Many people think that service clubs like the Lions Club and Kiwanis are something for older, often retired people. But McKenna Begin sees Kiwanis as an opportunity to volunteer and help children in her community.
At just 24 years old, McKenna Begin is the President of the Fort Frances Kiwanis Club as well as Lieutenant Governor for Kiwanis Canada Western Canada Division one. Begin says she’s been involved in volunteering since she was young.
“Volunteering has always been a huge part of my family,” Begin said. “I come from a long line of Kiwanians and my parents have always been on different committees, so it’s kind of a really big part of our family. I just love being in the community and making new connections with people.”
Begin works with children in her day job as a communications assistant, working in speech therapy at WEECHI-IT-TE-WIN family services and still spends time volunteering with Kiwanis to help children in the community. She counts herself lucky that she was considered for a leadership role in the local club as a young person.
“I’m very fortunate that I was thought of for a leadership role very early,” Begin said. “I think that’s one thing that got me really passionate about it. People would say that Millennials like to come in with new, creative ideas, they don’t want to join something that’s been around for years and years and years, they want to come in with fresh ideas and open to change. One thing that I love about this club is although it is primarily older, everybody is so open to new ideas and creativity and we’re always trying to find a new way to do things. I’m very fortunate to not only be part of a club like that, but also to be thought of as a leader. That gives me a lot of freedom and responsibility to come up with new ideas and lead the club in a different direction.”
Some of the different events the local club is involved in include the Easter Egg-stravaganza and taking over the Fort Frances Santa Claus Parade last year. Another major project are the annual Christmas Hampers.
Now in her second year as president of the local club, Begin spent the first year learning the role and now is working towards developing a strategic plan for the club on a local level.
“We’re working towards a strategic plan for our club,” she said. “To really get our core values very concrete and what our mission and vision are. One of my goals for this year is to get a concrete strategic plan so that we can move forward. Last year we were still in COVID so a few of our events got cancelled but one thing I’m super excited about is that we were able to take on the Santa Claus Parade last year and it was our first year doing it and it was so successful, so we are excited to do it again this year.”
In addition to her day job, and Kiwanis, Begin is also in school part time taking classes at Seven Generations Education Institute, as she says she loves learning. Begin says Kiwanis can afford people a lot of opportunities as well.
“Kiwanis doesn’t just stop at your community level. I don’t think people realize that it’s such a huge international organization and you can actually get full-time jobs through it. There’s also opportunities for travel. I went to Indianapolis this year, I’m going to Calgary next month and next year I’m going to be in Montana. So it’s pretty cool that there’s those opportunities, you’re not just stuck in Fort Frances.”
Begin also says she’d love to see other young people getting involved in different areas.
“I would say if you’re interested in joining a service club by all means. Kiwanis is the best because everything we do is for kids,” she said. “It’s not even a huge commitment. I think people get kind of nervous about committing to something but we are a very chill club, you don’t have to volunteer for everything. If there’s something you’re more passionate about then that can be something that you partake in. There are a lot of members and we can take on different jobs so it’s not a huge responsibility. We want younger people so if there are younger people out there that want to join we need you, we want your new ideas, we’re so open.”