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Young Kiwanians encourage others to join
Members needed as civic club hosts large projects such as the fair
Alex Grovenstein distributes a meal at the chicken barn during the 2018 Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair Friday. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Hosting a large, seven-county fair each year is quite a task that takes a lot of people to organize, plan and put ideas into action. Some even work year round, getting ready for the next fair even while the current one is going on.

The Statesboro Kiwanis Club, which hosts the annual Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair, has over 120 members, most of which are older citizens, said Debra Pease, the 2018 fair chairperson. But the number of younger members is growing, and the club hopes to encourage more of the “under 40” crowd to join, she said.

Active membership is important, since the Statesboro Kiwanis hosts two large fundraisers a year: the fair in October and the Kiwanis rodeo in the spring. Each event takes a great deal of planning, not to mention hands-on, getting-sweaty hard work.

Currently, there are 12 Statesboro Kiwanis members under age 40. The Statesboro Herald asked some of them why they joined the club, as well as reasons why they would encourage others to join. Some were looking for a civic project, others sought ways to become involved in the community, and one fell in love with the club after being recruited as a member by her employer.

“I begrudgingly joined because of my job,” said Ashlee Corbin, who has been a member for four years. “I had the same idea as many people — that Kiwanis was a group for retired men. I was proven wrong. While the majority of us are retired men, there is a good sampling of all age groups.”

For the first three years of her membership, Corbin was the youngest member in the club. After joining, she expected to attend a meeting on occasion but not become very involved; today, just four years later, she has served on the board of directors, as marketing and public relations head for the rodeo and the club, and as club sheriff.

Currently, she is vice president.

“Once a member is vice president, that means they will move into the president-elect role before going into a year as president,” she said.

When she realized how much the Statesboro Kiwanis does for the community, Corbin was hooked. It began with a check donation to the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office.

“Lynn Anderson (former Bulloch County sheriff) accepted the check for the Child ID project and he told us that the program would not exist without the support of the club, that we were the only sponsor,” she said. “That tugged at my heartstrings because that was a program I was familiar with — my mom still has my Child ID that I received from them. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I get to be a part of this!’ and I dove right in.”

Landon Lanier joined the club in 2004 at age 24.

“Once I was settled into a job after a college, I was looking for a way to be involved in the community,” he said.

He worked at a local bank, where former Kiwanis president Darron Burnette also worked. Burnette invited him to a meeting.

“Not knowing much about Kiwanis, I went to see what it was about,” he said. “The thing that stuck out to me was the sheriff’s report by (Bulloch County Superior Court Judge) Lovett Bennett. I thought, ‘That guy is kind of funny. I'll go back next week to hear what he has to say.’ I realized pretty quick that Kiwanis was a great group of people to be around, so I joined and have loved every minute of it since then.”

In 14 years, Lanier has moved through the ranks of leadership, having served on several committees; held offices of vice president, president-elect and president; and served on the board of directors and the fair committee. He currently serves as the chair of the special community services committee.

Members Chris Wiggins, Alex Grovenstein and Jamie Copeland also joined to become more involved with the community, they said.

New member Lisa Turner joined two years ago and is currently the club sheriff and on the board of directors. She joined because she appreciates what the club does for Bulloch County, she said.

“Kiwanis is deeply rooted in Bulloch County and known for giving back to the community in which we live, work and play,” she said. “I was invited to a meeting and saw first-hand the check presentations along with fellowship of a diverse group who seemed very passionate about what they do and thought, ‘I have to be a part of this great organization.’”


Why be involved?

The Statesboro Kiwanis Club gives back a tremendous amount of money to community organizations and causes throughout the year.

“I like that we can make a significant impact right here in Bulloch County,” Lanier said. “We donate tens of thousands of dollars every year to local organizations in our community to improve the lives of others.”

Wiggins, a five-year member, said, “The Kiwanis Club is known as a club that gives back in the community. The Statesboro Kiwanis Club has donated … to different local non-profit organizations that have helped to enrich the lives of countless children and senior citizens, not only in our community but around the world.”

Grovenstein has been a member for 10 years and has been president, vice president, sheriff and a board member.

"I was drawn to the diverse mix in membership,” he said. “Kiwanis includes blue-collar and white-collar professional members alike. The history of Statesboro Kiwanis and the local impact keeps me excited about continuing the legacy."

Copeland, a five-year member, has served on the board of directors and on the fair committee and will be next year’s fair chairperson.

“Seeing what our club does for the children and people of our community and how it affects so many lives though what we are able to give back” is important to him, he said.

Turner said community benefits are her reason to be a Kiwanian.

“When you look into the eyes of children and young adults that may otherwise not have opportunities without the support of Kiwanis and see the difference it makes, how could you not be involved?” she said. “Knowing this week the funds raised will be put back into the community in which we live brought tears to my eyes. ‘Kids need Kiwanis’ is our platform, and we strive each day to live it, love it and share it.”


Different tasks, same dedication

There are many ways to be involved as an active Kiwanis member. The opportunities are vast, Grovenstein said.

"I currently work with the Kiwanis Poultry Project at the fair. It allows kids who may not be able to afford to raise large animals the chance to be able to have an animal project,” he said. “Had it been available, that would have been my opportunity as a child."

The club awards several animals to FFA and 4-H members each year so they can raise and show the animals as projects.

“Kiwanis gives me the chance to do things I like to do, while serving others,” Lanier said. “It’s a lot of fun to plan and prepare for the fair and rodeo. It’s also a lot of fun to work at those events. You can’t beat having fun while serving someone else.”

Whatever the role one plays, the reward is worth it, Corbin said.

“We donate over $100,000 back to the community,” she said. “We are like one big family — we laugh, we sometimes argue and we fellowship together. But most importantly, we work together for the good of our community, and anytime you can unite a group with a common goal, it draws me in.”

Turner also enjoys the work she does as a member.

“I am responsible for sending out the Kiwanigram, which is the club’s weekly newsletter,” she said. “I take photos of the weekly check presentations and for Kiwanis events for our yearly scrapbook. This current year, I am the Kiwanis sheriff and raise funds for club use.”

Copeland likes the camaraderie and interaction with others.

“The past years I have worked the parking lot during the fair and rodeo weeks,” he said. “I get to spend time with one of my oldest friends and have made new friends during my time there. I have the pleasure of welcoming friends and the community as they arrive at the fair.”


Encouraging others

It is a Kiwanis trait to recruit new members, and almost any active member would be happy to lure others to the club.

“We always need new members that are willing to serve,” Lanier said. “Think about the impact you can have being a part of an organization like Kiwanis.”

Wiggins said being a Kiwanian is the perfect way to return love and compassion to the community.

“I would encourage others who are looking for a way to give back to their community to consider the Kiwanis Club,” he said. “We have a strong history of servant leadership within the community. We are looking for ways to continue to make a difference in the lives of those in our area.”

Grovenstein agreed.

“It became clear to me that we have a civic responsibility to continue the legacy laid over the last 57 years with the fair,” he said. “I want to cement that, grow it, and welcome others to join me."

Corbin encourages more women to join what has historically been mostly a male club.

“I knew in my heart that I wanted to one day lead the club, but I didn’t realize that it would be this soon,” she said, anticipating her role as president in a couple of years. “I hope that as the youngest female (and the fifth woman ever) to enter the officer rotation that I can help change the perception of the club — we aren’t an old man’s group!”

Any Kiwanis member should be glad to invite newcomers to visit the club.

“Come have lunch and see what all the fun is about. We like to have a good time, but we get the good work done, too,” Copeland said.

If you are interested, “Reach out to a Kiwanian you know and let us tell you about the things that we do and what we accomplish as a group,” Corbin said. “My favorite thing about Kiwanis is that I can contribute my time, ideas and passion and make a difference. I don’t have to write a huge check to make an impact.”

Don’t be shy — ask for an invitation, Turner said.

“Ask any Kiwanian for an invitation to our weekly lunch and program,” she said. “I promise you will not regret it.”


Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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