Learning about Kiwanis, plant sale
They meet once a week and hear from a variety of speakers on subjects ranging from birds to foster children while they enjoy a friendly breakfast. It’s a tradition that’s been going on for years in locations all over the United States, but the Bella Vista Kiwanis Club, like many other service clubs, is having trouble recruiting new members, member Julie Storm said.
Storm is still a relatively new member. She was asked to help with the website, but she was so impressed with what she saw that she joined the club. The club has about 22 members, she said.
Since joining, she’s heard about foster families from a group that helps them take care of children, The Call of NWA. She’s heard about the new children’s hospital in Springdale and from the superintendent of schools in Gravette. They often invite representatives of new businesses to speak, and that’s where she met the owner of the Bluebird Shed and the new flower shop, Just Petaling.
The weekly meetings are only part of what the Kiwanis Club does. They are a service organization and their service is always directed at children, Storm said.
The club helps support about 15 local children’s programs, she explained. The list includes the Bella Vista Preschool, the Boys and Girls Club, and Head Start. It also funds two scholarships each year for Bentonville and Gravette High School seniors.
It helps support the food pantry at the Lutheran Church and recently has started collecting peanut butter at its monthly meetings. Pantries, Storm said, can always use peanut butter.
The money raised in the two major fundraisers always stays local, she said. One of those fundraisers is happening this weekend. Each spring, Kiwanis volunteers sell hanging plants in the parking lot of the Highlands branch of Arvest. The plants include petunias, ferns and begonias. The sale is always planned to coincide with Mother’s Day which is May 13 this year. The sale begins on May 10 and continues through Saturday, May 12.
The other major fundraiser also has to do with plants. Each Christmas, Kiwanis members sell poinsettias to family members and friends.
There are smaller fundraisers throughout the year which help pay the club’s expenses. Members just finished a member mystery auction. Members brought in a wrapped item and bid on each other’s packages without knowing what is inside. One member won a handmade afghan. Others went home with Christmas decorations.
The small fundraisers helped the local chapter earn a model club designation from the national organization, Storm said. They pledged $1500 per member to a national campaign designed to eliminate tetanus. It took them several years to fulfill the pledge since funds from their major fundraiser always stay local. Eventually, they did it and they have a patch to prove it on their club banner.
Kiwanis Clubs often sponsor a Key Club for children in their service areas. In Bella Vista, the Key Club is K-Kids at Cooper Elementary and it’s very successful, Storm said. She credits Cooper counselor Buddy Herndon with the success.
When he took over the program this year, he realized it was a little too popular. In the past, the group numbered 200 second-, third- and fourth-graders. Two hundred elementary students make it difficult to get anything done, he explained. Also, the second-graders really aren’t old enough to understand the concept of a service club. This year, Herndon limited it to 25 third-graders and 25 fourth-graders. He let the thirdand fourth-grade teachers decide who made the cut.
As a club, they’ve made cards for nursing home residents and for veterans. They collected food and added it to the adult club’s Christmas food drive.
“This community does so much for our kids and our families, so it’s important that we give back,” Herndon said.
The adult Kiwanis and the K-Kids worked together on a successful fundraiser for the Children’s Hospital in April, along with other clubs in the region. It was a “Fun Walk” and it took place at Har-Ber High School in Springdale.The K-Kids raised more than $1,000 and might have had the largest team at the event, Herndon said.
Children who enjoy K-Kids at Cooper may be able to stay with a similar program all the way through college, Storm said. Key Clubs serve all those ages.
Storm said she enjoys all the Kiwanis activities — even selling plants is fun. Also, there are a few activities that are only for fun. There’s the installation dinner when new officers are selected, and there is a Valentine Dinner most years.
The Bella Vista Kiwanis Club is preparing for its annual spring plant sale which will take place on May 10-12 in the parking lot of the Arvest branch at Highlands Crossing.