The Club continues to support the disabled through the Aktion Club of Stratford. The Aktion Club of Stratford is a club for adults living with a disability (physical and/or mental) who are interested in becoming part of a service organization such as Kiwanis International. This club is sponsored and supported by the Kiwanis Club of Stratford and the Kiwanis Club of the Festival City.
In the fall of 2004, Kiwanians surveyed community groups to assess whether or not an Aktion Club would meet the needs of their clients. Muriel Boyd, executive director of Community Living, Stratford and Area (CLSA) was very enthusiastic about our proposal and believed that there was a significant pool of people in this area who would enjoy the fellowship, the opportunities for volunteering, and the idea of belonging to a service club. Sue Melkert at Perth-Huron Family Services said that they have a number of clients who are disabled but do not require the extensive support of an organization such as L'Arche or CLSA. She felt that many of them would also enjoy belonging to an Aktion Club because the major obstacle facing their clients is social isolation.
The Aktion Club of Stratford was chartered on July 14, 2005 and celebrated its acceptance into the Kiwanis International family with a Charter Night on September 22, 2005. The reporter who covered the event was impressed that all of the Aktion Club members, adults with special needs, had assumed a role in the ceremony, and had talked about their membership in the club in terms of 'fellowship', 'service' and 'leadership'. Staff members from the supporting agencies noticed that their clients conducted themselves with newly developed confidence and maturity. They feel that it is the opportunity to interact with people from many sectors of the community that has made such a difference in their lives.
In 1976, the Club spent $15,000 to put Anne Hathaway Park in shape for children in the city's south end. In the fall, they paved the ice surface at the outdoor rink and installed lights at the ball diamond. And as in so many cases, the club members spent many volunteer hours in addition to their financial contributions. An article in the Beacon Herald reports, "Club members have been spending spare time clearing and flooding the rink...We were up until 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning working on the ice." Thanks to their efforts, free skating was offered to the community.
In the spring they installed new playground equipment including a play fort and swings, and later, bleachers. In 1978, and again in 1997, a sign was installed at the park acknowledging the thousands of dollars that the Kiwanis Club of Stratford had contributed to improving the park and contributing towards the building of its clubhouse in conjunction with the Stratford Minor Girls Softball Association. The club continues its support to this day, operating the Anne Hathaway Park Clubhouse and offering it for use by non-profit groups in the city such as A.A. and the Stratford Big Band.
The Kiwanis Club of Stratford and their media partners, CJCS radio, have been providing Christmas Baskets for needy families for over 25 years. This Christmas tradition has its roots in a program that started with Stratford's social services department in the early 1970's. In 1980, Kiwanian Jim Fair and Braden Doerr of CJCS felt that their organizations could assist with the basket project and "stepped up to the plate and generously offered to take it over." Every year since then a complex, yet well-coordinated volunteer organization is put in motion, involving not only all the members of the Kiwanis Club of Stratford, but members of their family, their neighbors and the community at large:
It has become a Christmas tradition for Kiwanis families and their friends to help with the fundraising projects and to gather at the Coliseum to pack and deliver baskets. They look forward to this opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to the community.
The Kiwanis Club of Stratford was instrumental in the establishment of the Kiwanis Community Centre. As far back as 1967 the Club recognized that the senior citizens in Stratford had no place of their own to hold meetings and social events. In 1967 the members purchased the building at 30 Rebecca Street (now Gentle Rain) from the Children's Aid Society and began to convert it into a senior citizens' drop-incentre. By 1971 it became clear that the building was inadequate for the needs of the seniors and seniors' groups that were interested in using such a facility.
On December 5, 1973, Kiwanis president, N.E. MacDonald formally proposed to Mayor Culliton and the recreation subcommittee that, "the club match the city dollar for dollar to a maximum of $50,000 towards the purchase of an existing building or the erection of a new building to be used as a drop-in centre for senior citizens". A Stratford-Kiwanis Senior Citizens Corporation was formed. In 1975, the Corporation decided to house the facility in an addition to the Casino building on the Avon Riverfront. Construction was scheduled to start on January 1, 1978 and to be completed by the end of August, at a cost of $438,000. When the Kiwanis Community Centre opened, the Kiwanis Club sold the building on Rebecca Street and donated the proceeds towards the new building.
In 1992 the building was expanded and The Kiwanis Club pledged another $10,000 per year for 10 years towards the costs of these improvements. The Clubs' contribution in both time and money was recognized by the Stratford City Council when it accepted the name, Kiwanis Community Centre as "the honor bestowable on a club that has supported the old, and new, centre for years".
In 1986, the Stratford Kiwanis Club, acting on a suggestion from local musician and former Kiwanian Keith Adair, proposed that they take the leadership in building an open air thrust stage and bandshell on the south side of the Pavilion in Upper Queen's Park. The club members hoped that it would attract local and visiting musicians and "provide a new and exciting venue for Stratford's theatrical community." Both the Board of Parks Management and the Stratford Festival agreed that the stage would boost the city's cultural atmosphere.
The Club pledged $35,000 of the $70,000 price tag and proposed to raise the rest from the provincial government and private donors. Club spokesman, Tim Adair, described the proposed structure as an amphitheatre in front of the stage, which would begin as a meter-high semicircular berm and perhaps be filled one day with benches. City Council approved the project at a meeting on August, 1986.
The Club continues its commitment to this beautiful outdoor site by pledging each year the funds which sponsor the free "Concerts in the Park" held every Sunday evening during July and August.
Kiwanis International also selects projects where it feels that it can make a contribution on an international scale. Several years ago, it decided to partner with UNICEF to eliminate Iodine Deficiency Disorder in third world countries. This disorder, which results in the formation of disfiguring goiters and, often, mental retardation in children, can be easily prevented by adding iodine to the salt consumed in the areas where the disorder occurs. In 1990, less than 20% of the world's population, or 1 billion people had access to iodized salt.
In 1997 Kiwanis International pledged to provide the financial assistance that UNICEF needed to carry out its commitment to build plants that would add iodine to the salt in countries where IDD was a health concern, and to package and identify the salt as iodized. The Kiwanis Club of Stratford pledged and raised $50,000 of the $73,000,000 raised by Kiwanis International for this project.
By 2005, over 70% of the world's population, or 4 billion people were using iodized salt, with dramatic improvements in their health and well-being. The use of iodine protects the intelligence of growing children, enabling them to grow into productive adults. In addition, healthy, high-functioning mothers will be more likely to make healthy choices for their babies such as immunization, breast feeding, and nutritional supplements.
The number of countries where the lack of access to iodized salt is a health concern has been reduced from 119 to 19. Problem areas still exist but even they are showing improvement. Afghanistan continues to be a problem area, but even there the usage has increased from 1% in 1990 to 30% in 2005 by using donkeys to carry iodized salt to remote areas over poor roads.
The Kiwanis International partnership with UNICEF to combat Iodine Deficiency Disorder is one of the greatest - and least recognized - Public Health victories of our time, comparable to the elimination of Small Pox and polio in the years after WWII.
A project focusing upon improving the health and well-being of young children with an international flavour is the Children's AIDS Project. HIV/AIDS is hitting the world's children and adolescents hard. According to UNICEF figures almost 1,500 children worldwide become infected with HIV every day and it is estimated that more than 10 million young people aged 15 to 24 are infected with the virus.
The Eastern Canada and Caribbean District of Kiwanis has partnered with UNICEF Canada to raise funds in support of the Unite for Children against AIDS Campaign. By using the resources of UNICEF we ensure that the money gets to where it is needed and that we get the best financial 'bang for our buck' by using the purchasing power of UNICEF. This project targets the unborn children of women who have HIV/AIDS. A shot, which can be purchased for $1.00, prevents the fetus from being born with AIDS.
AIDS is spreading in the Caribbean at a rate second only to that in sub-Saharan Africa. From 2007 through 2010, EC&C will be raising funds to address the prevention of HIV infection among children and young people in the Caribbean.
One of the new projects the Kiwanis Club of Stratford has supported through its Young Children: Priority One Committee is the Stratford Public Public Library on Wheels (PLOW). This project is totally funded by donations to and money raised by the Stratford Public Library Foundation. The goal of PLOW is to promote the love of books and enhance the development of literacy skills in preschool children, especially those in areas with large numbers of "at risk" children, or areas where people do not have ready access to a public library. This project was launched in September 2004 and has enjoyed a great deal of success in achieving its objectives, thanks to a dedicated and talented librarian, Trish Macgregor. Trish engaged groups of 10 to 40 preschoolers over the summer months with a variety of songs, drama, and stories at sites such as Upper Queen's Park, the McDonald's restaurant and Parks and Recreation day camps.
Her greatest challenge was the group assembled at the Children's Aid Society day camp in a financially and socially challenged neighborhood. She endeavored to deliver to these kids "the best books and parenting materials that we have; and the best possible program to meet their needs". She challenged the group to read 500 books over the summer. Children who entered the program proclaiming that "books are boring" and "I hate books" met and surpassed this goal. At the end of the program they presented Trish with a pile of hand made "Thank you" cards, one of which declared: "You a god libeary lade"!
In supporting this project our Club joins with many other Kiwanis clubs around the world which have selected literacy as a strategic priority in their mission to "serve the children of the world".