About Kiwanis Club of Charles Town, WV
Our Mission: Provide opportunities, create young leaders, and encourage a sense of community from a young age.
Since 1926, the Kiwanis Club of Charles Town, WV has been living up to its goal of improving the community and providing opportunities for the children of Charles Town by spearheading and participating in various service projects.
Two early projects were sponsorship of the Shenandoah River bridge construction so that residents east of the river could have easier access to the rest of Jefferson County, and then advocacy for a highway from the bridge to the top of the mountain. When Virginia was reluctant to build four miles of road on their side of the mountain, Charles Town Kiwanians partnered with the Leesburg Rotary Club to convince the Virginia Commissioner of Highways to finish the job.
In 1931 the Club purchased 126 acres of land for a Boy Scout camp but eventually, when Scout camps were consolidated at another location, the property was sold. The proceeds were donated to a new hospital. Fourteen years later, the Club sponsored another new hospital for which $400,000 was underwritten by Kiwanis member R.J. Funkhouser. Deeper into the Depression, the Club managed to raise money to grade the high school athletic field, produce a motion picture about Charles Town, and with the assistance of the Public Service Commission, persuade the telephone company to install modern French telephones instead of the old crank phones in use at the time.
In the decades that followed, the Club sought to create a recreational area in Charles Town which led to the development of Jefferson Memorial Park and construction of its swimming pool. With encouragement from Club member Mickey Johnson, the Charles Town Kiwanis sponsored a Jefferson County Little League team and built a baseball field behind Jefferson High School for League use. To this day, a Leetown Science Center Fishing Derby, a program initiated by Club member Dr. Rocco Cipriano and conducted annually by Van and Beth Ott, provides a morning of catch-and-release fishing for developmentally disabled children.
Before moving too far into the present, mention must be made of a particularly interesting past event, the election in 1966 of a Charles Town Kiwanis member, Dr. James Moler, to the presidency of Kiwanis International. That year in Paris, Dr. Molar and his wife Katharine, had the unique experience of welcoming to the Kiwanis organization the first international member club. Imagine, a small-town educator and his wife, a teacher at the tiny Millville school, traveling the world to represent an international organization of some 300,000 members. What an honor for Charles town.
Today, the Charles Town Kiwanis Club takes pride in its commitment to kindergarten-through-college education. For many years the Club has sponsored high school Key Clubs and awarded scholarships to graduating seniors. One annual scholarship is for use at the Sheperd University and is financed by a gift from the estate of Dr. Molar. A second award is for use at a school of the recipient’s choice. The Club has also contributed to the Sheperd University Foundation since its inception in 1966. To that, we added sponsorship of a K-Kids club at Wright Denny Intermediate School in 2015 and our Builders Club is scheduled to kick-off at Charles Town Middle School at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year.
Kiwanis’ Bring-Up-Your-Grades (BUGs) award programs are quarterly events at several Charles Town elementary schools. Ranson elementary has added to its program the David Fuller Award for Achievement in honor of that Club member’s dedication to the school. A very special highlight of the Kiwanis year is the 8th Grade Achievement Awards night, traditionally held at Harpers Ferry Middle School. Under this program, county middle schools are invited to nominate outstanding students for Kiwanis recognition and encouragement to achieve their educational goals.
The Club’s longevity is all the more remarkable considering the challenges it has faced in the last several years from loss of revenue to dwindling membership numbers. As the population of Charles Town has grown, so have the needs of its youth, the focus of the Club’s commitment to the community. Continuation of the Club’s youth service programs and supporting fundraising projects depends on hours of member commitment each month.
Most of the money raised by the Charles Town Club supports its youth programs, especially the project for which the Club is best known, Santa’s Toy Shop. Through this program, parents experiencing financial stress are selected by the Community Ministries to visit the Toy Shop and select, at no cost, several gifts for their children so that they too will enjoy a happy holiday.
If you would like to learn more about the history of Kiwanis, click on one of the buttons to the right to view a bulletin in pdf format.
** The contents of this article were derived from an article written by Kiwanis member, Penny Fuller and published by The Spirit of Jefferson in June of 2014. **