By Andrea McCann
Dwindling involvement has resulted in a longtime Washington service organization disbanding.
After nine decades providing scholarships, supporting youth activities and offering fellowship, the Washington chapter of Kiwanis International has bid farewell to the community it benefited.
“It formed in 1922 and was chartered in 1923, so it’d be 90 years old,” said Secretary/Treasurer Dean Dorrell. “Here we are 90 years old, in a position to celebrate, and just didn’t make it. It’s a change in culture.”
He explained that for many, many years Kiwanis members were men only. Businessmen and retirees attended the dinner meetings after work and went home from there in a time when society dictated that the man of the house worked and his wife took care of the home and children. In today’s society, he continued, everybody works and takes care of the kids, making it hard to fit things like a community-service organization into the household schedule.
“When I joined we had 72 members, and we averaged 55 to 60 members each night,” said longtime member Jim Pirkle, who joined in the late 1960s and is a past president and member of the board. “Wednesday night was always when we met. But no one wants to join anymore, and younger people aren’t service club oriented. We had 10 or fewer members this last year, so we decided to disband.”
By the time Dorrell joined Kiwanis in 1985, he said, there were probably 60 or 65 members. This past year, he said there were officially 12 members on the roll and six to 10 showing up for the Wednesday night meetings.
Those meetings generally included a guest speaker from the city, the chamber, nonprofit organizations or other groups talking about projects and other things of interest or service to the group, Dorrell said. Many years ago, he said, the club sponsored travelogues, National Geographic-type movies from locations around the world. A lot of people enjoyed the travelogues, he said, but eventually the same thing became available on TV and people could watch from the comfort of home.
“It wasn’t necessarily so much people showing up on Wednesday night,” Dorrell said, explaining there just wasn’t enough manpower anymore to do fundraisers.
Fundraisers through the years have included a twice-yearly fish fry, a pancake breakfast and homemade ice cream sale at Carfest.
Dorrell and Pirkle said through the years Kiwanis has funded scholarships, primarily at Washington High School and Washington Catholic; supported YMCA youth sports; sponsored key clubs at WC, WHS and Loogootee high schools as a way for high school kids to get involved in the community and provide service; donated to Bethel Mall; and provided financial support for Four Rivers summer camp for young children.
“Kiwanis was always oriented toward the younger generation,” Pirkle said. “The Kiwanis was always affiliated with Riley Hospital, and we had purchased an ambulance for them — all Kiwanis throughout the state — Washington contributed to it.”
He said the finances the club has left over after its dissolution will be given to the Daviess County Community Foundation to be used for an annual scholarship for a Washington High School student. Pirkle is delighted the money will be used to continue a scholarship, because the Washington Kiwanis scholarship program was started under his tenure as president.
Other sources of pride from his tenure were a visit from the international president and sponsoring another Kiwanis club for the first time.
“At one time, Washington was a fairly prominent club within the Indiana district,” Dorrell said.
He explained the purposes of the organization are to provide fellowship; to provide service to the community in terms of fundraisers and projects; and to provide opportunities to expand horizons and meet people from other areas by getting involved in projects at other levels of the organization.
One community service Dorrell believes people have liked is the Kiwanis Cabin at Eastside Park. The cabin has been offered to, and accepted by, the city, which will continue the tradition of rentals. Deposits for future rentals also will be taken by the city.
“We made it available to 4-H and other nonprofits free; others rented it,” Dorrell said. “We’re in the process of turning it over to the city. I don’t think the purpose will change, but we will no longer be running it and maintaining it.”
Though the club officially met for the last time on the last Wednesday in September, a few of the last members plan to still get together every Wednesday to have dinner and sometimes include a guest speaker, according to Dorrell.
“Kiwanis and Rotary have outlasted other clubs,” Pirkle said. “I’m very disappointed it has come to this stage, but all good things have to come to an end, you know.
“I do hate to see its demise, but as I said, all good things must come to an end and apparently now is the time for Kiwanis to come to an end.”