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Kiwanis Club of Naperville

New President Dick Nelson

Acceptance Speech

It is indeed an honor and pleasure to take over the reigns as your club president. I want to thank all of you for your vote of confidence and I look forward to the support of each of you in the coming year. I want to thank Mike and the outgoing board members for leading us this past year. I look forward to working with Carl and the new board in the coming year.

This will be my second stint as club president. My first term was back in 1991-1992 when I was a rather new and younger member of the club. Looking back, 1991-1992 were significant years for what was then the Evening Kiwanis Club of Naperville. One of the highlights of the year was the move from our long time meeting place at North Central College to Edward Hospital. We were outgrowing the college meeting space and needed more room for growth. During that first year at Edward, we collectively brought 28 guests to our meetings and signed 13 up as new members. With these new members our fund raising reached a new all time high. We made meaningful contributions to Loaves and Fishes, Spina Bifida Foundation, Spastic Paralysis Research, Naper Settlement.

Our move to Edward resulted in increased volunteer hours at the hospital and the real beginning our our 25 year relationship with Edward. 1992 was the year we began our hospital parking lot bus service with 29 Kiwanians participating. In 1992 we also began our adopt the road project which is still ongoing. In its first year 35 Kiwanians participated.

But our largest project of the year was the building of the interior of the DuPage Children’s Museum  at its new site in the Wheaton Park District Building. A few of us, including Chuck Price and Dick Koningsfeld, who headed up the project, remember the work we put in. Twenty members spackled the walls, built steps and benches and painted the entire museum. This new facility was the museum’s first permanent location and allowed the museum to expand its outreach. The museum eventually outgrew the Wheaton location and moved to Naperville in 2004. And we all know the rest of the story.

The reason I bring up all this history is because of the feature article in the March 2017 edition of the Kiwanis magazine.

“What if Kiwanis didn’t exist?”

Remember Frank Capra’s classic movie – It’s a Wonderful Life. The angel Clarence is sent from Heaven to show the frustrated businessman, played by Jimmy Stewart, what life would have been like if he never existed.

Now Naperville might not have been quite a bleak as Potterville would have been without George Bailey. But without the Kiwanis Club of Naperville along with the other civic clubs and Naperville’s history of volunteerism, our town would not be what it is today.

Without the Kiwanis Club of Naperville:

Who would have built that first Children’s Museum that grew into the museum today that has served over one million visitor families?

Who would have built the Fire safety house that taught thousands of Naperville children about fire safety?

Who would have built the Central Park gazebo?

Who would have sponsored the little league team that has served hundreds of boys over the years?

Who would have built the family shelter resale store and maintained its Naperville home?

Who would deliver meals on wheels, library books and videos and tutor reading at the elementary schools.

Where would the numerous organizations who we support financially obtain those funds they desperately need to continue their work?

Who would teach volunteerism and leadership to hundreds of middle school, high school and college young people through Builders Club, Key Club and CKI?

The list goes on, but you can see from these examples just how important we are in our community.

To the magazine article – What if Kiwanis didn’t exist.

If you have not read the article, please go back and read it. There are some interesting and troubling commentary and numbers.

Since around 1992, Kiwanis has lost about 2 to 3 percent of members each year. Our club has done better than the average. We actually saw a steady increase in membership to a high of 114 members in 2008. However, since then we have been in steady decline to where our current membership is 75. Now it is not as if we are not adding new members. Internationally, more than 30,000 people join Kiwanis each year. It is just both internationally and in Naperville, we are not adding enough members to offset those who leave Kiwanis for various reasons or who pass away.

We are not alone. Rotary and Lions are in the same boat. Fewer people are joiners now than they were 50 years ago. Priorities have changed. People don’t have time any more. Those who have good jobs are under more pressure. Family time is a greater priority and the kids have many more structured activities than ever before. People are more mobile and have fewer ties with their community.

Americans and Napervillians in particular, still tend to be generous. It is just that going on your iphone to make a donation to hurricane relief, rolling down your car window to put money in the peanut collection jar, or putting a few dollars in the Salvation army bucket on the way out of Jewel is a lot easier than committing to civic club meetings, fund raisers, and service projects.

Kiwanis International Director Stan Soderstrom is quoted in the article.

“Getting new members is only part of the battle. Keeping members we have now is by and large the biggest challenge. Statistics show most people are not ‘lifers,’ meaning they are not going to remain active in their Kiwanis club until they die. We are seeing that most members remain in Kiwanis for about five or six years. To stay afloat, we need to not only gain members – we need to keep the ones we have as long as we can.”

This is our challenge. If we are to continue to be the vibrant club we have been and continue to serve the community of Naperville in the numerous ways we do currently, we must attract and keep new members.

Together we can make sure that the Kiwanis Club of Naperville does continue to exist to serve the children of Naperville and the world.

Thank you.