- July 22, 2019
The Horizon West and Windermere area is developing its own Kiwanis Club.
Jeff Swearingen, leader of the club, said he had been talking to the Kiwanis for a while about getting something started in the area and finally started making some progress on the club last year.
Now, the hard work is paying off, as the members are seeing some positive movement forward in the club.
Swearingen, who has lived in the Horizon West area since 2015, said it's been fascinating to see how quickly the community is growing.
The club leader said even though the community seems like a fantastic and growing area, there are still many needs that exist and a great deal of poverty in the area or people working lower-wage jobs.
“We would hope to be one of the places that people in the community go to when they need help and realize we are one of the resources they can immediately contact and depend upon,” Swearingen said.
The organization’s main focus is on the future of the community — the children.
“It’s important for us to be available to try and help out these kids that have issues that are holding them back to keep them engaged in school and make positive decisions,” Swearingen said.
Samantha Sanders, lieutenant governor of Division 10 for the Kiwanis, which includes Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties, said Horizon West, as a rapidly growing community, would greatly benefit from a local Kiwanis Club.
“Our main mission is to serve the children of the world, and there is so much opportunity there to build Student Leadership Programs in the local schools like K-Kids, Builders' Clubs and Key Clubs,” she said. “The Kiwanis Club will provide fellowship and community service opportunities for local families that will benefit the overall community."
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
The club has already made an impact in the short time it has been around.
Swearingen said the community service organization has helped both Horizon and Windermere high schools with its Key Clubs.
Key Club is a growing organization with global reach. With thousands of clubs in more than 38 countries, the impact of Key Club members can be felt all over the world.
According to Kiwanis, through Key Clubs, high school students perform acts of service in their communities, such as cleaning up parks, collecting clothing and organizing food drives. The members also learn leadership skills by running meetings, planning projects and holding elected leadership positions at the club, district and international levels.
Swearingen said both local Key Clubs now have more than 100 members, including Horizon High, which only opened last August.
Although the club currently has just five active members — having had as many as 15 at one point — the members aren’t letting the numbers stop their progress.
On March 26, the new Kiwanis Club will be heading to Bay Lake Elementary to perform landscaping work on weeding the flower beds. In April, the club will travel to Castleview Elementary to help weed and mulch its flower beds.
The members are also looking to fulfill an ongoing need at the school.
The club is collecting clothing for the school nurse, including various sizes of new children's underwear, various sizes of shorts (elastic waist and gym shorts preferred) and T-shirts.
Swearingen said since the organization primarily works with children, he has been contacting local schools and connecting with local businesses to see how the club can help.
“It’s reaching out to people and schools and basically saying, ‘Hey, we are here to do service with a focus on children; we want to help; what do you need?’” he said.
SPREADING THE WORD
Although the club is doing excellent work, Swearingen and the other members expressed their main goal is to grow the club and raise awareness.
The club had an informational table set up at Horizon West Fest in Hamlin Saturday, March 5, to hand out membership brochures and answer questions about the Kiwanis.
Brandon Kneeld, who has lived in Horizon West for a year and a half, said he decided to get involved with the club because his dad was a Kiwanian and he saw the difference they made in their community.
“I wanted to continue that legacy and be able to make a difference in our community here,” Kneeld said. “The motto of Kiwanis is ‘Kids at Heart,’ and our goal is to make an impact in the lives of children in our community. With so many families and kids moving into Horizon West, and new schools opening on almost a yearly basis, we want to help provide the tools and resources to help all kids in our community succeed, regardless of need or background.”
Swearingen shares a similar background, participating in community service through the organization in his early high school and collegiate years.
“This is just a natural next step of continuing community service through the organization that has helped me as I grew up,” he said.
Kneeld expressed the group’s desire to take impactful community service and make it fun for everyone to get involved.
“We want to partner with schools, community agencies and individuals to tackle projects that will benefit kids and let them take pride in their community,” he said.
Once enough members have joined the club, Swearingen said the meetings will move from Zoom and email to monthly in-person meetings.
Kiwanis International is a global community of clubs, members and partners dedicated to improving the lives of children one community at a time. Each community has different needs, and Kiwanis empowers members to pursue creative ways to serve the needs of children, such as fighting hunger, improving literacy, and offering guidance.
According to the organization, there are currently more than 5,000 clubs with more than 141,000 members in North America alone. Kiwanis members host nearly 150,000 service projects a year.
GET IN TOUCH
For more information or to get involved with the new Horizon West and Windermere Kiwanis Club, email [email protected]