Kiwanis welcomes 19 new members

Peggy Revell

With a fall membership drive doubling their numbers, the Fort Frances Kiwanis Club is excited to get back to work and take on new projects for the community.
“It’s overwhelming and it’s really exciting for us,” Kiwanian Shanda DeGagne-Begin enthused at the induction ceremony for the 19 new members last Thursday evening at La Place Rendez-Vous.
While Kiwanis has been involved in the community for decades, the club’s numbers had dropped down to 18, many of whom were older in age.
Unless new members could be found, the club was considering having to hand in its charter.
DeGagne-Begin admitted they had very limited expectations at the very beginning of the membership drive.
“We had hoped we would get five new members from this membership drive, so the response from the community has really been overwhelming,” she remarked.
“And it really speaks to the history of Kiwanis, I think.
“We’ve had hundreds of members over the past years who have really done so much and people remember that, I think, and they don’t want to lose it.”
For many of the new members, it was the club’s focus on helping children within the community that inspired them to join Kiwanis.
“I was ready to do something new in my life,” Karla Rogozinski said about why she chose to come on board as a new member, noting she’s been involved with various committees and volunteer groups over the years.
“I love children, and I have a bit of a social bug in me,” she chuckled.
“I like to do fundraising, and was ready to do something new and to hopefully keep our community growing strong for children.”
As someone who is new to Fort Frances and returning to school for the early childhood program, Isabelle Claveau said she joined Kiwanis both to do her part as a volunteer and get out and meet new people.
“I thought that this would be a great exposure for what I’m about to do in my career” explained Claveau, who is heading into this second career after working for TD Canada Trust.
“I love volunteer work, I do volunteer work with TD Friends of the Environment, [and Kiwanis is] just a great program helping kids,” she reasoned.
“And so much good is coming from it, and with the programs that they already have in place and to be able to bring on new ones,” added Claveau.
She noted what’s nice is that everyone is busy—but being a member doesn’t demand a lot, with members being asked to make just one of the two meetings a month.
“And to be honest, that’s not very much time, and you give what you can.”
For new member Andrea Avis, it also was about following in the footsteps of her parents, who were both Kiwanians for a number of years.
“I always committed that when I graduated from school in June, as a mature student, I would take on something new in my life—and Kiwanis seemed to fit the bill,” she explained.
“I’ve been fortunate to work at the public library, where we’ve benefitted from the fundraising efforts of the Kiwanis club [and] I’m happy to take part in future fundraising.”
The evening also saw the Kiwanis Club make its final $5,000 donation towards its $25,000 pledge to the new Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre.
Avis said one of the important things she’s seen happening in the community is Fort Frances “kind of grow up” in the last five years, with the addition of new services.
“You’d hate to see such a strong community organization such as the Kiwanis Club be forgotten, and I think it’s important to build those up strong to continue on with our services that we have—to make Fort Frances more attractive to new and young people moving into our area,” she added.
While just 17 years old, Tanner Bell has been dubbed an “honourary member” of Kiwanis until he turns 18 and officially can join.
“I just love that they’re being that flexible, too, and letting the young people join them,” said the teen, who has been involved with Kiwanis since being a member of the “Builders Club” while in elementary school.
“I remember when I was in the Builders Club, the Kiwanis club was a very small club,” he recalled.
“This is just astonishing to me at how many people have come out, and from all the ages of range, too—from very young people to older people.”
Bell said while he’s involved with leadership organizations at Fort Frances High School, joining up with Kiwanis comes with many opportunities.
The age range of the club means the older members have experience and knowledge, he explained, while those like himself who are younger are welcomed, and can help guide the organization on what’s going on and what youth are interested in when it comes to projects the group can take on.
“Having all these people come out to [Kiwanis] and actually wanting to get involved in the community—it shows how good of a community we have,” Bell enthused.
“That we’re willing to have even a small number of almost 40 people come out and want to give back to the community like this—it’s amazing.”
In fact, the number of people who came forward to sign up as members was so much that the Lieutenant Governor for the local Kiwanis district, which stretches from Thunder Bay west to Manitoba, came out to greet the new members at last Thursday’s induction ceremony.
Buoyed by the numbers, the organization now will be making a “game plan,” setting some goals and finding out what the new members are interested in, said DeGagne-Begin.
“We have a lot of amazing community partnerships going on,” she noted. “We have Treaty #3 Police officers, we have social services people, we have people from all different walks of life, so how they view the community and the needs of it are all different depending on where they come from.
“So I’m excited about those type of partnerships and working together.”
In thanking the community, DeGagne-Begin added that just because they have 19 new members doesn’t mean they have enough.
“If anybody’s interested, I would urge them to come out,” she urged. “I think the next few years are going to be really exciting and a lot of fun, and we’re welcome to everyone.
“It’s all about the kids,” she stressed. “The more people we have, the more impact we can make for the children in the area.”