Message from the President

The University Kiwanis Club of Wichita Falls is a member club of the Texas-Oklahoma District of Kiwanis International. Kiwanis International is a global community of clubs, members, and partners dedicated to improving the lives of children one community at a time. Presently world-wide there are more than 550,000 members including youth clubs (K-Kids, Builders Club, Key Clubs, Circle K) and Kiwanis members in 80 countries and geographic areas. Each community has different needs, and Kiwanis empowers members to creatively meet the needs of children in our communities.

In Wichita Falls, our club has student service and leadership organizations at Barwise Middle School (Builders Club), the three public high schools (Hirschi Key Club, Rider Key Club, and Wichita Falls High Key Club), and at Midwestern State University (Circle K). The student members of these clubs have volunteer projects of their own choosing as well as helping University Kiwanis with the annual Pancake Festival. We are indebted to the faculty advisors at each of these clubs, for without their guidance and assistance the youth clubs could not exist: Barwise, Tonya Johnson; Hirschi Key Club, Mark Bryant and Jordan Darnell; Rider Key Club, Cleveland Wallerich; Wichita Falls High Key Club, Debby Ford; and MSU Circle K, Barry Macha. Working with the youth is inspiring.

This, the year of Covid, has presented challenges for our club-and for the whole community. Meetings are being held virtually via Zoom, and our members miss the in-person camaraderie and educational programs. We are unable to have our signature in-person Pancake Festival; this year would be the 65th consecutive year of the Pancake Festival. Since we depend on this, our only, fundraiser, we have had to cut back on community support to children's activities, notably the Christmas project. We regret that we are having to suspend that project this year. However, we are able to continue with support for the 4-H Livestock Show, the city-wide Easter Egg Hunt, the concession stand at University Kiwanis Park, the Hotter 'n Hell Hundred Bike Ride and Race Rest Stop, Children's Miracle Network, Wichita Falls Area Food Bank, Camp Harmony, and the Builders Club, Key Clubs, and Circle K Clubs. Of course, some of the listed activities may be cancelled yet again due to Covid.

We are planning on having our 65th Annual Pancake Festival in the form of an on-line preorder event for pancake mix and frozen sausage patties, with pickup to take place at University Kiwanis Park on Saturday, March 27, 2021, from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. in conjunction with the ribbon cutting for our newly installed inclusive children's playground. The ribbon cutting will be held at 9:00 a.m. on March 27, 2021, at the new playground site.

We have been saving for over 30 years for a large signature project, and this year (prior to Covid) had decided that this was the year for such a project and settled on an inclusive playground for children ages 2-5 to be constructed at city-owned University Kiwanis Park on Southwest Parkway. There is no public park in the city at this time which was constructed for children of this age range. Other than three tunnels, some slides, and some swings with bucket seats there are no play structures for the younger children. This new park will have accommodations for mentally and physically challenged young children including supportive seating on two of the swings and one of the Zip lines and play features which allow a sheltering place for young children. All the play structures are scaled for young children. The playground will consist of eight swings, 2 Ziplines, a 4-person see-saw, two 2-person bobble riders, an Omni Spin, and Cozy Dome, three Whimsey riders, and a large central play structure with multiple tunnels, climbing elements, and slides. The playground will cost approximately $200,000; we had saved $100,000. We have been blessed with a $50,000 matching funds grant from WSC (Work Services Corporation) and have applied for grants from several community foundations and are encouraging donations to make up our deficit of $50,000. Excavation and perimeter construction has been completed, and installation of the playground started January 25, 2021.

In order to continue with our support of children in our community, we need members who are not afraid to work hard. We expect all our members to assist with the Pancake Festival both during setup and breakdown and the Festival itself. We need people to help cook pancakes and sausage, and to serve the public. Members also assist with passing out ribbons at the 4-H Livestock Show, running the concession stand at University Kiwanis Park, and manning the Hotter 'n Hell Rest Stop. If you are up for a challenge and want to be involved in helping the community and its children, please consider joining us. If you have questions about membership, please feel free to contact us on the website or call me at 940-704-5606. We do have quarterly dues which are assessed to meet International and District Kiwanis dues, pay for our website, and pay for administrative expenses. Additionally, members must pass a background check conducted by Kiwanis International. Please consider joining us in our work for the youth of Wichita Falls.

Mary Rhoads
President 2020 - 2021

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