Many people on the Westside associate Kiwanis with the annual Christmas Eve dinner provided to the local community. Last year, 950 residents were treated to a wonderful dinner. Santa even took out time from his busy schedule to provide gifts to local youth. It is open to all of the community who want to share in being with others during the holidays. This December will mark its 39th year of hosting this event along with the Los Banos City Fire Department. Donations and volunteers are always welcome to help provide this valuable community service since it gets bigger and better annually.

The first Kiwanis club was founded in 1915 in Detroit with the goal of providing important community service without the thought of personal gain. It was a fraternal organization that originally was known as the Benevolent Order Brothers (BOB). The club’s name was changed within a year to Kiwanis which was coined from an American Indian phrase meaning “We trade.” In 1920, the motto became “We build.” In 2005, it changed once again to “Servicing the children of the world.” In 1987, women were invited to join. In 2008, Kiwanis delegates approved a resolution that calls for clubs to celebrate and foster inclusiveness. They believe that the community is best served when people of all ages and different backgrounds work together to share their time and talents. Today, Kiwanis is an international group and can be found in 80 countries and geographical territories.

The Los Banos Kiwanis started in 1971. Many of their services are done anonymously which includes giving gift cards, clothing, food or other needed items to youth, the elderly, homeless and others in need throughout the year. The local club provides high school scholarships annually. Most recently, fifty backpacks were donated to local youth at the Grasslands Elementary School. The members volunteer wherever they are needed. Most recently, they hosted the bingo portion of the Salute to Seniors along with San Luis High School students.

Fundraisers go hand in hand with community service projects. Kiwanis hosts two bazaars annually at the Miller & Luz building. The next one is Friday, October 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  One of the most delicious and successful fundraisers is the November Thanksgiving pie sale. Kiwanis provides a breakfast fundraiser at the annual “Mother’s Day in the Park” along with raffle opportunities. Many clubs sponsor KEY (Kiwanis Empowering Youth) clubs.

What are some beneficial opportunities of being a Kiwanis member? Per one of their websites, a few of the benefits for joining and volunteering are “enhances social networks, improves mental health and contributes to higher levels of happiness, self-esteem, self-worth and life satisfaction. Volunteers develop life skills and leadership abilities that can lead to employment opportunities.”

The Los Banos Kiwanis currently has 15 members and meets the first and third Tuesdays of the month at noon at Eddie’s Restaurant. Isabel Mendonca is the current president and can be reached at (209) 261-2279 for additional information.

Sandy Lemas

Sandy Lemas is a longtime resident of Los Banos who has volunteered much of her time to community service. She will be writing a regular column on volunteers and volunteer organizations that help their community.