Kiwanis puts ‘service at the heart’

“Service is at the heart of every Kiwanis Club, no matter where you are in the world,” said Florence Kiwanis Club Secretary Jean Murphey. She was speaking at the March meeting of the Siuslaw School Board, telling the community about the many ways that the local Kiwanis Club directly supports area youth.

“The motto of Kiwanis is ‘serving the children of the world.’ The mission of Kiwanis is to empower communities to improve the world by making lasting differences in the lives of children,” she continued. “The vision of Kiwanis is to be a positive influence in communities worldwide — so that one day, all children will wake up in communities that believe in them, nurture them and provide the support they need to thrive.”

In the Siuslaw region, Kiwanis is an integral part of the ecosystem of support around youth: educating students, providing nutrition, promoting the arts and building community.

“We have 49 members all committed to these visions,” Murphey said.

Florence Kiwanis President Dick Shores said, “While Kiwanis’ international focus is on larger-scale challenges throughout the world, we’re really focused on helping the children in our local community. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re just focused on children — it could be doing things in the community, whether it relates to the family, which could in some way benefit the children, or whether they’re in school or other programs, like the Boys and Girls Club. We get involved in a lot of things.”

A major fundraiser for the club is its flag program, where volunteers set out 525 flags on 10 to 12 holidays a year.

“I see that really as a service that we provide to the community that they don’t have to go out and buy their own flag and remember to put them up on certain holidays. We buy all the flags, we own all of them, and we put them up,” Shores said. “In return, we’re getting the income from that that we can use in our charitable programs in the community.”

Individuals and businesses can sponsor the flags for $30 a year. The program has been going on for more than 30 years, expanding from just 35 flags in the early years.

“It’s a win-win situation: the community likes to see the flags go up and the money we raise helps support beneficial projects for local citizens,” said Kiwanian Steve Olienyk, who has helped with the flag program since the late 1980s. “I want our youth to feel a part of this service project, to encourage a love of country and a sense of pride in their flag and our community.”

Kiwanis’ second fundraiser is its golf tournament, where 128 participants form 32 teams.

“We had our first one in 2018, and that turned out to be very positively received in the community,” Shores said. “We generate revenue on that from our premier, major and hole sponsors, as well as the participants in the tournament.”

The 2019 tournament will be on June 22 at Ocean Dunes Golf Links.

“We’re looking forward to that being very successful,” he added.

Separate from the Kiwanis Club is the Kiwanis Foundation, which has its own board made of Kiwanians who manage its assets.

“The interest on those assets is primarily used to pay for scholarships for graduating seniors when they go to college. Generally, we annually give out $5,000 with the scholarships,” Shores said. “With the club itself, we’re focused on providing services, both in terms of our volunteer labor and finances, to other organizations, some of which might be other nonprofits, to help fund children’s programs.”

This includes contributing around $10,000 to the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital cancer program based in Portland. Around $20,000 went to local programs, such as the Boys and Girls Club of Western Lane County, the Winter Music Festival Kids Concert and Food Backpack for Kids.

“We contributed sizable donations to those — all in the interest of benefiting the children in our community,” Shores said.

Beyond money, Kiwanians also donate their time and expertise to area families and youth. Just this past weekend, volunteers cooked hotdogs for the Disaster Preparedness Expo at the Florence Events Center. In August, they helped with the Florence Police Department’s National Night Out, and May brings back the Rhody Days Kids Games after the Junior Parade. Kiwanis also hosts the Free Community Thanksgiving Dinner each year, as well as events for youth and students.

In the schools, the club works with Siuslaw High School through Key Club and Siuslaw Middle School with Builders Club, and annually leads Mapleton and Siuslaw eighth-graders through a “Game of Life” reality check.

In addition, Kiwanis has restarted its firewood program to collect firewood, cut and split logs, and deliver wood at no cost to needy families who depend on firewood as a primary source of heat. Additional volunteers are needed for this project, which intends to start delivering wood later this year.

“Anyone interested in helping our youth succeed will feel very rewarded as a member or volunteer of the Florence Kiwanis Club,” Shores said.

For more information, attend a Wednesday luncheon at Ocean Dunes Golf Links at noon or