A new Kiwanis Club in Wesley Chapel is looking for civic-minded people who want to help build leadership-related activities for school-age children.
“If I asked you, ‘Would you like to be part of an organization that gives all of its money to children and the development of children’s programs,’ how can you say no?’’ said Joe Meyer, a Sarasota-based Kiwanis member who specializes in building and maintaining clubs.
The Kiwanis Club has four new Tampa Bay clubs forming, including one in Wesley Chapel. Florida has 240 adult chapters with approximately 6,900 members.
In the United States, the organization raises more than $100 million annually and dedicates it to 150,000 community service projects, which translates into 18.5-million service hours.
The clubs are involved in all sorts of public service works.
They have built all-access playgrounds, restocked libraries, created food pantries, bought medical equipment, hosted diversity fairs, and stuffed backpacks with school supplies.
Ed Anderson, a Wesley Chapel realtor and Kiwanis member since 1977, is serving as advisor for the new Wesley Chapel club.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced most of its organizational meetings to be held via Zoom video conferencing, but Anderson is encouraged by the initial response.
“Wesley Chapel is such a fast-growing area, one of the fastest-growing places in Florida, that it just seems like a natural to establish a club that could really grow,’’ said Anderson, who has most recently served as secretary of the Kiwanis Club of Carrollwood. “Even though Wesley Chapel is a fairly affluent area, there are still folks who need things.
“Once you’re a Kiwanian, it becomes part of your life. Once a Kiwanian, always a Kiwanian. You’re able to impact the community and make a difference. There are many networking groups and business groups. They are great, but their purpose is to build businesses. In Kiwanis, your sole objective is giving back to the community — specifically kids.’’
What are some of the Kiwanis projects?
The Terrific Kids bumper stickers, as in “I have a Terrific Kid at Wesley Chapel High School,’’ is a Kiwanis project.
The Key Clubs that exist in most high schools, emphasizing leadership, character development and service? That’s Kiwanis.
The BUG (Bring Up Grades) programs that recognize students who raise their grade to an acceptable range and offer certificates, buttons and parties? That’s Kiwanis, too.
Kiwanis also is about people such as Alex Dang, a Wiregrass Ranch High School graduate and a University of South Florida freshman who’s majoring in bio-medical sciences. He has designs on medical school and becoming a pediatrician.
In his sophomore year at Wiregrass Ranch, Dang joined the Key Club.
“The comparison of myself from the beginning of high school compared to now is so dramatic,’’ said Dang, 18. “I’ve learned about social networking, communication skills and public speaking. I was a Key Club board member, so I had to speak and become a leader.
“Before, I didn’t really pursue any of those skills. Key Club gave me a push in that direction and really put my life on a different course.’’
Dang has joined the Kiwanis Club of Wesley Chapel.
“Wesley Chapel is such a tight-knit community, so I really think a lot of people are going to join and participate in the activities and sponsorships,’’ Dang said. “The best thing about Kiwanis Club is anyone can join, no matter what skill set you have. In fact, it’s even better if you have a different skill set because that makes the club more diverse and strong.’’
Meyer, a membership-building specialist, said all walks of life are welcome.
“We get bankers, real estate professionals, insurance people, automotive repair, sales people, retailers, school employees … you name it,’’ Meyer said. “It’s all about getting people to work together and helping children in the community. You have to have a big heart and the desire to help kids. There’s great camaraderie in the club and the rewards are immense.’’
For any men or women interested in the opportunity, the Kiwanis Club of Wesley Chapel’s Facebook page summed it up:
“Kids are curious, lovable and hilarious. They are also wild, impatient and vulnerable. Help us look out for kids in Wesley Chapel and around the globe.’’
By Joey Johnston
Published September 09, 2020