With nearly 100 years of combined service to Elmira, Tom Hendrick, Lorne Martin and Eugene Read certainly earned their Ontario Volunteer Service Awards.The three longstanding Kiwanis Club members were recognized for 40, 30, and 25 years of service respectively. It’s a fitting recognition as the club celebrates its 40th anniversary.
Hendrick was one of the charter members of the club back in 1974.
“I came from a family of volunteers,” Hendrick said. “My father volunteered. He was from Elmira and came to Elmira in 1940. He was a member of the Board of Trade in Elmira and the chamber of commerce and ran a business. And I just grew up volunteering. It’s just what we did.”
Read also felt a sense of duty to dedicate much of his life serving others.
“I was brought up to help people,” Read said. “It’s just natural to help people, make use of your time.”
Treasurer Jamie Meek recalled the projects the three, along with the rest of the club, have helped support since its inception, like the Woolwich Counselling Centre.
“We’ve been helping them with the children’s program that they have every summer,” Meek said. “We give them money, a fair bit to that. One of our priorities is children. We try and focus a lot of things on that.”
He noted the ongoing tradition of the Kiwanis Music Festival, which just had its annual final concert two weeks ago, and gave away hundreds of dollars in scholarship money.
“That’s helping not just little children, but children, youth, teenagers,” Meek said. “In talking with one of the adjudicators he was saying it’s so important for us to do this because it gives the children an opportunity to play or sing or whatever it is they do because there’s not a lot of that in the schools anymore. It used to be you could always do that, they had concerts but they don’t do that anymore.”
Hendrick notes he’s been the chairman of the Lobsterfest committee for more than 30 years – an event that cancelled this year – while Martin has been a chair of the club’s maple syrup festival committee for almost 25 years – spearheading events locals have come to know as tradition.
“Eugene has backed us up on all our projects,” Hendrick said. “Every time we run a project he’s there to give us support.”
They’re well known for their work sponsoring the Christmas food drive for the Woolwich Food Bank for the past 15 years, which collects at least two tonnes of food every Christmas. Their latest project was a fish fry this week at Gale Presbyterian Church.
Read notes he and Hendrick have been volunteering together for even longer than they’ve been part of Kiwanis.
“We were in the Jaycees together too,” Read said. “Jaycees is an organization that teaches you to run things and to volunteer. When I turned 40 I joined the Kiwanis Club and continued on.”
He says looking after the Kiwanis House with Martin has been one of his highlights as a club member. Martin agrees he’s been largely in charge of maintenance.
“When the golf club started, most of us went out and helped pick stones, things like that,” Martin says of his favourite memories with Kiwanis.
They also support activities like minor hockey, soccer, curling, and Scouts. And in turn the Scouts help the club at events. The club has been unsuccessful in starting a Key Club at EDSS but continue to sponsor one at Huron Heights in Kitchener. The Key Club is an essential part of Kiwanis as clubs across the country struggle to find new members, as theirs are most commonly seniors.
As for the future of the club, they can agree they’re hoping the younger generation will step up and start volunteering their time. The club raises between $25,000 and $30,000 a year to donate to various organizations in the community, and without those funds, it’s hard to imagine what some of them would do.
“When I think back 25, 30 years ago there weren’t as many activities for the children, as far as soccer and hockey,” Meek said. “Now it seems every kid in the house has to be doing something. If it isn’t hockey it’s soccer, it’s ballet, it’s tap dancing. The parents are involved in all that so they don’t have time to get involved in other things.”
The club holds meetings at the Crossroads Restaurant on Wednesdays from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. Anyone is welcome to attend those breakfast meetings.
“We’re hoping to attract some new, younger members,” Hendrick said.