Kiwanians celebrate the spirit of giving all year with clothing, food and essential supply drives

By Erin Chandler

At this time of year, people everywhere are looking for ways to help their neighbors — whether they need warm clothing to get through winter in the northern hemisphere or gifts to make the holidays brighter. As always, Kiwanis clubs are stepping up to lead these efforts all year long. In August, the Kiwanis Children’s Fund awarded grants to seven clubs that are meeting the needs of their communities in classic and innovative ways. Read all about them and get ideas for your club’s next big project in the new year! 

A Thanksgiving network
When the Kiwanis Club of The Bellmores, New York, U.S., first teamed up with Carroll’s Kitchen, a local nonprofit, to provide American Thanksgiving meals for families in need four years ago, members did not dream how big the project would become. Today, the club says it “has created a network of churches, synagogues, food pantries and other local Kiwanis clubs in order to maximize the reach of the annual project” and serve thousands of people. Volunteers from Kiwanis clubs as well as local businesses and other organizations come together to prepare and package the meals. The local high school’s culinary program makes side dishes. As prices and food insecurity continue to rise, however, the project’s budget doubled between 2021 and 2022. A Kiwanis Children’s Fund club grant will help the Thanksgiving meals continue and expand the club’s reach going forward. 

A community baby shower
Lake Charles, Louisiana, U.S., has been devastated by multiple hurricanes and floods over the past three years, putting many families in difficult circumstances. The Kiwanis Club of Lake Charles helps alleviate the burden by holding a “community baby shower” every year, providing essential supplies for hundreds of infants. The club creates a list of baby items that shoppers at a local Walmart can buy and donate. The items are then distributed among various local agencies that support mothers, expectant mothers and young children. A Kiwanis Children’s Fund club grant will help the club purchase additional items — such as Pack ‘n Plays, car seats, diapers and wipes — that are expensive but essential for new parents.  

A year-round “Angel Tree”
When the Kiwanis Club of Campbellsville, Kentucky, U.S., held a community meeting to assess what needs it could address in 2023, members learned that the number of children participating in the Angel Tree program — which provides holiday gifts for those in need — had doubled in the past year. Families’ requests were often for essential clothing items for children ages 12 and younger. There was clearly a need for an Angel Tree-like program that would last year-round. That’s how the club decided to partner with community family resource directors, the Taylor County Caring for Kids Foundation, the Green River Early Childhood Regional Cooperative and local school districts to implement a Virtual Children’s Community Closet. Unlike a brick-and-mortar community closet, which might not have what a shopper needs when they need it, the virtual closet will fulfill specific needs through online request forms. Each household will be able to request up to US$100 in clothing the first year. A Kiwanis Children’s Fund club grant will help purchase requested clothing items, which Kiwanians will shop for and deliver.  

Middle school supply closets
The Kiwanis Club of Findlay, Ohio, U.S., initiated its Kiwanis Closets project in 2015, stocking cabinets in 16 local elementary schools with new clothing items for kids who needed them. The project was so successful that the club was approached about expanding it to the 11 area middle schools. School faculty and staff determined that the items most needed were clothing, personal hygiene supplies and nonperishable food. A grant from the Kiwanis Children’s Fund will go toward purchasing storage cabinets and enough supplies to get all 11 closets off the ground at the same time. Because middle school-age children are more self-conscious and aware of social stigma, the supplies will be handed out discreetly and will be restocked as needed. The club hopes that supplies from Kiwanis Closets will help promote stability and dignity in thousands of kids’ lives. 

Shoe bank marches on
The Kiwanis Club of The Blue Grass, Lexington, Kentucky, U.S., has been providing shoes to children in need in its community for over 65 years. The club works with local schools to find out which children have shoes that don’t fit or are falling apart. Teachers give each child a card to take home, notifying parents and guardians about the shoe bank. Club members then purchase socks and shoes and deliver them to the schools as soon as possible after the school year starts. The project is covered on local TV stations, and club members also spread awareness with signs and cards at University of Kentucky athletic events. A Kiwanis Children’s Fund club grant will help meet the increasing need for shoes and help the club expand the project to more area schools. 

Warmth in winter
A Kiwanis Children’s Fund club grant will help the Kiwanis Club of Perry Township-Indianapolis in Indiana, U.S., purchase coats, hoodies, hats and gloves for families in need. Of the 17,000 students in the Perry Township school system, 75% live at or below the poverty level, and 51% are immigrants — many of them refugees — whose families are struggling to establish homes in a new country. The club works with student services, social workers, community centers, churches and the local YMCA to identify families in need of essential supplies such as shoes, socks, clothing and food. They then host an annual giveaway on the first Saturday in November, making sure these families have what they need to stay warm and comfortable through the Indiana winter. 

A mobile resource
A grant from the Kiwanis Children’s Fund will help the Kiwanis Club of Broomfield North Metro, Colorado, U.S., purchase a trailer that club members will customize and convert into a “shop at no cost” store for its community. Kiwanians consulted with local schools and with county health and human services to determine which items were most needed by underserved populations in the area. Over the course of its first year, the trailer will hold four events to provide, in turn, winter necessities, basic essential and household necessities, move-in kits for young people transitioning to live independently, and backpacks and school supplies. In the future, the club hopes to bring the trailer to additional community events so that hundreds more will have access to their service. 

How you can help    
The Kiwanis Children’s Fund makes grants that improve the lives of children around the world by identifying the projects that create a continuum of impact in a child’s life — one that spans their entire childhood and sets them up for a bright future. By funding projects that target the Kiwanis causes —health and nutrition, education and literacy, and youth leadership development whether through a Kiwanis club’s local service project or through a club’s partner, the Children’s Fund ensures that its grantmaking has the greatest possible impact.    

If you are interested in extending your club’s impact beyond your community, make a gift to the Children’s Fundor learn how your club canapply for a grantto help kids in your community