Wednesday, 04 May 2016 15:57

Swift Current Kiwanis hosting an open house on May 10

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Swift Current MLA and Premier Brad Wall (at left) presents the 2015 Premier’s Service Club Award to Swift Current Kiwanis Club President Larry Johnson, Jan. 15, 2016 Swift Current MLA and Premier Brad Wall (at left) presents the 2015 Premier’s Service Club Award to Swift Current Kiwanis Club President Larry Johnson, Jan. 15, 2016

The Swift Current Kiwanis Club hopes to gain members and create greater awareness about the club’s activities in the community at an upcoming open house.

The club is hosting the open house at the Living Sky Casino Sky Centre May 10 from 7-9 p.m. Snacks and refreshments will be served while club members will share their experiences with people.
Event co-ordinator Larry Jensen said it will be a good way to find out more about some of the club’s current initiatives and to meet some of its 67 members.
“It’s an opportunity for the public to really learn a little more about what Kiwanis means to our community and what we’re all about,” he explained. “Our objective in this undertaking is to certainly look to recruit some additional members to our club and while our club continues to be stable and growing, we think we would still be able to accommodate additional members given some of the things we want to do going forward.”
The Swift Current Kiwanis Club was chartered in 1921. Its long tradition of service to the community was recently recognized provincially when the club received the 2015 Premier’s Service Club Award.
The club is very active in the community and it has been able to maintain membership numbers at 60 to 65 people during the past five years.
“We’ve been fortunate to keep our membership in that area,” he said. “A lot of service clubs nowadays are struggling and so we feel fortunate in the sense that we’ve been able to maintain and actually grow our club a little bit in an environment which service clubs by and large continue to be challenged in terms of membership.”
While it requires effort to recruit new members, the club has been able to do that with success.
“We’ve had members leave for a variety of reasons, whether it’s relocating, death, the club isn’t meeting their objectives,” he said. “At the same token, we’ve been able successfully find new members to replace those members and maintain our membership.”
This will be the second time in recent years the club will host an open house. A similar event took place in April 2011.
“We had a very successful evening, and we thought it was time to resurrect this format and do it again,” he said.
Larry Johnson, the club’s current president, joined the Kiwanis after attending that previous open house in 2011.
“I was invited and I got a lot out of it,” he said about attending that event five years ago.
He decided to become a member after learning more about the club’s activities at that open house.
“I liked a lot of their programs in giving back to the youth of the city and I knew a number of individuals who were in it,” he said. “They all had positive things and I just like to put back in the community.”
Johnson appreciates many aspects of his participation in the club’s activities, whether it is the interaction with other members or the various projects.
“It’s the fellowship, the friendship, the service projects and the fundraisers that we have, because to me the fundraisers are just a great way to still communicate with the people that you don’t see on a regular basis,” he said. “I was always in the retail business and you saw people on a regular basis, but since I retired I don’t see that anymore because I’m away from it. So this gives me an opportunity to see people.”
He referred to the club’s annual apple drive to raise funds for various community activities, when he will encounter people he has not seen for a while.
“Just the reception you get from seeing people again that you haven’t seen in a long time and talk a little bit and selling some apples or whatever program we’re involved in,” he said. “That’s what I get out of it. I enjoy seeing people.”
He has always been good at meeting and engaging with people from all walks of life, but his involvement with Kiwanis helped him to become more comfortable with public speaking.
“I can sit and talk with individuals, it doesn’t matter what walks of life they are, I’m quite comfortable with that,” he said. “I’ve done it all my life in the retail business, but stand up in front of 50 or 60 people was kind of intimidating because it’s different from talking to one or two at a time. So that’s been good for me that way to be able to just take a deep breath and relax and hope you don’t screw up.”
According to Jensen, there are two reasons why anyone should considering joining the Swift Current Kiwanis.
“One would be that first and foremost we have a club that has a very good dynamic to it in terms of social engagement and also Kiwanis did a tremendous amount of good work in our community,” he said. “So if you’re looking to be part of a group of people that is fun to be with and enjoyable to be with, a good cross section of the community, and you are interested in doing something to make your community better, then Kiwanis offers that opportunity.”
Many of the club’s projects are aimed at supporting youth, for example Spookarama, a youth wellness conference and providing support for a summer fun program, free swimming for children and the local music festival.
The Kiwanis is responsible for the duck derby at the annual Southwest Crisis Services Picnic in the Park, it takes care of barbecues at Cancer Relay for Life and 4-H activities, club members participate in highway cleanups, they have helped with renovations at the Southwest Crisis Services safe house, and the Kiwanis provide support for Canadian Blood Service donor clinics.
“We’re never short of opportunities to look at things in our community and always we have to look at our manpower,” he said.
One of the challenges for the club is to have members available throughout the year for different activities, because a growing number of members are snowbirds who are gone during the winter months. The club’s goal is therefore to gain additional members to hopefully make it easier to have people around throughout the year for different projects and initiatives.
“Our membership numbers being stable is good, but we also have to look at the availability of those numbers throughout the 12-month Kiwanis year,” he said.
One of the distinctive features of the club is that there is a club meeting every Friday over the lunch hour. It is an opportunity for fellowship and to share information about what is going on in the community.
“That format is a little bit different than most clubs who might meet monthly or semi-monthly,” he said. “That way if people can’t make every Friday meeting it still gives them an opportunity to engage with their fellow members quite frequently.”
During a recent lunch meeting the club members hosted the consultants working on the downtown revitalization project for the City of Swift Current.
“Our program committee does a tremendous job of bringing interesting topics and people to our meetings to educate our members about what’s going on in our community, some of the initiatives that are happening and some of the service work needs that are apparent in the community as well,” he said. “So by bringing that to our members, it gives us an opportunity to consider where we might be able to be of assistance too.”

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Matthew Liebenberg