STERLING – Zach Woessner might wish he could weave a more altruistic tale for why he attended his first Kiwanis Key Club meeting, but the results tell the real story.
“A friend in PE class said, ‘You’re coming with me, and you’re gonna like it,” Woessner said.
The Sterling High School senior was a sophomore at the time, and he quickly discovered that he did like it.
The Key Club is one of three student service programs sponsored by Kiwanis International. Key Club is for high school students, Builders Club for middle-schoolers and Kiwanis Kids for students in elementary school.
Woessner and Key Club member Meghan Clodfelter were at Challand Middle School Tuesday for a Builders Club meeting. They serve as mentors for the younger kids, taking their Kiwanis pledge of building home, school and community to another level.
Clodfelter, a Sterling High junior, said she joined Key Club last year because, although she was involved in several extracurricular programs, she wanted to do something based inside the school. A pay-it-forward mentality also factored into her decision to join.
“I want to get them inspired to contribute in their communities,” Clodfelter said. “A lot of different people did that for me, and that’s my goal here.”
The charter, paid for by Kiwanis, is for 40 Builders Club members, and anywhere from 20 to 40 attend the meetings, Sterling Kiwanis President Roy Dern said.
“Come to Second Street and Second Avenue this week and empty your piggybanks for me,” Dern told the club, soliciting some business for Kiwanis Peanut Days, the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year, on Friday and Saturday.
The Builders Club members recited their pledge, and club president Mia Knapp led the group through some agenda items. Kiwanian Stacey Harrington went over some plans for future projects and activities.
School nurse Marcia Ashlock was filling in for faculty adviser Mark Morris on this day.
“A cypress tree has been donated to the Builders Club for Earth Day,” Ashlock said. “We’ll probably have some green tie-dye shirts for that day, and we need to decide where we’re going to plant the tree.”
Several other projects were on their radar: a cleanup day in downtown Sterling; a day of volunteering at Granny Rose animal shelter; this week’s Kiwanis Peanut Days fundraiser; the delivery of crayons to special needs kids at Washington and Lincoln schools.
The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Pennies for Patients project is one the club is particularly proud of.
“We put a bucket out and got people to donate over $1,000 dollars this year for people with cancer,” Knapp said.
Other projects already in the books for this year include Pumpkin Dash, Pinwheel for Peace, Red Ribbon Week and Stock the Food Pantry.
Many social activities combine fun with fundraising. Money collected at dances, a percentage of ticket money from a White Sox baseball outing, and ticket proceeds and concessions from an upcoming Harlem Ambassadors show will go to the clubs.
Eighth-grader Natasha Dickerson said the dances were her favorite club activity.
“We just had a Valentine’s Day dance at the school and we’re planning another dance,” Dickerson said.
Sixth-grader Nathaniel Beyer was pumped up for the next trip to the animal shelter.
“I like volunteering at the animal shelter; it’s probably my favorite thing to do here,” Beyer said.
Seventh-grader Anthony Sodaro said he just enjoys helping people, no matter what they do.
“One of my friends was in the club, and he was always talking about it,” Sodaro said. “He got me interested, and I decided I wanted to do it, too.”
Woessner, who is headed for Brown University in the fall, remembers how difficult middle school can be. His objective as a mentor is to help the young kids feel comfortable in their own skin.
“I want them to know that they don’t have to fit into stereotypes,” Woessner said. “I want them to see that it’s OK to be different.”
Nuts about Kiwanis
Sterling Kiwanis Club is gearing up for Peanut Days, its biggest fundraiser of the year.
Kiwanis members will once again hit the streets and local businesses to sell bags of peanuts Friday and Saturday. Hours Friday are 2:30 p.m. to about 7 p.m. at Kroger, County Market, Sterling Post Office, and the Rock Falls Shell Station. On Saturday, they will hit the streets at 8:30 a.m. and be at Kroger, County Market, the post office, Rock Falls Shell, and Walmart from 9 a.m. to about noon.
Every penny made from Peanut Days goes directly into the organization's charitable works, most of which are focused on children.
Kiwanis sponsors in-school programs that are designed to instill leadership and a community service mindset. One of those programs, Key Club, is offered at Sterling and Newman Central Catholic high schools. Builders Club is for middle school students, and meets at Challand.
Younger children participate in Kiwanis-sponsored K-Kids clubs at Lincoln and Washington elementary schools in Sterling.