The first Kiwanis Club was chartered in Detroit, Michigan in 1915. Springfield was one of thirteen original clubs chartered in the very next year on December 16, 1916. It has been “Serving Children of the World” ever since.
Over the past 96 years, and more recently with the help of our Kiwanis youth organizations, our Club has raised almost $1.5 million and every cent has been invested back into our community. And this doesn’t even count the hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours involved by members!
In the Early Years
• Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts - The Kiwanis Mess Hall was gifted to Camp Sherman in Brimfield in 1919, and 40 members constructed it. Kiwanis founded and assumed guidance of Boy Scout Troup 43 in 1925, constructed the Kiwanis Hall in the Brimfield camp and a cabin for Troup 43 at Camp Robinson. A cabin was also gifted to the Girl Scout Bonnie Brae Camp in Holland, MA.
• Boys and Girls Club(s) – The Boys and Girls Club(s) have been one of Kiwanis’s favorite charities! When Kiwanis donated $14,000 in 1925 for the Boy’s Club’s new building on Chestnut Street, we were honored to have a a big “K’ placed in the bottom of the pool.
The Boys Club received a medical cabin, roofing of 10 cabins, and $1000 for its swimming
pool in 1931. The Girls Club was gifted $3000 in 1928 for the building and equipping 5
cabins for its camp in Holland, MA.
• Kiwanis Show Time at Court Square Theater - From the 20’s to the ‘40’s, members wrote, produced, acted and sang in most of the multi-night shows which were performed primarily in the sold out historic 2800-seat Court Square Theater.
N. Y. producers, Ziegfield, Shuberts, and Harris came to comment on dress rehearsals. They sent their stage managers, electric lighting engineers, and wardrobe mistresses for all performances. Brooks Brothers, tops in their field, costumed the cast.
The Club took in some $100,000, netting $60,000 which was donated back for projects in the community. Note: the inflationary value of these figures in 2012 would have been $1,150,000 gross and $689,655 net gifted to the community.
• Clothing for Needy Children - In the 20’s and during the depression years of the 30’s we donated $20,000 for the purchase of clothing for needy children. In fact, during the first 50 years of our Club’s service, the most continuous donations for any one purpose were for clothing for needy children in conjunction with ”Project Santa Claus.”
• Shriners Hospital - In 1924 Kiwanis equipped the operation room at Shriners Hospital at an expense of $5000. In the early 1930’s in conjunction with other service clubs, Kiwanis spearheaded ticket sales for two performances of “Roxy and His Gang” raising $11,000 for the Hospital.
• South End Community Center - We were the moving force in establishing the South End Community Center in 1938, providing $7000 for their first budget, and six of our Kiwanis organizers served on their first board of directors in 1940.
The Later Years and Up to the Present
• Boys and Girls Club – When the new and present Boys and Girls Club was built in 1967, Kiwanis donated $60,000 and another “K” was placed in the pool area. $10,000 more was donated in 1989 for renovations. It is estimated that over 25,000 youngsters have learned to swim and thousands more have enjoyed the use of the club’s pools.
• YMCA - Kiwanis and the Y have also been close. Camping equipment, boats, tennis courts and a Kiwanis Infirmary were supplied for the Y’s Camp Norwich, $4000 was donated for the new YMCA building in 1969, locker room facilities for disabled children were provided, and a flow of dollars was given for various purposes. In 2003, $4000 was donated for its expansion, one of which was the new YMCA North End Community Center.
• Camperships – Over the years literally thousands of dollars have been raised and donated to send kids to the Boys and Girls Club, YMCA and other camps in the area.
• Good Will and Recycling – When recycling was in its infancy in the 1970’s, Kiwanis joined forces with Good Will to sponsor the first glass-recycling center in Western Massachusetts with a $3,500 gift. The new “bottle buster” conveyer belt and bin earned national acclaim.
• Kiwanis Trauma Centers in Boston and Springfield – Originally our Club donated $50,000 for the new Kiwanis Affiliated Pediatric Trauma Center in Boston, and in 1984 donated $30,000 to Baystate Medical’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. In addition, more than $30,000 was donated to the Children’s Miracle Network as well as many volunteer hours were given to several campaigns.
• Theordore R. Geisel Handicapped Playground – In 1992 Kiwanis raised $15,000 for the most part from our Key Clubs (almost half in pennies) for the first handicapped accessible playground. Kiwanis provided the manpower to assemble it in Forest Park. It was named after Theodore R. Geisel the father of Dr. Suess who had been a member of the Park Commission and a Past President of our Kiwanis Club in 1928.
• “Get Smart, Don’t Start””– A preventive drug program, “Get Start, Don’t Start,” was initiated in the early 1990’s by the Springfield Police Department for 4th and 5th graders in the Springfield Schools. We donated $35,000 to this very successful program which was eventually replaced by the D.A.R. E. Program.
• Kiwanis Scholarship Awards – Since 1964 Kiwanis has raised funds to assist deserving high school students in the Greater Springfield area with college scholarships. More recently $1,000 scholarships have been granted to each of six deserving members of our Key Clubs.
• Elimination of Worldwide Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD) – The leading cause of mental retardation throughout the world has been iodine deficiency – not any more! Kiwanis International led the country in a $75 million campaign to provide salt for every person in the world. It was a total country-wide project involving the government and many resources. Springfield Kiwanis also did its part; it led all Kiwanis Clubs in New England by raising $24,960…and one of our members headed the New England Kiwanis Campaign.
• Loaves and Fishes – For many years, Kiwanis members and members of our Key Clubs continue to work side by side in providing, preparing and serving lunch to Springfield’s homeless once a month
• Kiwanis Thanksgiving Baskets – Over a long span of years Kiwanis and our Key Club members also continue to collect and deliver turkeys and all the fixings for 25 needy families in Springfield whose names are given to us from the Salvation Army. It is a very popular project!
• Pynchon Plaza on Dwight Street – When the City of Springfield decided to open up an access from downtown to the Quadrangle, our Club donated $10,000 for an elevator to make it easier for families to reach Chestnut Street rather than having to climb the steep stairs.
• Kiwanis Bike Safety and Gifting of Helmets - For years Kiwanis held annual bike rodeos on riding safety and the wearing of helmets. Children were given and fitted with helmets, and they drove their bikes over a reminder safety course. In recent years emphasis has switched to the giving and fitting of helmets to fifth graders at Washington, Kensington, and Talmadge Elementary Schools, as well as for toddlers in the YMCA’s pre-school program.
• Kiwanis Masquerade Charity Ball –In the late 1980’s and early 90’s Kiwanis hosted a yearly Halloween Masquerade Ball at the Barney Carriage House in Forest Park. Fifteen annual cash prizes totaling $10,000 to $12,000 were awarded for the best costumes in various categories. There was a unique twist to the prizes. Instead of going directly to the winners, they were donated to the charity of the winner’s choice!.
• Kiwanis Read Aloud and Tutoring – Kiwanis and the Springfield School Volunteers have had a close relationship for over 20 years with our Club providing up to 25 readers each and every year. In addition many have either continued to read and/or tutored or mentored in various schools.
• Kiwanis Key Clubs – Our Kiwanis Club is a national leader throughout the country in sponsoring six high school Kiwanis Key Clubs. Key Clubs are service organizations in their own right with their own elected officers and board of directors serving their schools and communities. Besides performing many worthwhile and needed projects, members develop initiative, leadership and citizen responsibility. Each Key Club has a faculty advisor and a Kiwanis advisor.
To cover even a portion of the great work of all these Key Clubs have accomplished in our limited summary would be an injustice to them. Their accomplishments in many years have far exceeded the work of our Club. We hope that some day each club will develop their own history. We had seven Key Clubs but lost MacDuffie School when it moved from Springfield in 2011 - leaving us with six. These clubs and their charter dates are as follows:
Longmeadow Key Club – for Boys 1965 – Keyettes for Girls 1969 – Combined 1977.
Minnechaug Key Club – 1983
East Longmeadow Club - 1988
Central Key Club – 1994
Sci Tech key Club – 1999
Commerce Key Club – 2000
• “Once in a Million Book Drive” for Katrina Hurricane Victims – When Hurricane Katrina devastated Mississippi and Louisiana in 2005, Springfield Kiwanis collected, stored, and shipped over 1,000,0000 books to the schools and libraries in both states. This monumental project was completed with the help of our Key Clubs, and many libraries, businesses and school systems. It was by far the biggest book drive ever conducted by any one organization in the United states…and 100% of the cost was covered by book donations and services arranged at no cost by Kiwanis.
• Community Partner with Washington Elementary School – In conjunction with the Springfield Schools Volunteers, we entered into a community partnership in 2005 with Washington Elementary School to help and support its student body and staff. The school is located in a poverty area of the city. During the past seven school years from 2005 into 2012, Kiwanis and our youth organizations have provided the school with a myriad of personal items, needed school supplies and valuable academic services. Some, but not all, of the items and services were as follows:
582 Coats 951 Hats 176 Scarves 802 Mittens/gloves
954 spiral notebooks 300 backpacks 300 flashlights
203 miscellaneous clothing items 100 Wakee-sleepy dolls
2828 flags for students on Flag Days 5 cartons of copy paper
1488 pencils Station wagon load of poster board
40 Electric pencil sharpeners 30 Merriam-Webster elementary dictionaries
360 Bike helmets given and fitted to fifth graders (Over past 5 years) – A bike rack
3538 books in “like new condition” over past 3 years (some purchased- some donated).
Coordinated and arranged Washington School tee shirts for entire student body and
staff at discounted prices. Kiwanis paid for setup, screening, lettering and 10 sample
“Looking to the Future” career day presentations were made by 11 Kiwanis members in
20 class sessions to 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders With the high school graduation rate in
Springfield only some 50%, the purpose was to emphasize the importance of staying in
school, graduating from high school, and having students thinking and planning ahead
for college and/or a trade. Arrangements and scheduling were coordinated with the
school by Kiwanis. The program proved to be a huge success.
• K-Kids Club at Talmadge Elementary School – Organized by the East Longmeadow Key Club and co-sponsored by Springfield Kiwanis, the K-Kids Club at Springfield’s Talmadge Elementary School came into existence in 2006 for 4th and 5th graders. It is the youngest and fastest growing organization in the Kiwanis family worldwide. Like our Key Clubs, K-Kids has its own elected officers and board of directors. It already has an impressive list of projects for its school and community.
• Longmeadow’s Glenbrook Middle School Builders Club – Organized by the Longmeadow Key Club and co-sponsored by Springfield Kiwanis in 2011! As is the case with all Kiwanis youth organizations, it elects its own officers and board of directors, has a faculty advisor and has a Kiwanis advisor. It chooses its own projects and has already held an extremely successful clothing project for Washington School children.
What’s Ahead for the Kiwanis Club of Springfield
Springfield Kiwanians look back with pride at their accomplishments, but they know that the past is only an historical record for the purpose of charting the future. They look forward with great enthusiasm to their 100th anniversary in 2016 and beyond:
To meet new challenges, to maintain the vitality, involvement, and spirit which make the Kiwanis Club of Springfield so special to the community.