A big umbrella covers a group of people who like to contribute to their community. They come from all walks of life, all age groups and all backgrounds, falling under an all-encompassing banner called service clubs.
Kelowna has long been home to a variety of such clubs, some in existence since the 1940s and others newer to the city, but all have at the core a desire to make their community a better place.
The nucleus of most service clubs, are a dedicated group of people who are full of energy.
Enthusiasm is one of the hallmarks for service club supporters, such as Randall Bamford, president of Kelowna Sunrise Rotary, and active Rotarian for 15 years.
“For me, it’s about connecting with the community,” he said. “You meet like-minded people, who love to help others. And it’s fun to get out and be social. There are so many groups in the community that need support. There’s always some way to become involved.”
Others are looking for vibrancy.
“It was the energy of the club that attracted me,” said Doreen Welsh, a Kelowna Sunrise Rotarian. She did her “due diligence” when scouting out a club and settled on Sunrise, one of five Rotary clubs in the Central Okanagan.
Sunrise is the largest with 65 members, attracting morning people who like an early breakfast with good conversation.
Fundraising for 2022 amounted to $226,000 with $77,000 earmarked for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Kelowna General Hospital. Last year, Rotary funds were used to purchase a Brainz monitor, which alerts nurses when an infant is having a seizure.
This year, Rotary cash will be used in the purchase of specialized humidifiers for ventilators, “billi blankets,”parent beds and kangaroo slides.
Other local charities also have also benefited, including the Child Advocacy Centre, Hope Outreach, Women’s Shelter, The Bridge Youth/Family Services and a school kids “Weekend Backpack” program that gives needy kids food to tide them over the weekend.
Not all activities are quite so intense, because its also supposed to be about having fun, being social and making friends.
The Kelowna Kinsmen hold an annual softball tourney, sponsor a popular Corn Hole tourney, Texas hold-em poker nights, stand-up comedy and Thrash Wrestling nights.
Past president David Stewart noted Kinsmen is an all-Canadian club, which has supported cystic fibrosis for five decades, raising over $50 million for that cause.
Some even raise money by providing bar-tending services at weddings and events, running a concession truck or renting out casino-night equipment.
All clubs hold informative meetings on a monthly basis.
Welsh suggested interested people take the time to drop in to club meetings.
“See if it’s a good fit for you,” he said, adding that one attractive component of Rotary was that the club offers to a mentor to guide newcomers into the club.
“You’re not left on your own to figure it out or flounder,” she said. “We help you get comfortable with the club and find what’s right for you, where you can make a difference.”
Both she and Stewart insist that service clubs, regardless of which one, make a great impact on the community.
“Sometimes it’s just some sweat equity by club members, maybe rolling up your sleeves to paint a community building, “ she said.
Whether working on a large project or just flipping pancakes at a breakfast gig, the efforts add up. “It all makes a big, big difference.” she added.
Some of the clubs also have a youth component, such as Rotary Interact and the international student exchange program, which offer an in to the concept of service at an young age.
If you want to gauge the impact of service clubs, just take a stroll around town. Kinsmen Waterfront Park, Kinsmen softball complex at Mission Sports Field, the Kettle Valley Railway trestle restoration, Parkinson Recreation Centre’s indoor pool the Kiwanis Music Festival, Lions Club Easter Seal Camp, Adopt-a-Creek, Rotary Centre for the Arts, all have benefited from service club
Less visible than all those tangibles are projects that support vulnerable children and families, such as food banks, homeless shelters, youth and family services.