Members of the Clovis Kiwanis Club. [Photo contributed by Eddie DeLeon]
By Jeanine Fiser | Reporter
When a group of Clovis businessmen wanted to support their growing community they started a Kiwanis Club chapter.
Now, 40 years later, between a number of fundraising events, community drives and sponsored youth teams, it is hard to imagine a life in Clovis that has not been impacted by the service organization.
Eddie DeLeon, former Clovis Kiwanis president and current board member, said the group’s service around town makes them a recognizable and integrated part of the community.
“I’ll be up town, at the market, at the mall or I’ll be at Costco and people go, ‘aren’t you a Kiwanis guy? You served me lunch last year at Christmas,’” DeLeon said. “It’s rewarding that people recognize who we are and all the good that we do and we get compliments all the time. I believe that a Kiwanis Club hand or dollar has touched over 50 percent of the people in the city of Clovis.”
DeLeon first got involved with the Clovis Kiwanis after his son played on a soccer team that was sponsored by the group. He said it was around 1990 when a Kiwanis member invited him to breakfast to learn more about the club and he has been a member ever since.
“I wondered what was this Kiwanis story, I knew what Key Club was in high school, which is the Kiwanis Club for high school kids,” DeLeon said. “And my buddy said, ‘You know what? You need to come out, we’re a bunch of local business owners in Clovis and you’d fit in well.’”
DeLeon found a connection with the Kiwanis members and saw their shared core values are one of the club’s greatest strengths.
“It’s a group of guys that are main-street names in Clovis that started this organization back in 1975 that have two or three things in common,” DeLeon said. “Number one we just want to make life a little better for those that need help, be it seniors, be it kids, be it Special Olympics, be it back to school or coats for kids. Secondly it’s a volunteer group, you join this club to volunteer and give back.”
Throughout DeLeon’s involvement in Kiwanis, he held various leadership roles. Once he served a 15-month presidency to cover his predecessors early departure, and he has been on the board for 20 consecutive years. In this time, the Kiwanis Club’s many community engagements, modeled around the calendar year, have reached thousands.
One of the more recent Kiwanis events this year was the Freedom Fest held on the Fourth of July. According to the Clovis Kiwanis website the fest is, “the biggest and best Independence Day celebration in the Valley.”
The event features food, games, drinks and entertainment for an admission price of $5.
“The biggest draw is the spectacular fireworks show that has been voted the ‘best in the region’ for twelve consecutive years,” says the Kiwanis Clovis website.
DeLeon said local sponsors make the Freedom Fest possible.
“Some of our major sponsors are American Ambulance, 500 Club. They sponsor the Freedom Fest and have been for years,” DeLeon said. “We have a lot of support from the community. In Clovis, between the Rotary and the Kiwanis Club, we have tons of support in the City of Clovis.”
One of the sponsors to this year’s Freedom Fest donated on the condition that the Kiwanis back-to-school shopping spree be brought back.
“We did the back-to-school shopping spree for about 15 years and it was at Mervyn’s, they were a big supporter and would give us matching dollars,” DeLeon said. “When Mervyn’s went out we couldn’t find a new sponsor. Last year a sponsor came up and wanted the back-to-school to come back.”
DeLeon said he is working on setting up a date with the Wal-Mart on Shaw and Peach Avenues.
“Wal-Mart is in, they said absolutely, so, you know, it’s kind of a cool thing,” DeLeon said.
Another upcoming event includes the Marine Corps League’s upcoming fundraiser in November around Veteran’s Day.
“This is the 100th year of the Marines, and they’re bringing Ollie North into town for a big ol’ sit down dinner. They’re expecting 1400, 1500 people,” DeLeon said. “We have been asked to partner with them and what we’re probably going to do is to handle the bar.”
Following that fundraiser, the Kiwanis will organize the donation of Thanksgiving baskets to families in need.
“We give away about 30 baskets of full Turkey dinners to needy families in Clovis,” DeLeon said. “So yeah, there’s a lot of things going on.”
Also on the Kiwanis club calendar is a Christmas luncheon that serves around 500 senior citizens, a golf tournament and marathon runs. In addition to sponsoring events the Clovis Kiwanis donates bikes to children and grants a $2,000 scholarship to the most outstanding graduating student at each Clovis High School. This year the Kiwanis club also sponsored 2016 Clovis Rodeo Queen Katie McDougal.
To accomplish all of their work, the Clovis Kiwanis meets once a week at the Clovis Memorial Building. DeLeon said the meetings start at 7 a.m. on Thursdays and are preceded by a breakfast. For some the early meeting time might be an issue, but for DeLeon it works perfectly with his schedule.
“A lot of people like the early morning, a lot of people do not like the early morning,” DeLeon said. “There’s a noon club in Clovis, it’s another Kiwanis Club, but Friday at noon, who know’s where you’re going to be Friday at noon? If you start your morning around 6-6:30 then you’re done and don’t have to worry about conflicts.”
DeLeon said joining Kiwanis is a relatively simple process. Those interested can find more information on the Clovis Kiwanis website at http://www.cloviskiwanis.com/ or they can e-mail DeLeon at firstname.lastname@example.org.