Bradenton Kiwanis: a major community asset

The mission statement is simple yet profound: "Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time." The Bradenton chapter of this international service organization celebrates its 90th anniversary on Wednesday with success in accomplishing that goal clearly in hand.

Plus, the club is embarking on a major change. Only three years younger than its founding organization -- Kiwanis was born in Detroit in 1915 -- Bradenton's premier chapter has set the stage to move from its longtime home next to the Tropical Palms Trailer Park to the new Manatee Players Performing Arts Center.

The club's donation of $1.1 million toward construction of the theater marks a milestone in Kiwanis history, a remarkably generous commitment that reflects its mission to serve the community.

The club will sell Kiwanis Hall on 14th Street West to finance the investment into the downtown venue, whose completion was slowed by a dearth of contributions during a rocky economy. That comes on top of a previous $250,000 donation.

But this largesse does not come at the expense of the Bradenton Kiwanis' other charitable causes. Just this summer alone, the organization awarded 90 students $1,000 scholarships. Over the past 14 years, the club has expended $5 million toward achieving that portion of its mission.

And this is not the first time the club has invested in key community assets. In 1978, Kiwanis came up with $500,000 in seed money for the construction of the Manatee Civic Center. In 1935 at the behest of the Bradenton Chamber of Commerce, the organization built the Tropical Palms Trailer Park to attract tourists and spur economic development -- succeeding in great fashion with the world's largest trailer park at the time.

Again with the Manatee Players contribution, Kiwanis is investing in more than a theater. The club is helping to complete what promises to be a wide-ranging venue that will be an important part of downtown redevelopment.

From it early days, Kiwanis has been a critical player in the development of Manatee County children. From building three cabins at Camp Flying Eagle in 1929, helping establish the Boys Club in 1945 and donating land for the Girls Club and YMCA in 1977, the club has never wavered from its mission.

Just last year, Kiwanis launched an initiative to boost homeless children through an event entitled Christmas in August. Ten days ago, the club treated some 460 homeless students enrolled in Manatee County schools to free haircuts, dental and medical examinations, gift cards, backpacks and more.

"The idea is to get the kids feeling good when they start back to school," Tom Moseley, immediate past president of Bradenton Kiwanis Club, told Herald reporter Elizabeth Johnson. "There are so many of these things we take for granted."

How very true.

The club organized the event in conjunction with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Manatee County School District, a sterling example of community unity to help the needy.

Kiwanis is an organization with a big heart and a big commitment, one of those civic treasures that contributes mightily to the quality of life we enjoy here. Thanks, Kiwanis, and happy birthday.