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Kiwanis International Turns 100 Years Old This Month, A Look at Kiwanis Clubs in Boone and Banner Elk

By Jesse Wood

Jan. 22, 2015. 100 years ago the first Kiwanis club was founded in Detroit, Mich., as a network for local businessman and to serve the poor. Today, Kiwanis International operates in 80 countries and touts more than 600,000 members.

The organization raises more than $100 million to “improving the world one child and one community at a time” – not to mention the more than 18 million volunteer hours that members dedicate to the community.

search“Very few organizations are 100 years strong, and the fact that communities around the world have benefited from Kiwanis service for a century is no small thing,” said Gary Cooper, governor of the Carolinas District of Kiwanis International. “But closer to home, Kiwanis serves the children in over 175 communities in North and South Carolina.”

The Carolinas District happens to be the top Kiwanis International fundraising district in the United States and second to only Taiwan in the world.

In the past, Kiwanis International helped eradicate iodine deficiency disorder, the number one cause of mental retardation in the world with the Worldwide Service Project for IDD.

Today, Kiwanis International’s global campaign, in partnership with UNICEF, is The Eliminate Project, which strives to eradicate maternal neo natal tetanus, a disease that kills one baby in the world every nine minutes.

For both projects, Kiwanis International raised well over $100 million.

In honor of the anniversary, High Country Press spoke with members of the Kiwanis Club of Boone and Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk.

On March 19, 1968, the Banner Elk organization was chartered, and five years later on March 23, 1973, the Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk sponsored the charter of the Kiwanis Club of Boone.

Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk

Mary Jo Brubaker, a trustee of Divisions 1, 2 and 3 of the Carolinas District, joined the Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk several years ago, and she plans to run for the governor of Carolinas District of Kiwanis International during the next election cycle.

In keeping with Kiwanis International’s mission to serve children and her background as a career educator, Brubaker said that her evolving platform for running for district governor will include ways to improve the quality of life of children in North Carolina and South Carolina most likely through literacy.

Last summer, Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk hosted a picnic interclub meeting with the Mayland Aktion Club at Wildcat Lake Park.  Aktion is a service club for disabled adults.
Last summer, Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk hosted a picnic interclub meeting with the Mayland Aktion Club at Wildcat Lake Park. Aktion is a service club for disabled adults.

Prior to moving to Banner Elk, she was a member of Kiwanis Club in Marietta, Ga., which she has been a member of ever since she joined in 1987.

Service projects of the Banner Elk organization include Reading is Fundamental (RIF), a book distribution project for all of Avery County Schools elementary schools, Grandfather Academy and Crossnore School; Trunk or Treat; Woolly Worm Festival Mini Grants; Kiwanis One-Day Projects, past annual projects include purchasing playground equipment for toddlers at Wildcat Lake, hospital baskets for kids and Grandfather Home Centennial Cross landscaping; Christmas food drives; Fourth of July Celebration at Tate-Evans Park; sponsorship of local scouts; and more.

The newest project by the Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk is assisting the Town of Banner Elk and the Banner Elk Chamber with the Fourth of July celebration in the park. Brubaker said the club also donated 4,905 books recently to local schools as part of the aforementioned RIF project.

In addition to service projects, the Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk also gives out grants to local schools, organizations working for the greater good, such as the Feeding Avery Families, Reaching Avery Ministries, or “wherever we see a need,” Brubaker said.

This past year, Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk contributed $45,000 in “grants and givebacks” to the community, and Brubaker added that annually, this amount has ranged from $35,000 to $45,000 in her nine years with the local organization.

“Being apart of the community and giving back is what we are all about,” Brubaker said.

The local group is “very proactive” and meets each Tuesday at noon in the Lees McRae University private dining room.

As for events celebrating the 100-year anniversary, Brubaker said that those would be planned in the coming months for when residents arrive back to the High Country for cool summer weather in the mountains.

To join or for more information about Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk, click here.

Kiwanis Club of Boone

Just like Brubaker in Banner Elk, Rick Looper, current secretary of the Kiwanis Club of Boone, has been involved with the local Kiwanis Club of Boone for about nine years.

Looper, who is the executive director of Appalachian Brian Estates, became involved with the Kiwanis Club of Boone whenever the club met for a spaghetti dinner at Appalachian Brian Estates just around the time Looper joined Appalachian Brian Estates.

Before moving to the Boone area, Looper said he had spent his career commuting to work, living and working in different areas. By the living in the same community of which he worked, Looper said the extra time afforded him to become more actively involved in the community.

Kiwanis Club of Boone participates in Santa's Toy Box each year.
Kiwanis Club of Boone participates in Santa’s Toy Box each year.

Looper said he enjoys the camaraderie of his fellow chapter members, and at weekly meetings, folks from different organizations will speak, alerting Kiwanis of needs in the area.

“I think people enjoy doing things for their neighbors and for the community and Kiwanis is a way of doing that in an organized way where they can learn about the needs in the community and find ways of becoming effective instead of being out their on their own, hit and miss and not know how you are impacting the community,” Looper said.

The Boone chapter is involved in a number of projects and organizations that do good work: Terrific Kids, NC Safe Kids, Children’s Playhouse, Parent Teacher Organizations for all the local schools, Santa’s Toy Box, Hospitality House, Math Camp, Dictionary Project, Safe Babysitting Class, Meals on Wheels, Project Graduation, Pioneer Academy, Key Club, Circle K, Aktion Club and more.

It mentors or advises service clubs at the high school and Appalachian State University and also disabled adults at Watauga Opportunities who want to become active in the community and participate in service projects.

Looper noted that cash grants are given to parent teacher organizations at all of the local schools and members are involved in mentorship projects at the schools and Western Youth Network. In the past five years, the Kiwanis Club of Boone has given more than $30,000 for the global The Eliminate Project, Looper said.

Susan Jones, treasurer for the Kiwanis Club of Boone, said that the local chapter raises about $19,000 per year. As both Looper and Jones noted, administration costs are paid through membership dues and all of the monies raised directly impact projects for the community.

Jones said the biggest fundraiser is the triathlon, a tradition that began last year. This year, the triathlon is planned for Sept. 19 and involves an eight-mile run, four-mile kayak and 40-mile bicycle road race.

On Feb. 27, the Kiwanis Club of Boone is hosting a chili dinner and auction at Appalachian Brian Estates. Then in the summer a pancake breakfast fundraiser is planned at Applebee’s.

As for the 100-year anniversary of Kiwanis International, Jones said, “We’ll be celebrating all year long.”

Kiwanis Club of Boone meets each Wednesday at 11:45 a.m. at Sagebrush Steakhouse.

To join or for more information about Kiwanis Club of Boone, click here.