Kiwanis and Key Clubs a great combination

“Waimea High School deserves a Key Club,” said Helena Cooney, member of the Kiwanis Club of Kaua‘i based in Lihu‘e. “It’s a good way to make future leaders.”

The Kiwanis Club is hosting meetings on the first Thursday of each month at Wong’s Café in Hanapepe in hopes of attracting members to a new Westside club.

Cooney is taking the lead in organizing a Kiwanis Club on the Westside to sponsor a Key Club at WHS. Her club sponsors Key Clubs at Kapa‘a High School and Kaua‘i High School and awards scholarships.

The April meeting was the third in this recruiting phase. Gene Redden, past president, facilitated the meeting. He explained that the general format of the meeting included time to discuss and up-date on-going service projects and to hear a presentation on something going on in the community or something of interest.

He emphasized that the meaningful part of being a member of Kiwanis does not always happen at the meeting.

“Don’t come to the meeting, look at it as boring … and decide to walk away,” Redden said. “If you do, you are missing what Kiwanis is all about.”

Redden said that as a child, he would frequent a pancake breakfast sponsored by a Kiwanis Club. As an adult, when he was looking for a way to get involved, he joined the one club he was familiar with, and that was Kiwanis.

Wherever Redden moved to, he joined a Kiwanis Club. When he was in Alaska, he said the hands-on projects took his mind off the frustrations of his management and political responsibilities.

Redden invited members in attendance to share what brought them to Kiwanis and what keeps them in Kiwanis.

The best thing for Charles Gimby was the music.

“We always sang and had a few special songs … we sang in harmony,” Gimby said.

Patrick Cooney, club president, said he enjoys meeting people and the self-satisfaction of helping in the community.

Helena Cooney said she enjoys the fellowship.

Steve Nishimura, who holds the longest membership in the Kaua‘i club, said he is proud of what Kiwanis does in the community.

Prospective Westside members are already experiencing the personal gains.

Jim Sprague said he responded to an announcement to paint the Salvation Army building in Hanapepe.

“I had a good time,” Sprague said. “I ended up throwing in some carpentry tools and staying for days and days.”

The painting project continues on Saturday.

Kelly Liberatore is getting started by coordinating a service project scheduled for April 28. Liberatore is working with the Office of Elderly Affairs to spruce up the yard of an elderly deaf person.

John Merkel has been in two to three clubs over a 30-year period. He said he has had great social experiences, which he hopes to have here on Kaua‘i with this new club.

Mitch Milan said he heard about the club from Gimby, who is his neighbor. He thinks the club will be great for the Westside and will benefit his two children at Waimea High School and the one at Kekaha School.

The speaker for the evening was Sandy Webster, an eight-year resident of Kalaheo. She entitled her speech “Challenges, Choices and a Champion.”

“For the challenges I’ve faced growing up with kidney failure, choices I’ve made in overcoming adversity, and how these experiences have led me to where I am today, a champion in hopes of making a difference to someone,” Webster said.

When Webster was 10 years old, she was diagnosed with a blood disorder. Hers was only the seventh reported case in the world. The blood disorder led to kidney failure. In 1977 she received a kidney from her father and in 1995 she received another kidney from her husband.

She hopes to make a difference by carrying her message about the need for organ donors to others. When she ran her second Honolulu Marathon in 2005, for example, she wore a t-shirt that said “Ask me about my kidney transplant” on the front and “Organ donors save lives” on the back. Her plan worked, as she received a number of inquiries from race participants and spectators.

Recruiting efforts for the Westside Kiwanis club will continue. Florence Teshima and Helena Cooney have been going to each business in ‘Ele‘ele, Port Allen, Hanapepe and Waimea. Volunteers are welcome at the Salvation Army painting project and the yard cleaning project.

The next meeting’s featured speaker will be Bill Arakaki, Waimea High School principal.

The Westside did have a Kiwanis Club before, but it folded about 15 years ago.

Nishimura said when he first joined in 1979 there were just eight or nine members. They were still able to sponsor the Key Clubs at Kapa‘a and Kaua‘i High Schools.

He suggested that the measurement of success for the club would be within the community and the growth of the Key Club.

“Don’t get discouraged,” said Nishimura. “Keep your focus.”

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