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A Brief History of the Kiwanis Club of Claremont, CA

Just nine years after the founding of Kiwanis International, on May 9, 1924, the Kiwanis Club of Claremont received its charter under the leadership of founding President Frank C. Peirsol. The Kiwanis Club of Claremont has been proudly serving the local community and the world since that time. The club is one of 7,700 clubs in 80 countries. Our motto is "Serving the Children of the World".

At the time of its founding, Kiwanis was, like many other service clubs, strictly a men’s group. Change came in 1987 when Kathy Ables became the first woman inducted into the club. Since that time, the club has clearly become an organization of men and women who together care about serving the community of Claremont. Kathy also became the first of many talented women who have served as president of the club.

Claremont Kiwanis regularly contributes to the community through big and small projects. The club has been a longtime supporter and sponsor of the Monday Night Concerts in Memorial Park. In the 1970s members began selling lemonade and popcorn at the concerts. In 1981 the club partnered with the Regional Occupational Program (R.O.P.) to build the band shell that now stands in Memorial Park. Today the club provides a broad array of food to concert-goers, and the organization pays the cost of all of the bands that perform during the summer.

Beginning in 2003, under the leadership of Woody Douglas, the club began the Read Me Program to encourage reading at an early age. Members and community volunteers read to at-risk children in local preschools. Each week, the readers give copies of the book of the week to each child to keep in a personal library. The club has given tens of thousands of books to preschoolers. This popular program is still going strong.

Each month club members assist at the senior citizen food distribution at Larkin Park. The club promotes youth leadership by sponsoring Key Clubs at both Claremont High School and San Antonio High School and a Circle K club at the Claremont Colleges. Kiwanis members have been seen planting trees, painting walls and providing a wealth of service to the community.

Over the years, projects have included construction of a pocket park at the southwest corner of Mountain and Foothill, a major donation to Habitat for Humanity used for the construction a five houses in Claremont, funding for playground equipment for Rancho San Jose Park, construction of a playground at Ability First, fundraising for the special needs swimming pool at Danbury School, and an ongoing donation to the Chamber of Commerce Best B.E.T. program that provides annual classroom grants to teachers in Claremont.

The club has provided donations to numerous local organizations and gives about $15,000 each year in scholarships to graduating seniors from Claremont’s two high schools. The scholarships are renewable for a total of four years. The club has generously supported the Kiwanis International Eliminate Project to eradicate maternal and neonatal tetanus from countries around the world.

The club raises money for these projects through annual pancake breakfasts, one in the spring and one on July Fourth, food sales at the July Fourth fireworks and Concerts in the Park, the annual Route 66 Party, and selling See’s Candies. The club has been selling See’s for over 30 years.

Many club members have been able to make long-term commitments to the club and community. The late Dr. Jerry Juergens was a member for over 60 years. Four generations of the Wheeler family have served the club, including current member Paul Wheeler. Other long-time members include Neal Coble with over 50 years of Kiwanis membership, Fulton Eaglin with over 40 years as a Kiwanian, and Jess Swick with nearly 40 years in Claremont Kiwanis.

The ninety plus year history of service to the community by Claremont Kiwanis depends on the effort of both members and non-members. Those able to commit to an organization serving the community and the world should consider Kiwanis membership. Others can help by generously supporting fundraisers or donating to the club.