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Woodland Kalama Kiwanis Club cleanup

Volunteers with the Woodland-Kalama Kiwanis Club clean up around a Mount St. Helens sculpture at the Lewis River Road roundabout in Woodland on Oct. 26. The cleanup was the new club's first service project. 

Members of a new service club say it’s an opportunity for Woodland and Kalama residents to give back to their community.

A group of about 17 members in September started a Woodland-Kalama branch of Kiwanis, an international service club that focuses on helping children.

“We’re trying to get people involved. This is a good way of doing it, said Mike Reuter, Kalama mayor and Kiwanis member.

Kiwanis has about 600,000 members in thousands of clubs across the globe, including Longview, Battle Ground and Vancouver. Val Schaffroth, Kiwanis Pacific Northwest district club specialist, said the group chose the greater Woodland-Kalama area to start a new club because of population growth in the Interstate 5 corridor.

“We thought that it would be a good place to provide some leadership opportunities for youth and to be a part of the community,” she said.

The club would like to add another 10 to 15 members, Schaffroth said. Anyone with a passion to serve is welcome to join, she said.

There’s been a lot of press about the decline of social service club membership in groups such as Rotary, Lions, Moose and Kiwanis, but Schaffroth said Kiwanis plans to open 10 to 12 new clubs a year in its Pacific Northwest District. The region includes Alaska, Western Canada, Washington, Oregon, northern California and the panhandle of Idaho.

Ridgefield will likely be the next new location for a club in Southwest Washington, she said.

Kiwanis International was founded in 1915 by a group of businessmen in Detroit, according to the Kiwanis web site. The organization was originally called the Supreme Lodge Benevolent Order of Brothers, but changed its name to Kiwanis a year later.

The name “Kiwanis” was coined from an American Indian expression, “Nunc Kee-wanis,” which means, “We trade.” In 1920, the motto of Kiwanis became “We Build.” It remained the motto until 2005, when members voted to change it to “Serving the children of the world.” In the early years, members focused on business networking, but in 1919 the organization changed its focus to service for children, according to the web site.

Kiwanis estimates it raises about $100 million and dedicates more than 18 million volunteer hours annually to strengthen communities and serve children.

Along with completing service projects in the community, the organization also provides leadership opportunities for children, which isn’t always the main focus of other volunteer groups, Schaffroth said.

Kiwanis service projects vary depending on community needs, Schaffroth said. For example, the Woodland-Kalama club cleaned up the roundabout at Lewis River Road in Woodland for its first service project a couple weeks ago.

Schaffroth said the roundabout, which features a Mount St. Helens sculpture, wasn’t getting much care. Th- club got donations from Tsugawa Nursery, Bigfoot Bark and Rock and Ace Hardware to clean up and beautify the roundabout, she said.

Participation in Kiwanis activities teaches kids responsibility and leadership, Schaffroth said. About 10 children from elementary to high school age and their parents helped out on the project, she said.

“When we finished they said, ‘Wow, look what we just did,’ “ she said. “They’re developing an internal motivation to do things. ... With the club, they can have an active role and position with responsibility.”

The Woodland-Kalama club is considering making donations to the Kalama School District pantry and possibly holding a prom dress exchange in the spring, she said.

Kalama and Woodland are doing “fantastic big community projects,” Schaffroth said, “but we’re serving children now at the level they are (at).”

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