Kiwanis hopes to restart club in Hudson

HUDSON–Early this month representatives of the Kiwanis came to a meeting to the school board to discuss recruiting new members to revive a club in Hudson.

Kiwanis International is a non-profit organization that describes itself as dedicated to fulfilling identified social-service needs through both fundraising and hands-on volunteer work. Its recent local actions include distributing food and gift certificates to needy families, sponsoring a senior citizens prom and raising money for Albany Medical Center’s Bells of Life campaign.

At the January 6 informational meeting of Board of Education, attendees included Aldermen Tiffany Garriga (Hudson Ward 2) and Alexis Keith (Hudson Ward 4), and Victor Mendolia, chairman of the city Democratic Committee. Kiwanis members from outside Hudson exceeded the number Hudson residents. These included: Bob Horan, superintendent of the Castleton-on-Hudson/Schodack Central School District; and Jake Spencer, a senior at Tamarack High School and a governor of the New York district for Key Clubs, the Kiwanis’ high school branch. Other Kiwanians came from Sand Lake and Troy.

Hudson once had a Kiwanis Club. Ms. Keith said her father belonged to it. In 1975, the Greater Hudson Kiwanis Club dedicated the fountain in 7th Street Park, according to two plaques on the fountain’s fence. One plaque names the fountain the Kiwanis Bicentennial Inspiration Fountain.

The Kiwanis representatives guess that the Greater Hudson club folded about 15-to-25 years ago. “Unfortunately, it had fewer and fewer members,” said Dave Booker of the Sand Lake Club. “There are ebbs and flows in all clubs.”

But “every community deserves a Kiwanis club,” said Bob Loveridge, also of Sand Lake. And “you guys have a great city.”

“I’m here to educate myself,” said Ms. Garriga. “My personal interest is working with children with disabilities.”

Starting–or reviving–a Kiwanis Club requires at least 15 charter members. Kiwanis works with other social service organizations and welcomes people who are also active in such organizations, according to its representatives. “Kiwanis doesn’t compete with other organizations. It partners with them,” said Mr. Loveridge. Dialogs with community organizations are “an excellent way to find out what the community needs,” he said.

Ms. Garriga suggested that a Hudson Kiwanis club could collaborate with the Staley Keith Social Justice Center and Promise Neighborhood.

Alderman Keith, who works as a Family Specialist in the Hudson City School District said many groups and clubs would benefit from working with the Kiwanis.

Kiwanis International has 50 districts, about 30 in North America. New York forms an entire district, with 400 clubs, grouped into 27 divisions by geographic location. If Hudson had a club, it would be in the Van Rensselaer division, which currently has seven clubs, including Troy, Rensselaer, Sand Lake, and Castleton/Schodack.

The club was started in Detroit in 1915. The name comes from a Native American word meaning “I build.” Kiwanis International now has its headquarters in Indianapolis. Among the organization’s six Permanent Objectives adopted in 1929 are: “To give primacy to the human and spiritual rather than to the material values of life” and “To provide, through Kiwanis clubs, a practical means to form enduring friendships, to render altruistic service, and to build better communities.”

Kiwanis International youth clubs have more total members than the adult clubs–349,000 youth compared to 233,000 adults. Youth clubs include Key Clubs, for high school students, and Builders Clubs and K-Kids for grade schoolers. There are also special clubs for people with disabilities and for college students.

Mr. Spencer said it is possible to start a Key Club for high school students without a sponsoring adult club.

“Clubs have local autonomy,” Mr. Booker said. “Every community assesses and determines what it needs.” The club representatives said all funds Kiwanis raises go to community service. The cost of maintaining the organization comes from membership dues.

“We do a lot of hands on activity with high risk kids,” said Joe Behson, a member of the Sand Lake club. The clubs also have programs focused on senior citizens.

Even for established clubs, a top priority remains recruiting new people. “One thing that can kill a club is not bringing in new members,” said Mr. Behson. Without them, “we won’t get new ideas,” he said.

Mr. Loveridge, who has a background in criminal justice, has been in Kiwanis for about 15 years. Mr. Booker joined Kiwanis about 33 years ago when he lived in Massachusetts. When moving to New York, as soon as settling on a house, he started going to meetings of his new town’s Kiwanis Club. Mr. Behson, after working in juvenile justice and coaching sports teams, “felt a gap. Kiwanis filled it.”

Those interested in getting involved should contact Bob Loveridge at 518-202-6876 or .

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