The work of Kiwanis members who want to make the world a better place never stops, but COVID-19 made it harder. Now that restrictions are lifting, members of the Scottsbluff Kiwanis Club are getting back into the community.
On Saturday morning, they spent time making repairs and cleaning up the playground in Riverside Park.
“We would have been out here sooner, but we couldn’t,” Derek Manley, Rocky Mountain District Governor said, explaining it was because of pandemic-related restrictions.
The organization had the playground installed in 2009. It is maintained by the city, but club president Raul Aguallo said the club cleans it up three to four times a year.
“The city is busy,” he said. “We try to help as much as we can.”
Helping as much as it can has been the core mission of the chapter since it began 90 years ago. The organization hands out thousands in scholarship money to local students each year, including some with less-than-perfect grade point averages who may receive little financial help otherwise.
Jeff Reifschneider, who oversees the Scottsbluff Kiwanis Foundation, said that in the last 15 years, nearly $100,000 in scholarships have been given to Scotts Bluff County students.
“We can’t solve all the world’s problems,” he said, “but we can help buy books for a semester or two”
Most of the funds come from annual Christmas tree sales, he said, and some are donations. The Kiwanis Christmas Trees have become a community tradition and the profits are put into the scholarship fund.
Typically, there are around 35 applications and usually 7-10 students are selected depending on how well the Christmas tree lot does.
“It’s hard,” Reifschneider said. “They’re all great kids but it’s not enough money for all of them.”
In addition to scholarship monies, Kiwanis has leadership programs for various age groups including Key Club and there are constantly other projects in the works.
In the coming months, the club will be working in Riverside Discovery Center to do upgrades to the Kiwanis Gazebo area.
Community members who want to make a difference will find that opportunity in Kiwanis, Aguallo said. Anyone over the age of 18 can join.
“We always want new members,” he said. “New members bring new ideas and they keep things fresh.”
Manley said the board is always open to new ideas of ways the club can help the community year-round.
“If you’ve got an idea, share it with us,” he said.
He’s currently in the works of forming a diversity committee for his region and says everyone is welcome in Kiwanis.
“A lot of people think this is a faith-based organization,” said Manley. “But it isn’t.”
He explained that while there are spiritual and faith-based values, the organization is not rooted in religion and has chapters around the world.
“We just want people who want to serve,” he said.
From now until the end of September, there is no fee to join the club. Quarterly dues are around $60, but the only other cost is for the meal served during meetings, which take place at noon on Thursdays at the country club.
Those who are interested can get more information from any Kiwanis member, the Scottsbluff Kiwanis Club Facebook page or by calling Aguallo at 308-631-7449.
Manley encourages everyone — Kiwanis member or not — to try to put more good into the world.
“We try to do our part,” he said. “All of us need to do more. All of us need to do whatever we can.”