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Kiwanis celebrates 90 years

It’s birthday time for the Jonesborough Kiwanis Club.
On April 21, the club celebrated 90 years of service to the region. And according to club members, it’s an achievement of which they are very proud.
“April 21, that was when we were chartered,” said club treasurer Jack Van Zandt. According to Van Zandt, Kiwanis International was just 10 years old when the Jonesborough Kiwanis Club sought its charter. By that time, the international group had changed its original purpose from business networking to making a difference in the community in which they serve. And that, members say, is what it’s been ever since.
“Children are our primary focus,” Van Zandt said. “We try to focus it right down on the local level (with) our money going where we can actually see it.”
It was this commitment to children that first drew member and one-time Kiwanis president Pat Wolfe to the group.
“I came back from Vietnam in April 1966,” Wolfe recalled. “My unit in Nam had adopted a little orphanage in the town.”
Wolfe shared that information with local clubs once he returned to Jonesborough. Jonesborough Kiwanis wanted to help.
“I converted the money they gave me into money orders and sent it over to them,” he said.
Though it would be many years before Wolfe officially joined, the local club had made an impression, and in 1997, after retirement, he became a Kiwanis member.
Van Zandt, too, recalls being invited to a meeting after moving to Joneborough. “I began to see the mission of Kiwanis and I really liked it. Children face so many challenges today. If we can do something to help, that’s great.”
Member Kathleen Petretta agrees. “I have been in the Jonesborough Kiwanis for almost four years,” said Petretta of First Tennessee Bank. “Each and every member has a passion to contribute to the children in this community.”
Currently, the Kiwanis members work hard to support education and the local community, build leadership, protect youth and help those in need, just to name a few.
Areas of support include:
• Reading: Members help read and provide other support in eight schools’ classrooms in the Jonesborough and southern Washington County area from Sulphur Springs to South Central schools.
• PTA: Each year money is donated to the PTA for these schools.
• TCAP: The club supplies testing support.
The club’s budget also helps provide funds to:
• Bringing Up Grades – a project rewarding students who improve grades
• Library General Fund
• Heritage Alliance Children’s education programs
• Head Start
• On My Own – a program where high school seniors learn financial challenges of living on their own.
• Jonesborough Middle School
• Fire Safety Programs through the Jonesborough Fire Department
• Kiwanis scholarship for a David Crockett graduating senior
Money is raised for these and many other purposes, including the local Shop with a Cop program, through annual fundraisers, such as the renowned Jonesborough Spaghetti Dinner to the newer Jonesborough Golf Tournament.
The whole idea, according to Van Zandt and Wolfe, is to make a positive impact. And they believe they have just the right people to do it.
“We have such a melting pot,” Wolfe said of the group’s 35 to 40 men and women who orginate from all over the county. “Naturally these folks bring in so many diverse ideas from other parts of the county. It’s so refreshing to have the cross section to draw from.”
They will continue to work together, members say, making spaghetti, reading to children and doing whatever is necessary to help the community.
For more information about the Jonesborough Kiwanis Club, call president Don Knight at 767-6020.