The mission of the Kiwanis Club is to “improve the world, one child and one community at a time.”
For the Downtown Kiwanis Club of Paducah, they are overreaching that goal by dozens, hundreds or even thousands a year through the outreach they do for children and youth-centered organizations.
It is a mission that they have fulfilled for many years. One of the oldest volunteer organizations in the city, the Downtown Kiwanis Club of Paducah was chartered in January 1939, just as floodwaters were receding from the Great Flood of 1937.
Since then, the Club has worked diligently to fulfill the mission set forth by the founding members under the umbrella of Kiwanis International. They have built playgrounds, helped provide safe haven for children and families and given hope, time and time again.
One of the primary ways that the Kiwanis Club does this is through countless donations to local youth-oriented organizations. The list of beneficiaries is staggering—The Oscar Cross Boys and Girls Club, St. Nicholas Family Free Clinic, Family Service Society, The Salvation Army and Paducah Day Nursery, among many others.
“We help as much as we can with these organizations,” says Scott Jordan, chapter president.
“They just have to complete a request.”
The organization has two programs in which kids receive tangible benefits. For elementary-aged students, the group sponsors Read-to-Ride, a program that gives away bicycles to students as incentives to read.
“We have a partnership with Bike World where they donate some bikes and we buy some bikes, and all together, we were able to give 12 of them away last year,” says Scott.
“We would love to increase that number.”
High School students can apply to receive one of the Club’s lucrative $1,000 scholarships each year. For Scott, the scholarship, which follows a standard application protocol, is a way for the organization to achieve its mission while also spreading awareness of the group.
“It’s not a large amount of money–you could probably only get a couple of books with it–but it’s extra help that they may not be getting,” Scott says.
“But, honestly, what we want to do is to get a student to know Kiwanis and, not only to help them with school, but to let them know who we are, what we do and hopefully get them to seek out Kiwanis later down the road.”
“Our hope is that once they are out of school, maybe they’ll seek out Kiwanis and help raise money for the same thing.”
Last year, the organization was able to give 19 of these scholarships to area high school students. It’s a number that has grown each year, and Scott hopes it will continue to do so.
Raising the money to buy bicycles and send kids to college is where the group’s 85 members come in. And sometimes it is sweaty, hot work.
Take for example the work that the group does at their booth during the Annual BBQ on the River Festival each September. Not only does the group spend the weekend cooking ribs, pulled pork, chicken and last year’s famous BBQ Mac ‘n Cheese, but they do so in the name of helping others. And they win awards along the way, being honored in 2017 with first place prizes in the backyard shoulder and backyard chicken competitions and second in the ribs category.
Throughout the year, the Club puts their BBQ smokers to use doing fundraiser “cooks” to celebrate holidays, including Fourth of July, Easter, Super Bowl, Christmas and Thanksgiving.
Scott boasts that their Easter hams are the “best you’ll ever put in your mouth.”
When the cookers cool, the group sets about planning their other major fundraiser for the year, the 80th Annual Christmas Auction. The Auction, which broke records for attendance in 2017, finds members playing Santa gathering up toys and prizes for attendees to bid on–everything from UK tickets and memorabilia, trips and free meals are on the docket each year. Bidders last year even bid on the chance to donate a bicycle for the Read-to-Ride program, donating enough money collectively to grant six bikes to area school children.
For Scott, the growth of their fundraisers each year is a blessing, allowing the group to provide more for the community.
“Thankfully every year we have grown in each event so we’ve gotten more money to give,” he says.
The fundraising may be arduous, but Scott says that, throughout all, the group maintains a healthy sense of fun.
“Whatever we do, we have a really good time,” he says.
“There are a lot of jokes and camaraderie.”
The group, which meets weekly on Thursdays for lunch, is helping to redefine the organization as a whole, according to Scott.
“For anybody that knows most Kiwanis Clubs, they usually consist of an elder generation of men, but not us. We have a great mix of elders, younger members, and women,” he says.
“We are changing the scope of what Kiwanis looks like, and we have fun doing it.”
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