Kiwanis Club of Stevens Point celebrates a century of civic duty
By Kris Leonhardt
STEVENS POINT – The Kiwanis Club of Stevens Point recently marked 100 years of civic duty in the area.
“Kiwanis was first started in 1915 by a group of like-minded folks in Detroit, Mich., who wanted to serve the poor through business networking. By 1919, they sharpened their mission to be service focused and defined its core directive to help children. In 1924, they developed a set of basic objectives which have remained largely unchanged since. It is now a global organization active in over 80 nations, with approximately 50,000 clubs and currently headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind.,” explained Kiwanis Club of Stevens Point President Fredric Kreul.
The organization of a Kiwanis charter in Stevens Point, however, didn’t originate until December 1922, when 50 businessmen invited a field man from the international Kiwanis organization to the city.
A Stevens Point Journal article said that the proposed membership at that time was made up of younger male business owners who worked in the dentistry, law, medical, and chemistry fields, as well as florists, retailers and similar professionals.
The existing Rotary club is comprised of an older membership.
The Journal added that few cities had two organizations of this type meeting weekly “a fact accounted for by a wide diversity of business interests here, making a large membership in each possible, and by the increasing enthusiasm of professional and business men in their efforts to accomplish civic results.”
Goerge H. Mory was elected president, E.G. Back as vice president, W.S. Delzell as secretary, Herman Pagel treasurer and Ray Clark as district trustee.
The club was formally presented with its charter in February 1923 by Kiwanis District Governor John Moss at Hotel Whiting.
After the club’s formation, members got right into their civic work by offering to build a wading pool at Washington School in the First Ward, to provide a summer activity for youth in the area.
A focus on youth
That first project aimed at the city’s youth would be the start of a long legacy of providing for area children.
“Like all Kiwanis clubs, we are a group of volunteers who work to serve the children of our communities. The core directive for Kiwanis is the success of children. When someone thinks of Kiwanis, they should think kids. Thriving kids,” Kreul explained.
“The Stevens Point club has three areas or initiatives we focus on for young people. They are leadership, literacy, and providing hygiene supplies. For example, each year we recognize and support eleven sixth-graders for their leadership with our Making A Difference Award. And our Kiwanis Kare Kit program provides hygiene essentials to kids in need, working in conjunction with our district elementary schools.
“Our club awards grants annually to various applicants that fit with Kiwanis directives. We occasionally provide one-off donations on a case-by-case basis. Our grants and donations depend largely on the success of our fundraisers, but we do receive some outright donations to the club. These donations serve the children of our community in full—no administrative costs or expenses are taken from donations. If we have excess money derived from member dues, that is also distributed.”
But, Kreul adds that the club doesn’t necessarily do everything alone.
“We have joined forces with Books From the Heart and Reading First to provide reading materials for children. We also help maintain a portion of the Green Circle Trail and volunteer at the Portage County Cultural Festival. We have also made food donations to Operation Bootstrap and help the Salvation Army. Finally, we have active ties to United Way, the Boys & Girls Club, and the YMCA,” he stated.
How the club operates today
Fundraising is crucial to what Kiwanis does in the community and in the last couple of years that has changed its appearance.
“In the past, our major fundraiser each year was the Kiwanis Korn Roast at Riverfront Rendezvous. Unfortunately, the recent pandemic put an end to that. Last year we had a Kiwanis Koffee sale. This year we hope to have a Kiwanis AuKtion associated with our 100th-anniversary celebration event. We are still developing ideas for future fundraisers,” Kreul explained.
“We meet in person nearly every Tuesday at noon. We also offer a Zoom connection for members who prefer. Our meetings usually feature a local guest speaker over a wide range of topics. The meetings offer a great opportunity to learn more about our community and build friendships.
“Typically a current member invites someone who is interested in joining to attend a meeting as our guest. If it is a good fit, then they can complete a simple application form. Another way is to reach out to us by using the contact form on our website. Once we receive your inquiry, we can talk and go from there.”
The future of the club
“Kiwanis, like almost all service organizations has seen declining membership over the last few decades. First and foremost, I hope to see our club’s membership increase and an increase in membership for service groups in general. To continue our good work, we need members willing to share their time and talent,” Kreul said.
But, he sees the club sticking around for another 100 years.
“I am certain it will look different, and that is how it should be, but its core directive of helping children thrive and succeed will undoubtedly remain,” he added.
“Maintaining the perception of relevancy in a rapidly changing culture. Service to others is the greatest need and the greatest reward. I am confident that truth will never be lost or forgotten.”
For more information on the Kiwanis club, visit stevenspointkiwanis.org.