How high can you achieve as a Kiwanis club? Depends on your culture, expectations and dedication.
When Mike McMahon moved to Alpine, California, from El Centro, California, a couple of years ago, he expected a soft landing on his journey into retirement. Once he joined the Kiwanis Club of Alpine, all bets were off.
“I thought I was going to retire,” says McMahon, a longtime El Centro Kiwanian before becoming an Alpine Kiwanian. “But that’s not how it works in this club. I’ve never been so busy!”
Clocking in around 16,000 service hours a year, the 128 members who make up the Kiwanis Club of Alpine are a dedicated bunch. Expectations are part of the culture.
Consider the following stats:
- Alpine Kiwanians take on about 50 service projects each year.
- Active participation in club events is around 90 percent.
- No member has ever been elected president twice in the club’s 63-year history.
- Some 500 cyclists rode in this year’s 13th Annual Alpine Challenge Bike Ride, which the Alpine Kiwanis club sponsors. (See August 2013 Kiwanis Magazine, “A Kiwanis Kind of Town: Alpine, California.”)
- Another 750 people attended this year’s 23rd Annual Vintage Alpine Charity Wine and Food Tasting event.
- Alpine has a population of roughly 16,000 people.
This is a Kiwanis club that locals and Kiwanians alike understand how much of a positive influence a group of individuals can have on a populace. Its community service excellence is known in and around the winding mountain roads of Alpine.
“They want to show young people how to help one another, how to give back to the community,” says Susan Hobbs, a retired business owner who has lived in Alpine for nearly 40 years. “They’re the biggest group of supporters in town. They touch so many things in Alpine.”
When asked how to get involved in the Alpine community, many newcomers to the city are told to contact the club. They are the group to turn to if you’re serious about service.
Ed Paul joined the Alpine Kiwanis Club based on its reputation. “When my mom passed away, I learned that she was involved in a lot of community service,” Paul says. “I reflected on my own life and wanted to do more. One of my friends remarked, ‘If you want to get involved in this town, you have to join Kiwanis.’ So I did.”
On the cover of a recent issue of the East County Gazette, the top headline reads ‘Kiwanis International President Visits Alpine.’ A photo of Kiwanis International President Tom DeJulio and his wife, Rosemary, smiling alongside Granite Hills High School Key Clubbers is featured in a large full color display.
What makes the club’s culture, expectations and dedication work so well? Alpine Kiwanis Club President Jim Cate has a insightful take on it.
“With any project, whoever is in charge, it’s always like, ‘What can I do so you will not fail? Give me your biggest pain.’ Everyone here has more or less ran their own businesses. So it’s a group of leaders to some extent. All in all, we have a pretty unique group of people here.” — Nicholas Drake