The Conway Kiwanis Club will mark 90 years of community service and camaraderie with a celebration at its meeting on Wednesday.
The club was formed July 23, 1924. Since then it has become a who’s who of Conway, drawing leaders from a wide variety of professions who take part in the group’s service projects, fundraising activities and informative meetings.
Kiwanian Jack Bell said, "It’s probably the biggest club in Conway, membership-wise. All the who’s who in Conway have been in the club."
The club is part of Kiwanis International, which has adopted as its motto "Serving the Children of the World."
Past president Rick Sublett explained the Kiwanis International’s last campaign was to eliminate iodine deficiency in children in third-world countries, and the organization succeeded in virtually wiping out the condition worldwide. Now Kiwanis International is focusing on eliminating maternal/neonatal tetanus, a condition in which unsanitary birthing conditions in third world countries cause a mother and/or her newborn child to contract tetanus, which results in an agonizing death. The organization is committed to ending the disease by next year, according to the Kiwanis International website.
Sublett said, "I’ve been a part of (Kiwanis) for about 10 years now, and what I like about it is the money we raise helps kids. It allows me to be a bigger part of that than I could be on my own."
In addition to participating in the international project, the Conway Kiwanis club also has several local projects to help children. Its two major fundraisers are the Toad Suck 5/10K run and Pancake Day.
Sublett said, "We do the 5/10K run, and it raises about $30,000 we can distribute to organizations throughout the city and county. We’ve given to HAVEN for years. We’ve given to the Boys and Girls Club, City of Hope; in the past we’ve given to the Faulkner County Day School and Community Connections."
Dr. Terry Fiddler, who joined the club in 1974, recalls times when the club took up collections for a need in the community. He said following the Sun Pipeline fire in 1979, members of the Kiwanis Club pooled their money to help the firefighters who were injured in the blaze.
"At that time you didn’t have all the insurances, and we did a lot of private collections trying to defray some of the expenses with the firemen," he said.
Member Bill Johnson commented on some of the club’s other past charitable work.
"When I was a kid there were two things the Kiwanis Club did. They had a summer cam at Cold Springs. It was quite a good service — probably for underprivileged children, but back then we didn’t know who was underprivileged. Another thing they did for an annual event, they had a free movie at the Conway theater for children, and they gave each one a sack with oranges, apples and nuts. Those were two pretty major projects. In ’57 or so they started doing the pancake breakfast."
In 1994, the club’s first female member joined. Since then, several more women have joined, taking positions of leadership. The club has had three female presidents.
Member Beth Tyler said, "When I was looking to become involved in the community, I wanted something that was not only important to me, but something that could benefit the whole community. With our focus on youth, there’s not a person it doesn’t touch. It’s amazing to me how this very diverse group can come together and make it happen. I also love the inner-club camaraderie we have with other civic groups in the area — the way we come together to work on different projects, and the way this is not just a group that raises and donates money, this is a group willing to put boots on the ground and get dirty.
"I also think as a younger member of Kiwanis, the older members are so willing to mentor and teach the younger members. We have people like Stanley Russ and Denver Prince who are just staples in our community and are such great examples of faith and civic responsibility and engagement. You can’t help but want to be like them and talk to them and learn from them."
Tyler continued, "As a working mom, I wanted to find a way to give back to the community but still be able to take care of my family at the same time. Kiwanis has afforded me the opportunity to bring my family out to volunteer with us. We’ve volunteered with the Salvation Army, delivered food boxes, worked on cleanup crews — and it is so exciting to see them at an early age want to give back and look forward to helping their community."
In addition to all the club’s service and charitable efforts, each meeting involves a chance to reconnect with friends and learn something new during the program of the week.
Johnson said, "The service is great, and the fellowship has continued through the years being very enjoyable. The programs at each meeting are very good."
The 90th birthday celebration will be during the club’s regular meeting at China Town on Wednesday. There will be cake, and five past club presidents will speak.
(Staff writer Rachel Parker Dickerson can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)