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Kiwanis offers camaraderie, chance to help community, members say

By Kevin Kelley
Robert Clancy says the Westlake Kiwanis Club is the best kept secret in the community.
Clancy, a current board member and former president, said like many civic organizations, Kiwanis has had some difficulty attracting new members, especially younger ones, in recent years. He said the current membership roster of 41 is down from historic levels but has been consistent in recent years.
Members of the Westlake Kiwanis, who meet nearly every Tuesday night at Saucy Bistro restaurant on Detroit Road, want people to know the benefits of joining.
Clancy, a retired Westlake police officer who still works part time, said the organization is concentrating more on bringing interesting guests to its weekly meetings and promoting itself on the Internet.
Al Smith, a member since 1971, said he joined for the camaraderie and the opportunity to help out the community.
“We work as a team, and we do it well,” he said.
Smith said he believes one reason that organizations like Kiwanis have seen membership drop is that, unlike 40 years ago, it’s common today for both spouses to work outside the home.
“Consequently when they come home at night, they want to be with each other and their families,” he said.
In addition, he said, people lead much busier lives. Parents are much more devoted to their children and are expected to attend their sporting events and other extracurricular activities, which Smith said are more organized than they were decades ago.
Most members West Life spoke with last week said they were invited to join by a friend. Another member, Kevin Walker, said he joined after researching the organization online. He said Kiwanis gave members opportunities for more hands-on involvement in the community instead of just asking for monetary donations.
Dues are $10 per month said Rick Grane, current Westlake Kiwanis president. Clancy said members are expected to attend about half of the weekly meetings.
Originally begun in Detroit as a networking group for men in 1915, Kiwanis changed its focus to service four years later. The organization welcomed female members in 1987.
The name “Kiwanis” was coined from an Otchipew Indian expression, “Nunc Kee-wanis,” translated as “we trade,” or “we meet.”
Working with youth is a big part of the organization’s mission. Kiwanis sponsors junior versions of itself — the Builders Club for middle school students and the Key Club for high school students. The Westlake High School Key Club works with the Kiwanis on projects such as food drives for the needy and helping out area senior citizens by raking leaves in their yards in the fall.
The goal, Clancy said, is for Builder Club and Key Club members to continue community service efforts as adults as Kiwanians. Kiwanis members also sponsor Aktion Clubs, which provide service and leadership opportunities for person with disabilities.
Locally, the Westlake Kiwanis assists with the Meals On Wheels program and with programs at the Westlake Center For Community Service. It also sponsors the annual Memorial Day parade and ceremony at Clague Park.
Each year, the Westlake Kiwanis raises $4,000 for its activities. Its biggest fundraisers are the pancake breakfasts it sponsors each spring and fall at Westlake High School.
Kiwanis annually offers two $1,000 renewable scholarships to graduating Westlake High School seniors. It also sponsors an annual assembly saluting academic excellence among Westlake High School students.
The Westlake Kiwanis is eager to assist where it can, Clancy said.
“Groups can come to us — if they do it before October [when the new budget year begins] — and we’ll provide money to them,” he said Clancy.
Currently, the group is working with the city on a founders trail which will be built at Clague Park to commemorate the city’s bicentennial next year. Bricks from the trail will come from the now demolished red brick schoolhouse on Dover Center Road.
The group is also selling tickets to Kiwanis Night at the March 4 Lake Erie Monsters game against the Rockford Ice Dogs at Quicken Loans Arena in downtown Cleveland. Discounted tickets can be purchased for $22 or $16, with a portion of each sale donated to Kiwanis. To purchase tickets, contact Jessica Naderer of the Monsters at (216) 420-2402.
Individuals interested in joining Kiwanis can contact Grane at (440) 829-0974 or rgrane@aol.com.

 

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