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Steady as they serve
The group of 10 active members keeps a low profile at times but doesn't plan to sway from its service-minded path.
“We do what we do and hope people will join,” said club treasurer Shell McGuire, a member since 1990.
“We have a goal to get members next year, and if we get more members, the more people we can give to and help. It's a circle.”
The club's circle of giving began in October 1972 when it was chartered. Members have done a number of fundraisers and activities to benefit local agencies and efforts such as Camp Beausite, a summer camp the club helped start for people with special needs near Chimacum.
All money from fundraisers goes to projects centered around its motto: “Serving the Children of the World, One Child and One Community at a Time.”
“That's the whole point of the club,” McGuire said.
Fundraisers support the camp, books for elementary students, college scholarships, various school projects, a middle school poetry contest, yearbooks for foster children who are seniors in high school and extra funds for other service organizations.
At the club's peak it saw 30-plus members in the 1990s, though it has since seen a decline. One of the club's major fundraisers, posting patriotic bunting for businesses throughout town, was put on hold for a year due to not having enough manpower, said Gil Oldenkamp, who has been a Kiwanian since 1968 and with Sequim's club since 1986.
He said membership has taken such a hit that they've reduced requirements for members, from attending at least twice a month to simply paying dues. The club used to meet weekly on Thursdays for lunch but now meets the first and third Thursday each month at noon.
McGuire said during the heyday of the club people had more discretionary income but as the economic climate has changed people work more and have less time for lunch breaks when the club meets.
However, the few dedicated volunteers vow to stay with their fundraisers.
“We don't plan on quitting anytime soon,” said Oldenkamp.
McGuire said he receives a lot of emotional reward from being a Kiwanian.
“Just because you're giving something away doesn't mean you don't get something back,” he said.
Fun in the fundraisers
Two of the club's major fundraisers are seasonal. Its annual Christmas tree sale, in the JC Penney parking lot, started the same year as the club; the bunting is a summer activity.
McGuire said they'll send out newsletters to 150 businesses with offers to sponsor a bunting, with incentives available for the more you buy. Subscriptions for patriotic bunting run from Memorial Day to Labor Day with possibly a week in between for cleaning.
With its Christmas tree sales, the club begins work well before most people want to deal with the holidays, but with the Kiwanis club it's just good business. The club buys trees from Lazy J Tree Farm and sells them for less than retail prices.
Oldenkamp has fronted the program for three years and said they hope to sell between 250 and 275 trees.
“The last two years the economy has hurt us,” he said.
But thanks to renegotiating terms and bringing in smaller tabletop trees, Oldenkamp is optimistic the club can recover. Trees go on sale the day after Thanksgiving (Nov. 23) and stay open tentatively through Dec. 19, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. At night, trees are on sale through an honor system.
The newest venture for Kiwanis is working with the Sequim PC Users Group to turn around donated computers and help by cleaning hard drives and reinstalling new operating systems and software for local organizations and individuals who might not otherwise be able to afford a computer.
McGuire said the program originally started as a partnership with OlyPen but segued into working with the PC Users Group.
Since starting, the endeavor has given 60 computers to agencies such as Serenity House, Sequim Boys & Girls Club, North Olympic Foster Parents Association and Peninsula Behavioral Health in Port Angeles.
McGuire said the club continues to reach out to various community agencies to keep connections.
“At our meeting we might only give (a group) a few hundred dollars, but it's a two-way conversation rather than just getting a request for money,” he said.
For more on the Kiwanis, call McGuire at 681-0805.