By Sarrah Peters, News Editor
The Gadsden Kiwanis Club celebrated its 100-year anniversary on Wednesday, July 10 at the Gadsden Museum of Art. Club members and local supporters gathered to reminisce and celebrate the club’s birthday by singing “Happy Birthday” and enjoying a meal and birthday cake.
During the festivities, City of Gadsden Mayor’s Assistant Shane Ellison presented the club with a proclamation from the city, which will be hung at the newly-renovated Kiwanis Pavilion at Noccalula Falls Park. The proclamation named Wednesday, July 10 as Kiwanis Club of Gadsden Day. The proclamation praised the Kiwanis Club’s efforts to help the area’s children with scholarships and providing Christmas gifts for children in need.
“The Gadsden Kiwanis Club sponsors numerous service leadership programs across the area, like KKids Clubs, Builders Clubs, Key Clubs, Circle K Clubs and Aktion Clubs, building the next generation of community leaders,” said Ellison.
The Gadsden Kiwanis Club also hosts an annual American Flag Display program and the annual Gadsden Christmas Parade. The club has raised about two million dollars for local charities and programs through its fundraisers, including its popular Pancake Day.
Past Gadsden Kiwanis Club President and State House Representative for District 28 Gil Isbell made a presentation recognizing the Key Club at Pathways Academy. The Key Club attended the international convention in Baltimore, Md., where the club was presented with the 2018-2019 Distinguished Club Diamond Level Award.
“There were only 20 or 30 of these awards given nationwide,” said Isbell. “This just says a lot about what the children do and how the Kiwanis can help support them.”
Isbell went on to display some historical documents and photographs of the Gadsden Kiwanis Club, including a list of the club’s charter members.
Past Kiwanis Club President Rish Wood recounted how the Gadsden Kiwanis Club got its start.
One hundred years ago, T. Jeff Bailey, Field Representative of Kiwanis International, and Andrew J. Arrant, first District Governor of the Alabama/Florida District of Kiwanis International, met with 15 men gathered in the office of Judge William J. Boykin in the Stocks Building to present an invitation from Kiwanis to organize the third Kiwanis club in the state of Alabama. The first two clubs already in service were located in Birmingham and Mobile.
The editorial page of the next day’s Gadsden Evening Journal congratulated the city for having been chosen as the third city in our state for a Kiwanis Club to be organized.
On Wednesday July 2, 1919, the first regular meeting of this group was held in the Printup Hotel and prospective members were invited. The next meeting was held Wednesday, July 14, 1919, at which time the required 50 members had been approved, officially starting the club. On December 10, 1919 the Gadsden Club received its charter from Kiwanis International. The club held a gala in celebration, where Andy Arrant presented the charter to the club’s first president William J Boykin.
In the beginning, the Kiwanis Club of Gadsden helped local churches, but its first real project was organizing Boy Scout Troops in Etowah County.
From that time forward, the Kiwanis Club of Gadsden has never stopped working with local youth and many other worthwhile local projects.
Over 15 past presidents of the Kiwanis Club spoke to the crowd, reminiscing on the friends and community they have gained during their time as a member. The presidents also highlighted several projects that the club has accomplished, including a $50,000 donation to the local Salvation Army for a shelter.
The oldest past president was Jim Stivender, Jr., who was president in 1962. Stivender fondly recalled George Barnett and Gordon Isbell, two past presidents that have passed away.
For more information about the Gadsden Kiwanis Club, visit gadsdenkiwanis.org or e-mail GadsdenKiwanis@mail.com