The Noon Kiwanis Club has been serving the Waukesha community for more than 90 years. From its early days, when its members included most of the influential citizens that built the landmarks and industries that still characterize Waukesha, to the present, when the Club and its Foundation continue to sponsor projects that will shape the city’s future, the Kiwanis Club of Waukesha has played an important role in the history of our community.
1922 The Club’s first organizational meeting took place on April 20, 1922, and at the first regular meeting of members five days later, William Jennings Bryan – the great orator, author of the famous “Cross of Gold” speech, presidential candidate, and later participant in the famous Scopes “monkey” trial – addressed the club, giving us a truly auspicious start.
The Club began its long association with agriculture, the 4-H and the Waukesha County Fair in 1925, when it first sponsored a show to help the county’s young agriculturists prepare their exhibits for the State Fair. Today, the Club sponsors the 4-H’s County Fair activities, and still holds its annual Pancake Breakfast at the Fair each year – a tradition originally begun to feed young Fair participants who had spent the night there with their animals. Today, the Pancake Breakfast is one of the Club’s major fund-raisers, serving well over a thousand hungry fair-goers each year.
The Club first sponsored the creation of another Kiwanis Club in 1926, when the Wauwatosa club was chartered. Since then, the Waukesha Kiwanis Club has sponsored new clubs in Oconomowoc, Brookfield, New Berlin, Muskego and Pewaukee, as well as two other clubs in Waukesha, helping to make Kiwanis a strong presence in southeastern Wisconsin.
In 1928, a civic group led by members of the Club spearheaded a fund-raising drive that eventually resulted in the construction of Waukesha Memorial Hospital, which is a major regional medical center today. They raised $293,000 in 85 hours – an astonishing feat, considering that those were 1928 dollars! The Club remains a partner with the Hospital today, contributing to projects that particularly benefit young patients there.
The Club has maintained close relationships with the Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts and YMCA youth camps since the 1930s, and remains so today. Not only does the Club’s Foundation give monetary support to those organizations, but individual Club members participate in them by sitting on their boards and chairing their committees. The Club is the chartering organization for a local Boy Scout Troop and Cub Scout Pack.
The Club began sponsoring Christmas parties for children in 1933, and today the Club supports the Waukesha Park and Recreation Department’s annual Halloween party, giving kids a safe place to go and celebrate on Halloween.
The Club began publishing local church directories for distribution to local hotels and motels in the 1940s, another tradition that is carried on to this day as one of the major projects of the Club’s Spiritual Aims Committee.
In 1954, the Club incorporated the Waukesha Kiwanis Foundation, a 501(c)(3) foundation, to act as its fund-raising arm. With the sale of the Kiwanis Day Camp in 1991, the Foundation was endowed with a significant amount of money, which has been invested and the profits of which are used to fund the Club’s projects and local charitable activities. Each year, the Club conducts a holiday nut and candy sale as its main fund-raiser, which continues the tradition of the holiday fruitcake sales that began in 1962.
The Club began “ringing the bells” for the Salvation Army’s annual holiday fund-raiser in 1960, and to this day, the Kiwanis Club of Waukesha remains the largest participant in this event, generating more revenue than any other participating group.
Club members sponsored a campaign to build the city’s first public swimming pool, at Buchner Park, and built the tennis courts at Buchner Park, as well (member Charles Schuetze).
Other projects spearheaded by Club members and brought to fruition with Club ambition include the purchase and construction of Frame Park, which is now the beautiful showpiece of the City’s park system (honorary member Andrew Frame); the purchase and construction of the Long Lake Boy Scout Camp (member L.D. Harkrider); the 35-acre Kiwanis Day Camp near Wales, Wisconsin; and the purchase of playground toys and equipment for city parks over the years. In recent years, the Club has made money donations to worthwhile projects that have improved the City of Waukesha, including a $25,000 grant that built the Kiwanis Pavilion, a structure that anchors the south end of the City’s riverfront improvement project (fittingly, Frame Park anchors the north end); and a $19,000 grant that allowed the Waukesha Fire Department to buy its first thermal-imaging camera, a life-saving device that allows firefighters to locate people in buildings filled with thick smoke.
The Club lends its enthusiasm and labor to many local projects, including an annual Christmas shopping for the needy project; the remodeling and maintenance of YMCA camp buildings, Boy Scout Camp buildings, and the local Women’s Center facility; and the local Meals on Wheels program. The Club also sponsors two Key Clubs, at North and South High Schools in Waukesha.