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Salem Kiwanis Club marks centennial

Salem Kiwanis Club members from left, treasurer Roger Hack, historian Harry Hofmeister, and co-presidents Doug Falk and Debbie Leggett review some material in preparation for the group’ s 100th anniversary celebration tonight at the Salem Community Center. Kiwanis was first established in Salem on Oct. 23, 1921 as a business social club, but is known for serving local charities, the community and children. (Salem News photo by Mary Ann Greier)

SALEM — Kiwanis means “we build.”

That’s what Kiwanis Club of Salem members say they’ve been doing the past 100 years: building the community and building future community leaders through Key Club, the high school service club.

The group established in Salem on Oct. 23, 1921 as a men’s business social club is celebrating its centennial with a recognition dinner tonight at the Salem Community Center.

Now co-ed, the group’s focus centers on serving local charities, the community and children of Salem.

“I feel honored to be in an organization that has done so much for the community and youth. I don’t think any of us realized the magnitude of what’s been done,” co-president Debbie Leggett said.

This is some of the memorabilia gathered over the past 100 years by the Kiwanis Club of Salem. (Photo provided by Salem Kiwanis)

In putting together a slide presentation which will run on a loop during the celebration, board member Ron Grey said it was interesting doing the research to see what had been accomplished in the past.

“We look forward to doing a lot more in the community,” he said.

By definition, the name Kiwanis came from a Native American expression “Nunc Kee-wanis” which means “We Trade” but by 1920, the motto for Kiwanis International became “We Build,” with the motto changing in more recent times (2005) to “Serving the children of the world.” At one point, it was called the Benevolent Order of Brothers, but Leggett said it’s always been Kiwanis.

Kiwanis Club of Salem co-sponsored the construction of the Centennial Park pool in 1954 and built Pavilion I at Centennial Park. Club members recently repainted the picnic tables and the club is funding installation of a new sink area at the pavilion, with a new plaque to be installed.

Under the guidance of the late Dr. George Jones, Salem Kiwanis started the Salem Youth Soccer league in 1983, paying 100 percent of the cost. Now it’s a stand-alone group.

Historian Harry Hofmeister talked about the Travelogue, when the club would host speakers and films once a month in the winter in the high school auditorium featuring faraway lands. He called it the precursor to the travel channel on TV.

Kiwanis used to host the football Punt, Pass and Kick Contest and hosted child seat checkups. Kiwanis also co-hosted Fat Tuesday to benefit the Salem Community Pantry with Salem Rotary and the Salem Community Center, members have served at the Banquet of Salem, rang bells for the Salvation Army for the kettle campaign, hosted a dodge ball tournament and contributed to various causes.

The biggest fundraiser for the group, though, is the Antique and Craft Show and Sale held annually at Centennial Park the third Saturday of July. This year was the 56th event. The other main focus of members is the Key Club for kids in grades 9-12 and the largest service club at the school with 84 members. Teacher Amie Cochran serves as advisor and Lori Wilson serves as the Kiwanis liaison to Key Club.

For club treasurer Roger Hack, Key Club is where the “we build” part really comes into play for building future leaders. Looking back at some of the former Key Club members, he’s seen them go on to leadership roles in the community. Key Club officers can attend leadership training, with Falk noting they can connect with other Key Club kids in the state of Ohio. Grey said the club helps fund that for them. Key Club members help out on Kiwanis project and do their own service projects, too, helping out with the annual spring cleanup downtown.

Key Club members with four years service can also earn a scholarship named for E. Ralph Martin, a former executive at Electric Furnace. Last year, seven seniors received the scholarship.

“It’s nice that we can help our youth through high school and be a mentor to them so they can be successful in life,” Falk said, explaining that some have gotten their start due to their involvement in Key Club.

Bottom line, Hack said “we serve the community.”

The oldest living member is Lee Althouse with 51 years, followed by Dr. Harold Albert. The dinner will include tables of memorabilia for both Kiwanis and Key Club and feature awards and a talent show by the Key Club. Members past and present were invited to the celebration, along with past presidents, individuals and public officials.

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