Newton explained the multi-year initiative is meant to re-energize current members and attract new Kiwanians in order to better impact the communities surrounding the clubs.
According to the international club’s website, a simple premise dictates the formula: an appreciation for the club through investing in the “Kiwanis experience” will encourage members to recruit friends, family and acquaintances to join in on the community service.
Added the website, “You want it to be more than something you ‘do’— you want it to be a part of your life.”
Newton assured his fellow members in the Kiwanis Club of Cleveland the initiative is not about money. An increased membership simply means an opportunity to enact change and serve on a broader scale in the community.
“Growth is important in any facet of society and any organization. It is the lifeblood and lifeline to ensure we continue the legacy of what this club has done over the years,” Newton said. “[It] was organized July 26, 1920. We are coming up on our 94th anniversary of a club serving Cleveland and Bradley County.”
He explained growth will not be limited to the Cleveland club. A projected timeline has a rechartered club in Soddy Daisy starting in eight to 10 weeks. Cleveland club members are also interested in the creation of a club in Benton, particularly West Polk County.
“We are also working with the East Ridge club currently to help build their numbers,” Newton said. “We are trying to go business to business literally. We are knocking on the doors and saying, ‘Hey, we are still here.’”
The experience has given the past president renewed confidence.
Continued Newton, “Many guys do not know what our organization is or what it is about ... so we’ve got to go out ... and preach it. It’s time to go out and wear it proudly.”
He said it is not about giving money, although donations are appreciated. A membership or partnership with Kiwanis is about meeting needs — making a difference in a child’s life or helping to eliminate neo-natal tetanus.
“We actually have poverty and we have sick children here at home,” Newton said. “It is time for us to turn our focus there as well, as a club in our own community.”
He added, “ ... Throughout this multi-county region, there are pockets of poverty; there are pockets of folks who are the working poor. Working poor.”
He said the economic downturn led to the loss of jobs and cut of hours. Some lost insurance benefits. Some lost the ability to properly provide for their families.
“Some folks who were full time are now working part-time. Working two jobs and making less than they were with one job previously,” Newton said. “So, whenever we see these unemployment numbers in our own backyard, don’t think those numbers represent that things are getting better.
“It just means people are working harder than they have in years gone by and bringing home a whole lot less. Their quality of life and their standard of living is not where it once was.”
He reminded civic organizations like Kiwanis have the opportunity to step forward to take positive action for all.
Those interested in finding out more about the Kiwanis Club of Cleveland can do so at www.kiwanisclevelandtn.org.