Today is the “birthday” of the oldest civic club in Covington, the Kiwanis Club. On February 15, 1927, at the Newton County Court House, the local club was organized. The leaders of this effort were P.W. Godfrey and S.H. Adams. There were fifty eight Charter Members. The first officers of the club were S. C. Chandler, president, S.H. Adams and T.G. Callaway, vice-presidents, and A.L. Loyd, the secretary –treasurer. Other directors were P.W. Godfrey (district trustee) R.E. Everett, J.G. Bolton, R.A. Norris, J.O. Porter, T.C Swann, and T.R. Guinn Sr. Civic clubs are an excellent way for the community to come together.
This is the centennial year for Kiwanis international. The first Kiwanis Club was charted in Detroit Michigan on January 21, 1915. It became international when it expanded into Canada the next year. It began to expand elsewhere starting in 1962. It is now in eighty nations around the world. There are more than 150,000 members in Kiwanis in the world. They gave 18.5 million service hours last year with over one hundred million given for service projects.
The name is said to come from a Native American phrase, “Nun-Kee-Wan-is” which some say means “We trade”, while others would say it is closer to “We have a good time – we make noise.” All of which, some would say is true about Kiwanis.
The motto of Kiwanis is “We Build”. This motto is lived out in a variety of ways. Those who belong to club seek to build a better future, a better community, and a better world. Kiwanis, like other civic clubs, has changed over the decades. You find these clubs inclusive of all people. The gender and racial lines that used to be there have long since disappeared.
The goal to build a better future is seen in the emphasis placed upon working with children and youth. Tina Ulmer the President of the Covington Club points to the many projects that involve youth and children. One of these projects was Young Children, Priority One Project, where local Kiwanians read to children in various schools as well as donated books to the schools. The club also offers several scholarships to local students. Other projects included working as a part of the Salvation Army’s angel tree and “Red Kettle” projects, the local Miracle League, and can food and personal hygiene articles drives that helped over 300 families last year. One project each year since it originated in 1958 is sponsoring the Star Student and the Star Teacher Programs in Newton County.
Right around the corner are two major fund raisers to help underwrite many of these programs. They are a golf tournament on March 13th at the Oaks Course and a Pancake Breakfast on March 21st at Newton High School.
Some would say the biggest “splash” the Kiwanis Club has ever made was when they provided Covington with its first public swimming pool. It was at the sight of the current YMCA on Newton Drive. Other involvement has included sponsoring Boy Scout Troop 222 and being involved with the 4-H Club work in Newton Country through the years.
The local club is celebrating the Centennial of Kiwanis International by taking part in the district project to build a play ground at the Boys and Girls Club in Mableton. The date for this is Saturday, February 21st. The President of Kiwanis International will be in town that day to see the work on the project as well as attending a reception at the Atlanta Zoo.
Monies for this much needed play ground were partially raised by selling bricks to honor or remember someone. Covington’s club gave bricks in honor of Lamar Calloway, Bucker Guinn, James Hutchens, Sam Ramsey, and Dr. Goodwin Tuck.
One way to build a better community is what happens when the local club meets weekly. Friendships are built and strengthen as members share a lunch together. The programs are usually on issues of community interest they help build support for a variety of projects for the good of the community.
The Eliminate Project, a joint effort of Kiwanis and UNICEF, is one example of building a better world. Every year 60,000 innocent babies and a significant number of women die of maternal and neonatal tetanus. The goal is to eliminate MNT from the earth as 100 million women and their future babies are immunized. This requires vaccines, syringes, safe storage and thousands of skilled workers. The cost is estimated to be one hundred and ten million dollars. This campaign follows Kiwanis and UNICEF as they joined forces to achieve one of the most significant public health successes of the twentieth century. Together they tackled iodine deficiency disorders.
Today the Kiwanis Club of Covington celebrates 88 years of service along with the centennial of Kiwanis International. When we work together we can do more than we can alone.
B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington