A long-standing Semiahmoo Peninsula community club is struggling to stay afloat due to a steep decline in membership.
The Kiwanis Club of White Rock has been working to improve the city since its inception in 1961. In the last 50 years, the club has contributed to numerous projects, from school scholarships to pier benches and light standards. Most notably, the club provides more than 250 housing units in Crescent Beach at Kiwanis Park Place – which has one building dedicated to subsidized housing for seniors.
However, within the last 10 years a lack of new members and an aging membership has strained the club’s limited resources and jeopardized its future, said club president Helen McFadden.
“We’re down to a low ebb and we really need an influx of new, young people – people who are doing things in the community and who are excited about doing things in the community,” said McFadden, who has been heading the club for the past couple of years. “We’re excited about it still, but we can’t do it all by ourselves.”
The club currently has 15 members, with three of them more than 80 years old. The number is a stark contrast to previous years boasting a membership of more than 60 members.
According to McFadden, the club requires at least 25 members to operate at its best, but the lack of members has not put a damper on the passion the members have for their community and the hope of returning the club back to it’s former glory.
“We would like to see the club as a vital group we once were. We could do so much more if we had a vibrant, involved membership, but we can’t right now and it’s a terrible loss to the community,” McFadden said.
One big factor hindering membership is how the club is perceived, she said.
“If I go up to someone and say, ‘you should really be a part of our group’ they’re going to decide that maybe it’s not their thing because of the age difference and when they come to meetings, they see mostly old people,” McFadden said.
“A lot of young people don’t see past that and don’t see the potential. We somehow need to get past that age barrier and bring people on board.”
The lack of interest is particularly disheartening for the group as the club’s main focus has been on helping youth and sponsoring events in the community. The Kiwanis group has been working for years to provide scholarships, student programs and school lunches for those in need, said member Randy Kohls.
“Our primary objective is to help children,” said Kohls, who has been with the club for 22 years.
“We may have been spending too much time on seniors because of our work with Kiwanis Park Place, but our focus has always been on children.”
Aside from the help the group receives from the Newton Bingo Association, the members are fundraising year-round with different sales including their Christmas cake sales, honey and jam sales and hot dog sales, he said.
But with the dwindling membership, raising funds has become increasingly difficult, with the onus of responsibility falling on the shoulders of a few. However, for McFadden and Kohls, there is no other option because there are people depending on the club and its members.
“We must survive because we are responsible for the housing which we operate. It’s a project we are very, very, proud of. I’ve had people come up and tell me they are so thankful for what we do because they don’t know where they would be without it,” McFadden said.
To find out how to become a member of the White Rock Kiwanis Club, contact Helen at 604-538-9594.
To be a member requires a commitment of a few hours each month towards the projects the club has in place and an attempt to attend bi-monthly dinner meetings.
All members of the White Rock Kiwanis Club have a membership with the worldwide Kiwanis International which has 8,000 clubs in more than 90 countries and 600,000 members.