My introduction to service clubs was when I was a student at the Purdue Extension located in Hammond, Indiana. While I was there the Hammond Kiwanis Club started a Circle-K at the extension. I was one of the charter members. The Kiwanis members were generous with their support of Circle-K. They paid for several of us to attend the Kiwanis International convention which was held in Toronto, Canada. One of the members gave me a summer job.
While I have never belonged to a Kiwanis Club, I have had a number of church members who did. Founded in 1915, Kiwanis works to improve the world one child and one community at a time. A part of their purpose statement says that “service is at the heart of every Kiwanis Club.”
Shortly after being appointed to the Westville United Methodist Church in 1970 I was asked to become a member of the local Lions Club. The way I was introduced to what it means to be a Lion was working through the chairs until I became the president the same year a club member served as the district governor. In my early 30s I had the privilege of presiding at Banner Night when Andy Carson, a member of the Westville Club, became president. Over the years I was a member of two other Lions clubs. I discovered if a community only had one service club it was most likely to be Lions.
What I remember most about Lions is their interest in Leader Dogs and collecting eyeglasses. Lions Club was organized in 1917 “to encourage service-minded people to serve their community without personal financial reward and to encourage efficiency and promote high ethical standards in commerce, industry, professions, public works, and private endeavors.”
Dave Wilson introduced me to Rotary International when I was the pastor of a United Methodist church in Kendallville. When I retired to Plymouth, I transferred my membership. While a member of the Plymouth Club, I served for a while on a district committee.
One of the things for which Rotary is known is the drive to eradicate polio. Rotary was founded in 1905 “to bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian service and to advance good will and peace around the world.”
The only service club with which I have had only tangential contact is the Optimist International. The group organized in 1919 to “work each day to make the future brighter by bringing out the best in children, in communities, and in themselves.”
When Jesus was with his disciples in the upper room, the Gospel of John tells us that he washed his disciples’ feet. “After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord — and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their masters, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.' ” (John 20:12-16)
Jesus calls his followers to take up the towel and basin and become servants. One way his followers are doing this today throughout the whole world is by belonging to service clubs. Rotary International, Kiwanis International, Lions International, and Optimist International are taking up the towel and basin to make our world a better place in which to live.