By: Kimberly Redmond
For more than 70 years, the club has been committed to making a difference in the lives of some of Denville’s youngest residents through volunteer service projects, community events, programs and fundraising initiatives.
“We’re not a large group, but we show up and we bring our hands – and our hearts,” said Jennifer Green, President of the Denville Kiwanis.
“The focus of activity is on hands-on service projects and about being a good person where you live,” Green said. “It’s about doing good or offering what you can for the common good.”
One of the oldest clubs in Denville, the organization received their charter in July 1946 and now has about 10 active members, who ages range from residents in their 30s to those who are in their late 70s, said Green.
“The main reason people join is because they care about doing projects that benefit Denville and the surrounding area,” she said.
“It’s about changing the world – one child and one community at a time,” Green said.
That could mean anything from working with Denville Social Services to deliver Thanksgiving meals before Turkey Day to partnering with the Denville Police Department to put on an annual bike safety rodeo for kids to serving up flapjacks at a Father’s Day Pancake Breakfast.
“Our whole focus is on quality of life for children. The community projects we do are about fostering a place where our kids can thrive. Even if we’re not doing something specific for children, we’re focused on a place or helping quality of life so kids can grow up into kind and generous people,” Green said.
Over the last year, the Denville Kiwanis took on 20 projects, which were a mix of volunteer services, fundraising events and financial gifts, Green said.
The majority involved service-oriented work the group could do, she said.
“Our club made a conscious choice in the past year to focus more on hands-on service projects where our members can give their time, rather than stress too much about always raising money,” Green said.
A few places you may have seen club members recently: ringing Salvation Army bells during the holiday season, delivering food for the Market Street Mission, running a craft table at Pride in the Park and helping with registration at the Denville Triathlon.
Donations have been made over the past year to Denville Baseball, a local Boy Scout Eagle Project, the Joey Bella Tricky Tray dinner and Kiwanis local youth clubs in schools.
“Like many service clubs, we are trying new approaches to raising funds so that we can continue funding our current donations and we would love to be able to award scholarships again to high school students graduating from one of our sponsored Key Clubs,” Green said. “This year, we started a wonderful partnership with VFW Post 2519 in Denville to co-sponsor the St. Patrick’s Day Corned Beef & Cabbage Dinner fundraiser. That’s an example of how we are reaching out to work with other groups for the benefit of all.”
Another large part of what they do involve trying to make a good impression on children.
In addition to community-wide efforts, Denville Kiwanis are involved in local schools, where they sponsor seven youth clubs for students between the ages of six and 18.
Currently, there’s Riverview Kiwanis Kids, Lakeview Kiwanis Kids, Valleyview Builders Club, Morris Catholic High School Key Club, Morris Hills High School Key Club, Morris Knolls High School and Morris County School of Technology Key Club. They also sponsor the Atkion Club, which is for adults living with disabilities.
Throughout the school year, the sponsored youth groups work on finding service projects and activities that they can take on that benefit the community.
Additionally, the Denville Kiwanis work with each youth group to band together on major service projects and fundraisers. Just a few of those initiatives include: the annual fish & chips dinner fundraiser, the Denville Kiwanis shoe box recycling project and various food pantry needs.
Green joined the group about two years ago, after purchasing a house in Denville. After transferring from Georgia to New Jersey for work, she and her husband were still newcomers to the area, so Green read up about her new community.
“I’d heard about it being a service-minded town and I’ve been blown away by the generosity I’ve seen,” she said. “In Denville, people really pull together and rally when something needs to be done. It impressed me so much and I wanted to be able to contribute and participate, too.”
“Service clubs are like the glue of a community,” Green said. “We fill gaps and hold up the community over the years. Whether it’s the Kiwanis, the Rotary, the Women’s Club or another group, I’d love for everyone to find a service club that appeals to them and join. It’s so worth it.”
Kiwanis International was founded more than 100 years ago in Detroit, Mich. as a business networking organization but eventually changed its focus to community service.
The organization’s primary mission is molding good kids into good adults. It offers programs that teach leadership skills, the importance of community and offers services like after-school tutoring.
In fact, the name Kiwanis comes from a Native American phrase, “Nunc Kee-wanis,” which means “We trade” or “We trade our talents.”
It’s also one of the few organizations that offer membership to almost all age groups – from students to adults. Combined, there are 600,000 members in 8,000 chapters in 96 countries, according to Kiwanis International.
Annually, Kiwanis International sponsors around 150,000 projects that cover a wide spectrum of services, raise over $100 million for their communities and devote more than 6 million hours to volunteering.
Members of Kiwanis chapters also try to make an impact beyond their community’s borders by contributing to the Children’s Fund, which is money used to help youth nationally and internationally in the event of a disaster.
Local clubs also participate in Kiwanis International’s Global Campaign for Children, The Eliminate Project: Kiwanis Eliminating Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus.
“We welcome everyone. And we show up to help and serve where we can make a difference,” Green said.
Anyone interested in learning more about the group can email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit www.Facebook.com/denvillekiwanis or log onto www.denvillekiwanis.com. The group also has a newly-launched Instagram handle (@DenvilleKiwanis).
Meetings are held 6:30 p.m. on Monday at Mancino’s Pizza & Italian Cuisine, 490 East Main Street (Rt. 53), Denville. Newcomers and visitors are welcome.