Do you know the difference between minutes and moments? Minutes are used to mark time. Moments are used to mark experiences. There are 52,560,00 minutes in 100 years. There are countless moments in a century. The Kiwanis Club of Lebanon measures its impact on the community in moments, not minutes.
“We call them ‘Kiwanis moments,’” said Ellen Arnold, the current president of the Kiwanis Club of Lebanon. “I remember reading to a head start class in Lebanon. I read the story and someone asked me if I’d be in a picture. I was standing there, and all of a sudden this little hand takes my hand, and this little person says to me, ‘May I hold your hand?’ I look down and it’s this adorable little boy standing next to me. That was about 15 years ago. That’s why I’m a Kiwanian.”
“I think we all, as individuals, probably need those moments,” continued Arnold, “and we don’t get enough of them. I like teaching other people how to have Kiwanis moments.”
The local Kiwanis Club is celebrating 100 years of community service in Lebanon. A century of caring, of enhancing the quality of life in Lebanon, of touching young hearts – of Kiwanis moments.
The Kiwanis Club of Lebanon, which meets weekly at the Hebron Fire Company, is a service organization whose mission is to make the local community a better place to live, not unlike the Rotary Club or the Sertoma Club or the Lions Club. But what differentiates the Kiwanis Club from those other local service organizations is its commitment to children, their development and early learning.
The celebration of the Kiwanis Club’s 100 years of local service is a year-long event. But it will culminate in a commemorative banquet at the Hebron Fire Company’s social hall on Nov. 20.
“We are made up of local men and women whose focus is primarily on children, but who also want to provide community service,” said Arnold. “Children are our focus. What makes us different are our youth programs. We sponsor the key clubs at Lebanon and Cedar Crest, and in a non-COVID-19 world, we do service projects with our key clubbers.”
“We want to reach as many children as possible, to make sure they have opportunities for things like reading, scholarships and day camps,” added Arnold. “It’s making sure every kid has an opportunity to be a kid. It’s making sure each individual has a path to being a kid.”
The Kiwanis Club is an international organization that spread into Lebanon. Once established, the Lebanon chapter was then instrumental in forming a Kiwanis Club in Annville, which was instrumental in establishing a Kiwanis Club in Palmyra.
The local Kiwanis Club was established in Lebanon on Feb. 3, 1921. The original Kiwanis Club of Lebanon consisted of 100 members and its first president was Luther Harpel.
“There were a group of Kiwanians from Harrisburg who came down here to start a club in Lebanon,” said Arnold, a 78-year-old resident of Cornwall. “Those gentlemen had a banquet the Hotel Weimer at Ninth and Cumberland Streets in Lebanon. The Kiwanis Clubs started in Detroit in 1915, and they spread from Detroit to Cleveland to Pittsburgh. Kiwanis International worked with local people to go and do the pitch.”
“Kiwanis comes from the Indian word ‘Keewanis’, which means ‘we trade’,” Arnold continued. “The founders in Detroit picked the name. It was very much an organization of businessmen and business organizations. About ten years later, they changed the motto to ‘we build’, because they became less focused on internal needs and more on the needs of the community.”
As the local community has evolved over the years, the Kiwanis Club of Lebanon has changed right along with it. But the local Kiwanis Club has never swayed from its original mission of helping kids. Perhaps the biggest change occurred in the late 1980s when the all-male organization began allowing females to join as members. It was a natural move that allowed the Kiwanis Club of Lebanon to utilize the inherent nurturing skills of women.
“As the community needs have changed, the emphasis on the projects we’ve undertaken have changed,” said Arnold. “As a need arose in the community, we tried to meet it. In 1987, the federal government said the Kiwanis Club had to take women, and women began to become Kiwanians. Females tend to be more nurturing.”
“I think Kiwanis changed for the good when women were asked to join,” Arnold added. “But at the time, many men didn’t want women to join.”
In addition to the key clubs at Cedar Crest and Lebanon High, the Kiwanis Club of Lebanon provides scholarships to local seniors looking to further their education beyond high school and community grants. The club also helps sponsor Lebanon High School’s Life Skills Prom program and a Christmas Party with Lebanon County Children and Youth agency. In the past, the Kiwanis Club of Lebanon was also involved with Lebanon County Special Olympics.
“Now, we can’t be hands-on with every organization, but we can provide financial assistance,” said Arnold. “Last year, our grants served 1,000 children. Over the last 100 years, we’ve donated roughly $24,000 a year to help local service projects. That’s about $2,390,000 we’ve given back to the community.”
“If you look at the ripple effect, you don’t know how many lives we’ve changed,” continued Arnold. “Did the kids we helped a number of years ago become better parents? It certainly had to. We have a responsibility to make our community better.”
The Lebanon chapter is one of 150 Kiwanis Clubs in Pennsylvania and one of 5,000 Kiwanis Clubs in North America. There are Kiwanis Clubs in 80 nations around the globe, and the service organization boasts nearly 600,000 members world-wide.
“I think right now, the future of the Kiwanis Club is bright,” said Arnold. “I think there are going to be opportunities coming out of COVID-19. Schools are going to need extra help. I think there are going to be some huge needs in that area. I think the needs relating to children are going to be huge, and I think we’re going to have a huge part in that.”
While the impact that the Kiwanis Club of Lebanon continues to have on young lives is undeniable, there are also benefits for volunteers who donate their time and energy. Kiwanis Club members enjoy the social elements of camaraderie, increased activity and enhanced self-esteem and self-worth.
To become involved, call Arnold at 717-270-2112 or 717-769-2963, or email her at Ellen@Arnold3.com.
“We need more hands,” said Arnold. “What we have to do is remember to ask. To keep meeting the needs, we need younger volunteers. We’d like to have people with a younger perspective. The work we do is vital, and I think in post-COVID-19 times it’s going to become more vital.”
Because an investment in our children is an investment in our future.
Questions about this story? Suggestions for a future LebTown article? Reach our newsroom using the contact form below and we’ll do our best to get back to you.
Do you support local news?
If you believe that Lebanon County needs independent, high-quality journalism, consider joining LebTown as a member. Your support will go directly towards stories like this and you will be helping ensure that our community has a reliable news source for years to come.
Learn more about membership and join now here.