For more than 35 years, the Huntington Metro Kiwanis have invested time and financial resources towards the development of programs for Huntington County residents.
The first Kiwanis club was organized in Detroit, MI, and received a charter from the state of Michigan on Jan. 21, 1915.
The group began as a small network of local businessmen who referred clients to each other's businesses. As the network grew, the members started to focus on not only themselves, but the needs of the community as well.
According to the organization's Web site, Kiwanis became international in 1916. The group limited its membership to the United States and Canada until 1962, when worldwide expansion was approved. Since then, Kiwanis has spread to all inhabited continents of the globe.
The organization adopted a mission statement in October of 2004, which states, "Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time."
More than 600,000 "Kiwanians," as members are called in 96 countries, make their mark by responding to the needs of their communities and pooling their resources to address worldwide issues, the Web site states.
Huntington County has three active Kiwanis chapters, two in Huntington and one in Roanoke.
The Huntington Kiwanis started in 1919, Huntington Metro Kiwanis in 1971 and the Roanoke chapter in 1988.
Huntington Metro Kiwanis President Evelyn Priddy says the overall mission of the three chapters remains the same.
"Huntington has two chapters because some members have time restraints or conflicts," she says. "Although we have separate fund raising activities, we collaborate on the same projects."
Jim Dinius, past lieuteneant-governor for the Wabash District Division, says that the Huntington Metro Kiwanis has been involved with many service projects since its inception.
"We have many outreach activities that we participate in," Dinius states. "They are mostly focused on helping the youth and young adults of Huntington County."
Some of the outreach programs include four scholarships to college students, hosting a Christmas party for children referred by the Salvation Army, serving as wheelchair escorts to residents of the Marion Veterans Administration Hospital, sponsoring ball teams in Huntington County and the YMCA baseball league and volunteer work at the Forks of the Wabash and Head Start properties.
"We also sponsor the annual Huntington County Spelling Bee and Terrific Kids Night," Priddy says. "The night honors a fourth grade boy and girl and their teacher from each school in the county."
In addition to the service projects, Priddy says the Metro club contributes to 11 additional service organizations in Huntington County.
She states that the organization conducts various fund-raising efforts throughout the year to support the services and programs in which they are involved.
Fund-raising activities include a corn dog trailer at the 4-H and Pioneer festivals, a rose sale during Administrative Assistants Week and serving concessions at the Roanoke Demolition Derby and Tractor Pull.
"Along with the funds raised are the countless number of hours that are donated by the members each year," states Dinius.
"We re-invest 100 percent of all funds raised back into the community through one of the many service activities," Priddy notes.
She adds that the Huntington Metro Kiwanis also collaborates with other district-wide chapters to contribute time and resources to Riley Children's Hospital.
"We visit the hospital every year on a Saturday to provide breakfast to the patients and their families," Priddy says. "This is an outreach effort that all the chapters participate in."
"Every few years, the chapters collaborate to buy Children's Hospital another mobile operating vehicle," adds Dinius. "The MOVs allows the medical team to perform any needed assistance, including surgery, while en route to the hospital."
The helipad at Riley Hospital was built with the help of Kiwanis resources, he adds.
In 2006, $265,000 was raised statewide by the Kiwanis organization for Riley Hospital.
Dinius says that Riley Hospital plans to add four stories to its facility in the next four years, including a "safe room." The Kiwanis chapters will be providing supplies, including toys, for the room.
Rita Dinius, secretary-treasurer of Huntington Metro Kiwanis, makes quilts and trauma dolls for the patients at Riley Hospital.
"The quilts are given to the children," she states. "The trauma dolls help the doctors to explain to the child what the surgery will entail."
Jim Dinius says that Kiwanis International recently completed a long-term project.
"Kiwanis International has been involved with a program focused on eliminating iodine deficiency in third world countries," he states. "We have been providing iodine deficiency supplies to help eliminate the problem."
Dinus adds that Kiwanis International has raised over $85 million over a 10-year period for this project.
Rita Dinius states that guest speakers at the weekly meetings provide members with vital information about the needs of the community.
"Sometimes we have representatives from different agencies who speak to our group about specific needs they may have," she says. "An example includes the mayor, who spoke to us about the Splash Park, to which we donated.
"Since I have been a part of Kiwanis, I have learned a lot about the city of Huntington and its many different organizations," states Jim Dinius. "If I were not a member, I don't think I would have known as much about these organizations as I do now."
Priddy says the Huntington Metro Kiwanis met all the requirements she was looking for in a service organization.
"My decision to be involved in the Kiwanis was based in part by the many partnerships the club has with other service-oriented organizations," says Priddy. "Because we network, we are able to identify the needs of the community and focus our efforts. It's more than just a social club because we are involved in giving back to the community effectively."
The Huntington Metro Kiwanis meets on Mondays, at 5:30 p.m., in the Habecker Dining Commons, at Huntington University.
For membership information on the Huntington Metro Kiwanis, contact Priddy at 359-4233.