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FD service clubs make impact

-Submitted photo
Fort Dodge Noon Kiwanis member Max Landus collects money during the club's annual Pancake Day fundraiser.

Kiwanis focus on youth

Kids are the future and this is why the Noon and Golden K Kiwanis clubs put their focus toward children in the community.

“We’re very passionate about the youth in our community,” said Jason Fitzgerald, Noon Kiwanis president. “There’s nothing more important than our children — they’re our future. We invest a lot of time and a lot of resources toward helping children in need and trying to make sure that they’re successful in whatever it is they want to do.”

The club’s motto is “Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to improving the world, on child and one community at a time.”

One of the main projects the Noon Kiwanis leads in Fort Dodge is Dodger Academy, the after school program at Butler Elementary School, but that’s not all the club does.

-Messenger file photo
The annual Lights at Kennedy are one of the main fundraisers for the Fort Dodge Noon Sertoma Club.

“We’ve helped sponsor the high school kids that go to Kosovo,” Fitzgerald said. “We do Christmas shopping with some D/SAOC kids at Christmastime.”

The Noon Kiwanis also provide college scholarships to high school seniors. The club also supports Patterson Field and hosts a “sand pile day” in the summer where they go around town to refill children’s sandboxes.

To support these projects, the Kiwanis host fundraisers like its annual Pancake Day event every spring.

“Our future depends on the youth of this community and we have a lot of kids that need a lot of different things,” Fitzgerald said. “There’s just a lot of need in our community for service groups and people to be a part of service groups, to do things for the kids in our community.”

The Fort Dodge Noon Kiwanis Club marked its centennial anniversary in May, 100 years after it was first chartered in Fort Dodge.

-Submitted photo
Members of the Fort Dodge Noon Kiwanis Club pack up dictionaries to be donated to third grade students in Fort Dodge, Manson Northwest Webster and Southeast Valley.

The Kiwanis are looking to welcome new faces to its meetings, Fitzgerald said.

“With most service clubs, our membership is kind of down a little bit,” he said. “We probably have between 20 and 30 active members right now. We’re welcoming new membership and we’d like to get some new members in there.”

The club typically meets every Tuesday at noon at Pizza Ranch. However, with the recent COVID-19 pandemic, the group has been doing video meetings over Zoom.

The Noon Kiwanis “sister club” is the Golden K Kiwanis, who meet at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesdays at Friendship Haven.

“Most of our members are older,” said Golden K president Henry Brain. “That’s where you get the ‘golden’ from.”

The Golden K club raises money through its Peanut Days fundraiser and a soup supper in the fall with the Daybreak Rotary Club, which it uses to support local students with scholarships.

“We’re dedicated to serving youth as best we can,” Brain said.

The Golden K Kiwanis have about 30 members currently, but are always open to new members joining, Brain said.

The club is not currently meeting as the Friendship Haven campus has been restricting visitors due to COVID-19, but Brain said they plan on meeting again once those restrictions are lifted.

FD Noon Sertoma spreads the love

Throughout the month of December, hundreds of cars drive through John F. Kennedy Memorial Park, admiring the Lights at Kennedy holiday displays.

The Lights at Kennedy are just one project the Fort Dodge Noon Sertoma club is active with throughout the community.

The club’s main service focus was on speech and hearing and for many years, it provided infant hearing screenings at Trinity Regional Medical Center. However, several years ago, the state started mandating infant hearing screenings, so the hospital took that over. Since then, the club has looked at other ways it can help around Fort Dodge.

“Everything we do basically benefits the people in the community,” said Dr. Terry Moehnke, a member and past president of the Fort Dodge Noon Sertoma.

All the money raised during the Lights at Kennedy fundraiser goes back into the local community, Moehnke said.

Noon Sertoma supports the Backpack Buddies program that provides food and snacks to students in local schools who may face food insecurity. It also supports Veterans Memorial Park out at Badger Lake, where it hosts a pork chop dinner on Labor Day.

These efforts are what drew current club president Jessica Moffitt to join Noon Sertoma.

“The reason I joined the club was because of the specific aspects we help with in the community,” she said. “It’s nice because it kind of covers a whole array of things.”

Moffitt said she also thinks it’s good for people in Fort Dodge to see other community members active in the several service clubs, finding different ways to give back to Fort Dodge.

“We’re from Fort Dodge,” she said. “So this is our hometown and this is our way to give back to the community that was there for us.”

The club has around 35-40 active members, Moffitt said.

Fort Dodge Noon Sertoma meets every Thursday at noon at Rides Bar & Grill.

Fort Dodge Lions Clubs are active in community

It’s hard to find a part of Fort Dodge that hasn’t been touched by the Fort Dodge Noon Lions Club in the 99 years since it was chartered.

Over the decades, hundreds of local preschoolers have benefited from Kids Sight, the Noon Lions’ program that conducts vision screenings of preschool children. The vision screenings held at local day care facilities and preschools for free. The club also purchases glasses for children if their parents can’t afford them.

The Noon Lions’ work with sight and vision doesn’t stop there. A part of Lions Club International, the group accepts donations of used and no longer needed eyeglasses, which are then taken to communities in need.

Randy Day, Noon Lions Club president, said the club also donates to local organizationslike the Beacon of Hope men’s shelter.

“For special needs kids, we have a get together at the Lions Den for them, feed them a meal, play some games,” he said.

The club, which has about 32 members, meets at noon on Wednesdays at the Lions Den, 731 Exposition Drive.

The club also takes care of Hawley Lions Park and has a leader dog training program, which sponsors puppies at the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility for inmates to train to become leader dogs for the blind.

For fundraisers, the Noon Lions host a pancake breakfast, a steak fry and candy sales throughout the year. These funds help them support their projects in the community.

Small but mighty

Since 1974, Fort Dodge has been home to two Lions Clubs. The second, Evening Lions Club, meets the first and third Tuesdays of the month at 6:30 p.m. at Pizza Ranch.

“One good thing about the Lions Club is that every club is autonomous,” said current member and past president Tim Wilson. “As long as we don’t go against the code of ethics or break the law, we can do our own thing.”

The Evening Lions also are committed to supporting sight and vision needs in the community, as well as other community needs, Wilson said.

The Evening Lions give to the Lord’s Cupboard, donate scholarships for Iowa Central Community College students, help at the Beacon of Help.

“We just gave money to the sheriff for his efforts raising money to put emergency radios in the schools,” Wilson said.

The Evening Lions Club is known around the community as the club that raffles off a truck every summer.

“We’ve been doing it for over 35 years,” Wilson said. “It’s a used pickup for $1 a chance and it’s our largest fundraiser.”

Tickets are sold from May through the first Friday in August.

The pickup truck is not the only thing the Evening Lions raffle off each year.

“We do a grocery raffle in the fall that we draw right before Christmastime,” Wilson said. “We give away $1,200 of groceries.”

With only 12 active members, Wilson believes the club is small but mighty.

“Our club is small, but with the money we raise, we do a lot of good,” he said.

Earlier this spring, the Evening Lions had scheduled a mental health symposium with speakers from the community lined up. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that event had to be postponed, but Wilson said he hopes it will happen this fall.

Whether it’s conducting vision screenings, bringing boxes of food to the Lord’s Cupboard or cleaning up a local park, the Lions Clubs are focused on service.

“The motto of the lions is ‘We Serve’ and that’s what we want to do,” Wilson said. “We just want to serve the community and we want people to know that we are there to help.”

Rotary Clubs evolve, adapt with local missions

As social clubs by and large see membership down from their peaks decades ago, local Rotary Clubs have shifted some of their focus to making a difference that can be seen locally, positioning the local organizations to endure for generations to come.

Rotary International, formed in 1905 and long recognized for its mission to eradicate polio around the world, has a Noon and Daybreak Club in Fort Dodge.

You may recognize some of their work around the community: the Noon Rotary Club has been involved extensively with beautifying Snell-Crawford Park, providing scholarships to high school and Iowa Central Community College students each year and helping facilitate the host of exchange students.

Daybreak Rotary is recognized locally for its work with registering veterans for Honor Flights at the Fort Dodge Airport each year, helping those who have served see monuments in Washington, D.C.

Thanks to support from Rotary International clubs and districts in Brazil and India, a Global Grant of $194,000 earlier this year went toward helping thousands of eligible Iowans through access to Community Health Centers. Fort Dodge’s club was one of nine to receive matching funds from Rotary International.

Fort Dodge Noon Rotary provided $5,250 as a local match to the grant, providing a total of about $20,000 that was used to purchase new equipment for Fort Dodge’s Community Health Center. With the new funds, the Center purchased a mobile dental cart and Spot Vision Screener.

“We’re doing more stuff that benefits the local aspect as opposed to Rotary internationally, and focusing on what we can do locally,” said Noon Rotary president Cameron Nelson, 28, who has been a member for about five years. “As a younger president, my goal is to increase membership and bring in that younger demographic.”

No thanks to COVID-19, he said part of facilitating that goal means planning more social events outside of regular meetings. He said that visible, direct-impact projects are another way to attract the attention of younger members.

“You look at the service clubs in Fort Dodge, they used to be robust clubs,” said 20-year member Stephen Hoesel, a former president of Noon Rotary. “They used to have over 100 people (attending), now if we get 25 we’re doing good.”

Nonetheless, he said part of the club’s mission, building friendships around the world, makes it a force to be reckoned with. With 1.2 million members in over 200 countries, Rotary International has one of the largest private foundations in the world.

“By being an international club, you can put a lot of friendships together around the world to better put money where the needs are,” Hoesel said.

With that in mind, some expressed a unique appreciation for local aspects of the sprawling organization.

“To me, (the satisfaction of being a member) is that we get stuff done locally,” said Daybreak Rotary Club president Maureen Powers. “I know Rotary is an international organization, but we do things locally that can help people and reach out. If you join forces, you can get a lot accomplished.”

She said that in her club, everyone pitches in to get the job done. Recent projects include helping the Lotus Community Project and the Badger Firemen’s Association.

“Nobody says no when you ask them to sign up for something,” she said.

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