Kiwanis club members Helen McFadden, Randy Kohls and Randy Pape with photos from the recent 60th anniversary celebration for Crescent Housing Society, which the Kiwanis members will continue to be part of. (Tracy Holmes photo)

Long-running service club ‘touched lots of lives’

Kiwanis Club of White Rock South Surrey disbands after nearly 60 years

Another Peninsula service club has disbanded.

Effective Sept. 30, the Kiwanis Club of White Rock South Surrey ceased operations, ending nearly six decades of contributions to the community.

“We’ve made a big difference,” club secretary Helen McFadden said Friday, reminiscing on a legacy that touches on everything from affordable housing for seniors to rewarding good behaviour in young school children.

“We’ve touched lots of lives.”

The club was founded in March 1961 – but its roots date back to 12 years before that, to 1949, when it started as part of a three-community international club that included Cloverdale and Blaine.

White Rock formed its own club in 1961, and almost immediately assumed responsibility for Crescent Housing Society, which had been an initiative of the United Church since 1957.

That non-profit – which celebrated its 60th anniversary last month – is mandated to provide affordable, safe housing for seniors and people with disabilities.

Started with 12 cottages, it now owns and operate Kiwanis Park Place, a two-building complex in Ocean Park that offers a total of 256 units of housing for those aged 55 and older. Of those units, 146 are below-market rentals.

“Somebody said, ‘Hey, why don’t we get into this housing?’” club president Randy Pape said. “It was a project by a Kiwanian that got it going. Sixty years later…”

In the years that followed, the Kiwanians’ list of contributions expanded exponentially to include scholarships, projects such as a longstanding program at HT Thrift Elementary, and co-founding the Kiwanis Fraser Valley Music Festival. This past spring, the latter hosted 7,000 students, Pape noted.

“The final show… fabulous,” he said. “It just blew me away.”

Past-president Randy Kohls said many people aren’t aware of the club’s support for a project in Guyana. It took place back in the late-’80s, early-’90s, he said, and involved providing school and medical supplies.

“That was a big thing,” Kohls said.

Fundraising has been a huge part of local Kiwanis efforts.

Kohls estimates the total raised at about $1 million – generated through everything from Christmas-tree, cake and honey sales, to dances, building and selling a house, and gaming funds.

“On Christmas trees, we made close to $20,000 a year,” Kohls recalled. “On the cakes, about $10,000.”

Funds remaining are in the process of being dispersed, Pape said, and McFadden noted that a foundation at Douglas College that provides an annual bursary for a nursing student will continue.

McFadden, Pape and Kohls all expressed disappointment in the club having to fold.

“It’s a sad day, for sure,” Kohls, a member for more than 25 years, said.

A declining membership was central in the decision.

“We have run out of members. And energy,” McFadden said.

The trend was noted some years ago, and in 2011, McFadden and Kohls made a public appeal for “an influx of new, young people” to help stem the decline. At that time, the club had 15 members, and three were older than 80.

Pape estimated the average age in the years since has been “70-plus.” Membership at folding numbered just 14.

Two other longtime service groups – the Peace Arch Monarch Lions and the White Rock Lioness clubs – ceased to exist in June 2014.

That decision, club members told PAN at the time, was “disheartening and disappointing, but not surprising.”

They, too, named the challenge of attracting new members as a key factor.

In addition to the Kiwanis club’s legacy of giving, McFadden said a positive is that its records are in the hands of the White Rock Museum & Archives. As well, members will remain part of Crescent Housing Society.

“It’s going to be a good, strong society,” McFadden said. “It continues our legacy.”

Annual membership in the society is just $1 plus board approval, she noted.

Anyone interested in becoming a member is urged to contact the society at 604-538-9669 or crescenthousing@gmail.com

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Sign for Kiwanis Park Place. (Tracy Holmes photo)

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