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Statesboro’s Kiwanis Club: Helpful hearts, watchful eyes
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Lynn Batten, center, and Russ Rozelle take tickets and welcome guests to the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT

“Our desire to serve the community is the common interest that brings us together.”

This quote can be found on the Statesboro Kiwanis website as a description of the local members —individuals of all different backgrounds come together in the Kiwanis club to serve their community. You may not know much about the Kiwanis Club, except that maybe they host the festivities of the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair each year.

The Statesboro Kiwanis Club was founded in 1960, is one of roughly 8,593 Kiwanis clubs around the world, and in 1962 started hosting the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair. This is all information that you can find on the Kiwanis Statesboro website, but in order to truly dive into the depths of Kiwanis, I sat down with three of its long time members to discuss their involvement in Kiwanis and Kiwanis involvement in the community.

 As we sat down for the interview, Debra Pease, one of my interviewees, jokingly referred to Walter Pease, Debra’s husband and the second person being interviewed, and Darrell Colson, the third attendee, by their nicknames “Weeble” (Darrell) and “Wobble” (Walter). As Debra says, when you watch them walk, one weebles as the other wobbles. Their friendship was obvious from the start. 

“It’s a lot of fun, it’s a lot of camaraderie,” Walter said about the Kiwanis Club with a smile on his face.

The first impression I got from the trio is that they were extremely passionate about the Kiwanis Club and what it does for the community. Walter has been in the club the longest out of the three. He has been a member since 1975. Darrell has been a member since 1988, and Debra joined in the early 2000s. All three have been heavily involved with Kiwanis since joining. Walter and Darrell have both been past club presidents and fair chairmen, and Debra is the current fair chairman for the 2018 Ogeechee Fair. Walter is also a state officer with the Georgia Association of Agricultural Fairs. In 2008, Darrell was voted as the Fairman of the Year in Georgia, a major accomplishment as individuals from every fair in Georgia can be considered for the award.

Despite taking almost an entire year to plan, Statesboro Kiwanis is so much more than the Ogeechee Fair. My interviewees were eager to speak on some of the projects that Kiwanis contributes too.

 Every year, Statesboro Kiwanis hosts the Statesboro Kiwanis Rodeo as a way to contribute to Project Eliminate, which is headed by Kiwanis International. The organization strives to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus in third world countries. Profits from the rodeo are given to Project Eliminate and directly to the community. Statesboro Kiwanis Club has set a goal to collect $10,000 over a period of time, and any money given to Project Eliminate will be matched by Kiwanis International and go directly towards fighting tetanus. The rodeo show not only bolsters our local community, but also helps our world.

Walter said, “If there’s a good cause, and [an organization] gives us a good reason that they need the money, we’ll evaluate it, and there is usually a good chance that they will get [our help].”

The rodeo is just the tip of the Kiwanis community service iceberg.

Debra says that the club is involved in “everything from young children to ‘greater years.’” but Darrell says that “young children are priority one” to the club.

Throughout the year, Kiwanis donates to Backpack Buddies (an organization that provides children at risk for hunger with food for when school meals are not available), the school for deaf children, Meals on Wheels (delivers food to the elderly who are not able to leave their homes), Silver Linings (on Saturday mornings, members look after individuals with dementia so their caregivers are given a break), and Safe Haven (helps mothers and wives suffering from domestic abuse). The club also helps individual local residents by building ramps on houses, providing help in the homes of the elderly, and helping 4-H and FFA organizations in surrounding counties by donating money or supplies. Kiwanis also awards scholarships annually to high school seniors and the club has created an endowment with Georgia Southern University to help college students with books and tuition. Kiwanis has even donated money to the local police department so they can buy equipment that is not outlined in their budget.

Service to one’s community, no matter age or circumstance, is the Kiwanis way, but where does the club find the manpower and funding to do all of this?

The club has roughly 150 members in the Statesboro chapter who are extremely dedicated to the Kiwanis mission and are willing to sacrifice their time for the community’s benefit. While the Kiwanis Club is made up of adults, there are offshoots of the club for all ages. Circle K, Key Club and Builders Club are sibling organizations in which college kids, high schoolers and middle schoolers, respectively, can get involved. People join Kiwanis for different reasons, Darrell says he “fell in love with the fair — that’s one of the reasons I got in [the club].”

Coincidentally, the fair is how Kiwanis raises a lot of their money. When the fair first began in the 1960s, it profited about $8,000, but now the fair can profit around $200,000 in one week. And almost all of this money is put back into the community through donations or scholarships.

Bu the Kiwanis Club is much more than the fair. The club has always been in the background of our community, looking after Statesboro and the surrounding counties with a watchful eye and a helpful heart.

For more information on the 2018 Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair, go online at www.kiwanisogeecheefair.org.