Welcome to our social impact series, called “Five Questions.” On the first day of every month, we will share five questions with a community organization serving children and youth in Jackson County. We hope to inspire you, enlighten you, and connect you with community organizations should you ever need assistance. By sharing this with you, we hope that together we can be inspired to take action to improve our communities!
Back in May, I had the pleasure of being invited to share all about Wonder and Wander – Jackson with The Kiwanis Club of Jackson. Before receiving an invitation, I honestly did not know much about Kiwanis. I knew they had their park here in Jackson (what a gem!). I knew of my family friend who had been a Kiwanis member in my hometown, but otherwise, I had a lot to learn.
When I tell you that what I found was the kindest group of people, I am not exaggerating. The sole purpose of Kiwanis is to serve the children, and these folks work tirelessly to do that in our community. From funding events to maintaining multiple outside spaces in Jackson, they really do it all. I am thrilled to feature The Kiwanis Club of Jackson, Michigan on the blog this month. I had the pleasure of sharing five questions with Kiwanis Club secretary Joe Wolfe. Keep reading to learn more about this amazing organization.
Five Questions With The Kiwanis Club of Jackson, Michigan
1. Tell us about The Kiwanis Club of Jackson, Michigan. What is the mission of your organization?
Kiwanis is a worldwide service organization founded in Detroit in 1915. In 1918 the Kiwanis Club of Jackson was formed by 75 local businessmen to help needy children in Jackson. Today that mission still is the focus not only of Kiwanis International, to “serve the children of the world”, but also the Jackson club’s mantra, to serve the children of Jackson. And we do that in many ways – from nutrition to education, to physical activities, to developing leadership.
2. Many people might not know that you maintain your very own park here in Jackson. Tell us about the Kiwanis Park!
The Kiwanis Park, also known as the Kiwanis Playground, is located at the intersection of Elm, Blakely, and Seymour Streets. In 1947, the Jackson Kiwanis Club adopted this city-owned park and promised to maintain it. All new playground equipment was installed a couple of years ago, a new concrete bike/walking path was built, picnic tables and grills are provided, and the cleanest restroom facility of all the city parks can be found at Kiwanis Park. Club members regularly plant flowers, add mulch, weed, and keep the landscape picture perfect! Hundreds of kids use the playground daily during the summer.
3. Kiwanis does so much work in our community to support youth. Can you please tell us more about this work and your projects in the community?
We could spend all day talking about Kiwanis and community support. Here’s a list of some of the most recent projects completed to give you an idea of what Kiwanis does yearly.
- In April, with the help of students from The Middle School at Parkside, we packaged 10,000 meals that will be distributed by the Salvation Army to needy families.
- In April, we also donated $8,000 to the Dahlem Center for the creation of a Story Walk trail. Completing the walk and the story is a little less than 2 miles.
- In May, $1,000 was donated to the Y Center to help fund their Summer Camps program.
- Hundreds and hundreds of kids will be entertained at the Michigan Theatre this summer with Kiwanis-sponsored movies.
- Throughout the year, Kiwanis furnishes shoes and boots to K -6 graders attending Jackson Public Schools. This year footwear will be provided to over 400 children.
- We awarded two $1,000 scholarships to local high school graduates who plan on attending Jackson County-based colleges.
- Kiwanis sponsors two Key Clubs, one at Western High School and the other at Jackson High School, where high school-age kids learn leadership skills and participate in their own Kiwanis fundraisers and philanthropy.
- Every third grader in Jackson County is gifted a dictionary. And with March being Reading Month, the club furnished bicycles to various grade schools to encourage reading.
- Last year Kiwanis donated $40,000 to the Y Center for their renovation project.
- The Jackson club sponsors the Splash Pad at the Cascades and the Disc Golf Course at Ella Sharp Park.
- Every Halloween, we host a party at the Kiwanis Playground where we furnish cider and donuts to the trick-or-treaters and their families. Over 700 attended the party last year!
4. Kiwanis conducts many fundraisers throughout the year to raise funds for all of your amazing projects that support children in our community. Please tell us about these fundraisers. Can someone donate to you in other ways?
Currently, there are three major fundraising projects.
- The flag service, where individual homeowners or business owners can subscribe to having an American flag in their yards 5 times a year – Memorial Day, Flag Day (June 14), Independence Day (July 4), Labor Day, and Veterans Day (Nov 11). Kiwanis members plant the flag about a week before the holiday and take it down about a week after the holiday. The cost is $40 a year. We currently have 1250 flag customers in Jackson County.
- We host a Winter Golf Outing in January where a special golf course is setup in the snow, and plastic golf balls are used. It sounds crazy, but around 350 people participated last year and the club made over $10,000.
- Our oldest fundraiser dates back to 1918, the year Kiwanis was founded in Jackson, and that is our annual newspaper sale. A special Kiwanis edition is sold at various businesses, on the streets downtown, and even by mail. The newspaper tells about the good works of Kiwanis and members sell the paper for “any contribution”.
Between these three major fundraisers, the club realizes between $80,000 to $100,000 in revenues, which fund all the projects. And 100% of all money collected goes toward charitable use.
5. If someone wants to become a Kiwanis member, how do they do that? Are there any prerequisites or requirements to becoming a member?
The only prerequisite is you must be at least age 18 – and, of course, have a passion for helping needy children! Call Joe Wolfe, the club secretary, at 517-740-3008. The club meets every Friday at noon at the Cascades Manor house, and anyone is welcome to attend the luncheon, which includes an informative program — just like the Wonder and Wander Jackson program presented last month!
Looking for our previous Five Questions features? Click here.