When Sea Cliff resident Doug Barnaby, a 45-year Kiwanian, describes what it’s like to attend one of the meetings of the North Shore Kiwanis Club, his response is surprising. “It’s almost like a roast,” he said with a smile.
His statement was confirmed during the welcoming remarks at the club’s Golden Jubilee last Thursday night, which marked the chapter’s 50th anniversary. Former president Bruce Levinson greeted attendants, but then remarked to a fellow member how he couldn’t possibly have received an invitation because the dinner was reserved for “distinguished guests.”
“In our organization we don’t take ourselves too seriously, although we try to be very serious about what we do for the community,” Barnaby said.
The North Shore Kiwanis Club has served the community since Dec. 31, 1968 by hosting multiple fundraisers throughout the year to foster civic engagement and community-mindedness.
“Many other service clubs are commercially connected through local businesses, but our origins were really based on residents,” said chartering member Ernie Franck, who lived in Sea Cliff but has since relocated to Florida.
As a chartering member, Franck has seen Kiwanis’ evolution from its formative years through its decades of dedication from lifelong members, most of whom have since passed away. “Tonight, we honor the memory of our deceased members,” he said. Then he added, “It’s a nice little touch to remember the past, but service clubs have to be focused on the future.”
Lisa Larsen-Hill, of Sea Cliff, has been a member for seven years, and has found her short time in service to be “a tremendous reward.” “You’re meeting like-minded people, people who believe in what you’re trying to do, and you’re also making a difference,” she said. “To know that you could possibly be saving someone’s life, or making a child feel good about themselves, that’s priceless.”
“Serving the children of the world” is the motto of Kiwanis International, and North Shore’s chapter shows no shortage of the saying. In 1970, the club chartered a partner organization at the high school, the North Shore Key Club. To date Key Club has more than 51 members, and has won state and international recognition for its community service programs.
“It’s really wonderful to see the seeds of giving imbedded in these children, and it’s not fake,” Larsen-Hill said. “They are so dedicated to service, and it gives me total hope for this next generation.”
Barnaby said supporting and nurturing the efforts of local children is a primary focus of Kiwanis, and helps impart a greater sense of community within the students they serve. “We’re kind of like mentors,” he said.
That intimate, face-to-face mentorship continues successfully, in a sterile, social-network obsessed world, where little emphasis is placed on helping others. Larsen-Hill said, “in this day and age when it’s all about ‘me’,” Kiwanis’ “heart-filled dedication to service” is a fortuitous nod to the era of “we.”
As the pendulum has swung in favor of computerized interactions, Barnaby said he believes it will soon swing back, reflecting a time more in tune with “helping thy neighbor,” and when that happens, clubs like Kiwanis will be there to answer the call.