people of all ages in our communities. We are all children at heart and we deserve a chance at happiness.
    Kiwanis members get a sense of pride and accomplishment from knowing that we have made a difference in someone’s life. There are programs in our schools that promote self-esteem such as “Terrific Kids.” There are clubs at all levels of school life that promote leadership and a sense of giving to others. They are the K-Kids Club in elementary school, Builders Club in middle school and Key Club in high school. When they reach college, there is Circle K.
    When we see what a group of middle school kids or high school students can accomplish to make this a better world for someone, we are glad that we get to attend breakfast, even at the early hour of 6:30 a.m.
    We’re not a men’s club; and we’re definitely not a rich men’s club. The 1987 Kiwanis International Convention voted to allow women to join the organization, and things have never been the same. Kiwanis has prospered and grown through the added leadership of a group of talented and capable women who now lead our clubs and Kiwanis at all levels.
    Founded in 1915, the Kiwanis International family now has nearly 600,000 adult and youth members in 80 countries. Maine has many active local Kiwanis clubs including Three Rivers in Milo-Brownville, Dover-Foxcroft, Moosehead Lake in Greenville and our own Sunrise Kiwanis Club of Dexter.
    We are now meeting Fridays at 6:30 a.m. at the All Aboard Restaurant on Church Street in Dexter, and we welcome guests. No secret handshakes, either — just a warm welcome.
    For more information about Kiwanis International, please visit www.kiwanis.org.
Gary Nelson is a past president and current chairman of membership growth and education of the Sunrise Kiwanis Club of Dexter and a past lieutenant governor of Division 2 of the New England District of Kiwanis. He can be contacted at garynelson@garykiwanis.com.

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