ELYRIA — The Elyria and Lorain Kiwanis Clubs celebrated their
100-year legacies Wednesday evening at Lorain County Community College.
The Elyria Kiwanis Club was chartered March 5, 1919, with its original 62 members reaching out to help found Lorain’s months later.
“It’s wonderful to see both major cities celebrating this at the same time and having these capacity builders in our Kiwanis Club in the community,” Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda said. “The health of Elyria depends on the health of Lorain and the health of Lorain depends on the health of Elyria. It’s wonderful to see these two communities support one another in these efforts.”
Elyria Kiwanis President Dennis Lehman has served in both clubs and at the state level — starting out in Lorain Kiwanis 50 years ago before moving to Elyria. In the early 2000s he served as governor for the Ohio chapters of Kiwanis International.
Elyria Kiwanis Club has done everything from buying bears for Cascade Park (when the park still had bear caves) and putting in a swimming pool to creating the annual Halloween Parade and the annual Strawberry Festival. To help students meet the third-grade reading guarantee, The club also has a reading program where third-graders read a book and write a report, and the best report earns a new bicycle.
It also has been involved in international projects since the 1990s, including partnering with UNICEF to help end iodine deficiency complications in developing countries. Iodine deficiency can cause a goiter, and when left untreated can lead to developmental delays and other health problems in children.
Valerie Smith, Lorain Kiwanis’ secretary/treasurer said that’s what makes Kiwanis unique.
“It’s really interesting because Kiwanis has been around longer than that and it was formed in Detroit, now’s it’s international, around the world … so it’s a cool kind of reminder that we are truly international, even though the headquarters is in Indiana,” she said.
Lorain Kiwanis funds a clothe-a-child program, donates to the Palace Youth Theater and Camp IDEAS, a six-week summer camp for children with learning disabilities.
“‘Young children, priority one’ that is the motto of Kiwanis,” Smith said. “Just like Lions Club is the ‘Knights of Sight’ and they help with eyeglasses for people, and Rotary has a different aim, ours is ‘young children, priority one.’ So that’s why we look whenever possible to sponsor activities that help young children in our communities.”
In all the years Lehman has been involved in both Lorain and Elyria Kiwanis and at the state level, he said he’s seen a lot of changes and a lot of projects. From Elyria’s start at civic projects like a push to widen Second Street, to more local challenges children and families may face, he said the group would like to encourage more young people go get involved — as there’s never a shortage of work to be done.
“I think the big thing in the future is to try to do things that everybody else isn’t doing — try to find out where there’s a niche and where there’s a need and fill that, especially working with youth. … I think that there’s always a need out there, so I think that there’s always a need for (service clubs). There’s always going to be something for us to do if we just look for it and find it.”