A service club with a long history of nurturing children and youth in the community is putting down roots on the West Shore.
Kiwanis International, a worldwide organization established in 1915, is in the process of signing up members for a new club on the West Shore branch, said Patrick Ewing, an international trustee with Kiwanis International.
“It’s been in the works for a few months,” said Ewing, who has served as president of the Victoria chapter for the past two years. “We’ve been laying the groundwork, doing community analysis and setting up appointments and meeting with people, local businesses and organizations. The response has been very positive so far and we’ve signed up 10 members already. The goal is 15 to start the club.”
Colwood Mayor Rob Martin has signed up.
“The response from West Shore Parks and Recreation was very positive,” Ewing said. “We’re meeting with quite a few community leaders in the next three days.” That includes other West Shore mayors, fire chiefs, the West Shore RCMP, business owners, non-profits, financial advisors and insurance agencies, as well as the Salvation Army and other non profits.
“We’re taking a novel approach and letting new members decide when and where we meet,” Ewing said, adding that the majority of new clubs meet twice a month, with 90 per cent of those at 6 p.m. to better accommodate members’ work schedules. “We’re finding as we open new clubs, (411 worldwide in the past 13 months) the average age of our members is dropping by 15 years from 60 to 45.”
Although Kiwanis International has been well established in Victoria, Sidney and Vic West for many years, Ewing believes there is need for a club on the West Shore because of the rapid population growth, and especially the increase in young families.
“A lot of what we do is focused on children and youth,” Ewing explained. “We just met with School District 62 superintendent Scott Stinson. There is a need for more programs and services, especially with new schools on the way. One thing we keep hearing is the need for free activities for youth and children on the West Shore. Replacing the skate board park has come up on numerous occasions, and that’s something the club will definitely look at.”
Greg Wegrich, PNW Kiwanis new club opening chair, said the organization has historically been a student-led club with input from faculty that has always put a strong focus on promoting leadership skills in students from elementary age through to university.
“Development of students, compassion for fellow students and community service are key,” he said. “Students decide what fundraisers we donate to and what worthy non-profits are assisted. That teaches the students a lot of different skills.”
The Kiwanis Key Club, which puts a focus on leadership skills, community service and service within the school, has been in operation at Claremont Secondary School for more than 30 years. In addition to qualifying as high school courses, the program also provides scholarship opportunities.
“A lot of universities see Key Club membership as something that really stands out on an application,” Wegrich said. “It’s the largest student-led high school organization in the world, with 330,000 members.”
The Circle K Club, a college and university-led initiative, has been in operation at the University of Victoria since the 1970s.
“We offer an opportunity to be part of the amazing growth on the West Shore and make a difference in the community,” Wegrich said.
“Kiwanis is all about empowering and improving the lives of children and youth, and I think that’s something that resonates with people,” Ewing noted.
Call Thomas Sturge at 250-519-2129, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on the meeting.
For more on Kiwanis International programs and initiatives, visit kiwanis.org.