The Daily Herald shared the following article by the Kiwanis Club of Aurora, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
A historic video about the Club can be viewed on the Kiwanis Club of Aurora, Illinois Fund page and on the Kiwanis Club of Aurora, Illinois Endowment Fund page.
The Kiwanis Club of Aurora is turning 100 this year.
It has been a year of celebration. The City of Aurora has worked with the club to install “Kiwanis 100-year” banners on downtown light poles as well as provided road signs at major entryways into the city boasting the club’s 100 years of service.
Members and friends purchased special “Kiwanis” license plates that were displayed on their vehicles for a two-month period; a Centennial Celebration Dinner was held June 1; and an old fashioned family picnic is being planned for September.
In addition, to mark their 100-year milestone, the club made a $100,000 naming donation to the Richard and Gina Santori Public Library of Aurora’s Kiwanis Children’s Center, the largest donation by a service club in the history of the city. The funds were earmarked for the Children’s Department, which was named “The Kiwanis Club of Aurora’s Children Center.” Members have committed to a long-term relationship with the library with plans to volunteer at library story times and programs.
In 1916, the Aurora club was the first to be chartered in Illinois, the year after Kiwanis International was founded in Detroit. In 1987, women officially were allowed into the membership of Kiwanis. In Aurora, Janet Craft was the first female member, joining in 1987, and Kathi Limoges became the first woman elected as president of the club in 1993. Originally chartered with 52 members, the Kiwanis Club of Aurora now has more than 100 members.
In the early years, the Aurora Kiwanis Club focused on business networking, but in 1919, the organization changed its focus to service. “At the heart of every Kiwanis Club is service,” said Kiwanis Club of Aurora President Clyde Shields. “‘Serving the Children of the World’ is our motto, and that sentiment goes into every project we undertake.”
Since 2007, members of the club have coordinated and volunteered in an annual citywide volunteer effort, “Kiwanis One Day.” Projects have included cleaning the banks of both Indian Creek and the Fox River, as well as working with nonprofit organizations in rehabbing and cleaning up homes for disabled or handicapped residents.
In 2010, then-President Archie Needam’s “President Project” was to partner with the City of Aurora, Communities in Schools and area businesses to provide winter coats to needy students in the Aurora community. The “Coats for Kids” Program has become one of the club’s major service projects and, each year, the club handles the purchasing, sorting, and delivering of approximately 2,000 coats to needy K-12 students identified by school social workers in all Aurora school districts.
Since its early years, club members have volunteered countless hours at various locations throughout the city in “ringing the bell” for the Salvation Army during the Christmas season.
Members volunteer in the club’s three major fundraisers, Pancake Day, Peanut Day and sponsorship of the club’s place mats. Beginning in 1951, this year the club held is 66th Pancake Day. Bill Moore, club member for 66 years, has worked at every Pancake Day. Peanut Days, a Kiwanis International fundraiser, is held in early fall. Club members are stationed outside local businesses and exchange packages of peanuts for donations. Rounding out the club’s major fundraisers is the Placemat Ad fundraiser, now in its 24th year. The two-sided place mats, which display the ad of each sponsor, are used at club meetings and events and at local hospitals and restaurants.
The Kiwanis Club of Aurora’s Foundation annually provides grants to countless programs that help local children. In 2016, the Foundation awarded more than $45,000 in grants to organizations dedicated to improving the quality of life for children.
The Kiwanis Club of Aurora, Illinois Endowment and Advisory Funds, were established with the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley in 2006 with the underlying purpose of the continued support of the philanthropic purposes of the club. In honor of the club’s 100th anniversary, President Clyde Shields established the Centennial Legacy Endowment Fund at the foundation. Members and others, should they decide to donate during the centennial year, will be recognized as Legacy Members to this fund.
Since 1975, the Kiwanis Club of Aurora has recognized an individual for its “God & Fellow Man Award,” which honors community members for their spiritual and charitable contributions. Each year, the club also recognizes three students by providing them with college scholarships.
Kiwanis International has established a Service Leadership Program that promotes leadership, service and citizenship in students as young as grade school-age. The Kiwanis Club of Aurora sponsors Key Clubs at Aurora Central Catholic High School, East Aurora High School, the Illinois Math & Science Academy and Yorkville High School. In addition, the club sponsors a Circle K Club at Aurora University and an Aktion Club associated with the Fox Valley Special Recreation Association for developmentally challenged individuals.
Immediate Past President Cheryl Vonhoff said planning the 100th celebration and researching the club’s history have given her a new perspective on the club and its many activities through the year. “The dedication and compassion of current and past members is what makes this club great,” Vonhoff said. “I think our mission to serve the children of the community and the world is what attracts many members, and the true fellowship among our members keeps us all working together toward our goal.”