Kiwanis: A Perfect Fit for Boomers
Where else can you find the ability to volunteer with Richmond’s children, listen to an insightful speaker and enjoy lunch and fellowship with friends?
The Kiwanis Club of Richmond provides all of those opportunities and more to its members.
Home to approximately 170 members, the Kiwanis Club of Richmond is one of several Kiwanis clubs in the Richmond area stretching from Ashland to the Tri-Cities, all with the goal of serving the children of the community.
Of those members, the primary demographic are recent retirees who are looking to fill their new-found time with the opportunities Kiwanis provides.
“Six years ago, I joined the Kiwanis Club of Richmond for two reasons: its excellent weekly programs with opportunity for fellowship and the Club’s central commitment to serving children, particularly those in the Richmond Public Schools,” said Bob Rogers, a retired Hampden-Sydney College professor, who has been a regular volunteer in the city’s schools.
Current President Barbara Dickinson first came to a Club meeting after being invited by a fellow member and was hooked from there.
“The presentation was professional, the people were enjoyable and the mission to serve the community and the children in our community seemed very interesting to me,” she said.
Dickinson received the approval of her employer at the time to join Kiwanis and has been involved with various committees over time, adding responsibilities within the Club before recently retiring from a career in banking and serving as president for the 2019-2020 Kiwanis year.
One of the biggest benefits that being a member of Kiwanis provides is the opportunity to volunteer in some of Richmond’s schools because of the relationship the Club has developed with local elementary schools through the years–in particular John B. Cary, Westover Hills and Carver. Volunteers from the Kiwanis Club spend time reading and tutoring in classrooms and participating in beautification projects at the schools. Each school has also been a member of the club’s signature “Adopt-a-School” project where the Club donates $10,000 a year to a school to help provide for classroom needs that aren’t otherwise provided.
“I love reading to children and getting the opportunity to actually go in and be involved in elementary schools in Richmond is a blessing,” Dickinson said. “To get to know the principals and be able to help the schools through our Adopt-A-School program brings me delight.”
The Club has also partnered with the VCU School of Engineering to provide a “Distance Learning Lab” at John B. Cary which has allowed the students there to connect virtually with the different labs at VCU with a goal of introducing STEM education at an early age. This will be expanded to other schools in the near future, said John Mahone, the Club’s school projects director.
Other volunteer opportunities include water stops at the annual Richmond Marathon and Monument Avenue 10K to the Christmas Party at the Children’s Hospital that dates back 65 years where the Club provides for the children under care there.
But volunteering isn’t the only aspect Kiwanis members enjoy. They also appreciate the quality of speakers that come to the weekly lunch meetings on Mondays at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture. In the past that has ranged from university presidents to Senators to school superintendents and other local community leaders discussing topics of interest.
For those not able to make the Monday meetings, the Club also has a “satellite” meeting on Wednesday evenings twice a month that features fellowship and a service project. Currently, the Club satellite is hosting a donation drive for the McKenney Vento program supporting the homeless students in the Richmond Public School system. They are collecting kits for personal hygiene and children’s activities.
As with so many other things in 2020, the Club has adjusted how it has operated. Starting in March and until the middle of July, meetings were held virtually. Now the Club meets in a hybrid fashion, hosting meetings at the VMHC while also streaming on Zoom.
“My year as President has taught me a lot, especially since March,” Dickinson said. “We had to ask the question, ‘Do we survive or die?’ Literally, if we didn’t find a way to have our weekly meetings, we would have lost so many members. When we introduced Zoom as an alternative and got back into the routine of our meetings, we not only had participation, we had nearly as many members join us virtually than we had in person.”
This also includes how the Club volunteers with the city’s elementary school children while learning is handled virtually. Plans include continuing their classroom readings virtually and a focus on projects that are outdoors.
“We are now discussing with the principals of each school how to best add value at each individual school,” Mahone said. “Adding value to each teacher’s classroom and student is now, more than ever, the primary goal”.
The Club also decided to provide a second round of its grant funding in response to the pandemic. Ordinarily each fall the club donates $60,000 annually to organizations such as the Virginia Voice, the Relationship Foundation of Virginia, Church Hill Activities and Tutoring and Childsavers. But a decision was made in the spring to make a second round to help its partners.
The combination of being able to serve the youth in our community while also making new friends is the draw to the Club’s members.
“I have found the experience rewarding beyond measure. Equally enriching have been the many deep friendships developed and nurtured within our ‘Kiwanis Family,’” Rogers said. “Belonging to this service club speaks to my mind and heart in winsome combination.”
For more information on the Kiwanis Club of Richmond, you can visit www.richmondkiwans.org or Club Facebook page at “Kiwanis Club of Richmond.” You may also contact the Club’s Executive Director Christy Jenkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.