California Kiwanis Focused on Serving Children Locally and Worldwide

Members of the California Kiwanis who attended the March 5 meeting.

Members of the California Kiwanis who attended the March 5 meeting. Photo by John Inman.

Dr. Peter Kurowski, president of the California Kiwanis, said the group tries to work for good for children both in the community and throughout the world. Started in 1914, the international organization will soon celebrate 100 years of existence. Kurowski said the group began with a group of men getting together wanting to do good things for children locally and around the world. They picked the name Kiwanis which is an American Indian world meaning self-actualization.

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California Kiwanis Vice President Eugene Wickham presents Kim Rimel a plaque for her service as Kiwanis President.

"I like to define Kiwanis as being all you can be," Kurowski said. "We want children to be all they can be. And in the charter of Kiwanis, we want to promote patriotism, not nationalism. We respect the military as vanguards of freedom. They are precious and important. We want to basically apply the golden rule, in our charter stating to do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

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California Kiwanis Vice President Eugene Wickham presents Larry Kent a plaque for his service as Kiwanis President.

Following the line of wanting to help children, Kurowski said for years the Kiwanis worked hard to wipe out something called Iodine Deficiency Disorder (IDD) which caused many problems with children born in the third world countries from retardation to death. With just a little bit of iodine salt they were able to pretty much eradicate the disorder with the help of UNICEF. Now he said they are working with UNICEF on Project Eliminate, a worldwide project eradicating Maternal Neonatal Tetanus (MNT), which is if a mother does not get a tetanus shot in time the child might die due to their skin burning alive and not being able to be touched. By being able to give the tetanus shots, Kurowski said they can save 60,000 lives a year.

Kurowski said the California Kiwanis group was started much like the original Kiwanis group with a group of men who met in the 1940's socially wanting to help locally and globally. One of the charter members, Harry Minturn, still participates in the group at their weekly meetings leading the Pledge of Allegiance and singing "My Country Tis' of Thee."

"It is a real inspiration to have someone who has the experience like Minturn," Kurowski said, "and is very thoughtful and positive giving us a unique perspective. It is an inspiration to have men like Minturn, Dr. Melvin Twaddle and Richard Barry. Twaddle is the former superintendent of California R-I School District and Barry is a World War II vet and took care of the buses. They are in the eyes of a number of members, quiet giants and wonderful role models. They show you never retire in life from doing good things to help the commonwealth of the community. They are an inspiration by their presence, longevity and goodwill in this noble pursuit."

While the group started as a men's organization, it is now coed with Kim Rimel being a past president. Current president Kurowski said he became involved in the organization in 1994. He said it is a great organization which meets every Monday night at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, California, at 6 p.m. Meetings are usually prompt rarely going over an hour. A meal is provided and guest speakers usually give presentations on a variety of subjects. At the March 26 meeting Gary "Gil" Luloff will speak about his time as an Air Force pilot.

Last fall the Kiwanis sponsored the Veteran's Day Essay Contest at the California Middle School and the Circle of Sharing where the Kiwanis partnered with the fifth grade to raise over $3,000 to help families with Christmas.

"We think our essay contest has bore great fruit," Kurowski said. "We have been part of the program which honors veterans. Children in the seventh and eighth grade write essays on good citizenship, civility, the golden rule and being a productive people who adorn freedom as good citizens. A local judge told me that of all the counties in the state of Missouri, Moniteau has the lowest juvenile crime rate. We still have problems like everyone else, but we have the lowest rate. We hope the teaching of children of a very important set of civic lessons of being good citizens, working for the commonwealth and practicing the golden rule has bore fruit here. Schools, Churches and families contribute to that too. I am happy the Kiwanis has also has been a partner of forming the thought process of people in a positive way. The winning essays are read publicly and teach each other about good citizenship and honoring veterans. It has been a real banner tradition that has gone on for about 18 years and is really meaningful, practical and productive."

Upcoming Kiwanis events include the St. Patrick's Day Pancake, Eggs and Sausage Meal to be held March 17, from 7:30-10 a.m., at the California Nutrition Center. The meal is benefitting the Boy Scouts and local children. Children ages six-10 are $5 and children five and under are free. In June there will be two events, a June 16, Bike Run to help raise money for local youth and to send veterans on the Missouri Honor Flight and on June 23, a Cow Drop drawing. Kurowski said they invite anyone interested to come to their weekly meetings held at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, 207 North Owen Street, California. For more information, call Kurowski at 573-796-2735 or Larry Kent at Blankenship Insurance at 573-796-2360.

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