Kiwanis International (KI) is committed to enhancing the lives of children, one community at a time. Currently, they work in 80 countries and geographic areas with over 550,000 members. Since each community has its own needs, such as battling hunger, enhancing literacy, or providing guidance, KI gives its members the freedom to look for innovative ways to meet those needs. Kiwanis is successful because of its passion for always putting the needs of children at the forefront with every decision they make. We spoke with Tim Simpson, Club President and Andrea Simpson, Foundation Chair, to learn more about them.
Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.:
Kiwanis International (KI) is a global community of clubs, members and partners dedicated to improving the lives of children one community at a time. Today, we stand with more than 550,000 members from K-Kids (grade school) to Key Club (high school) to adult Kiwanis members — and many ages in between! We are in 80 countries and geographic areas, with more than 10,000 members in Canada! Each community has different needs, and Kiwanis International empowers members to pursue creative ways to serve the unique needs of children and youth in their community.
Our Toronto Club, chartered in 1917, is about service and improving our community. We also believe in creating lifetime friendships as there is a shared joy that comes from doing great things together.
We are passionate about making a difference. Helping kids grow and succeed is at the heart of everything we do. But how we do it is just as important. We believe our neighbourhoods and our world are best served when people of all ages and different backgrounds work together to share their time and talents.
What problem does it aim to solve?
Serving the children of the world by providing good kids with better opportunities.
When did you start/join it?
Tim joined the Kiwanis Club of Toronto in 2013, and Andrea joined in 2016.
What made you want to get involved?
Tim: I was new to Toronto and I wanted to find a way to broaden my community and also give back. A colleague of mine, and a long-time Kiwanian, invited me to lunch one day and after learning more about the work that Kiwanis do in the community, I knew this was something for me.
Andrea: Having learned about Kiwanis through Tim’s experience, I wanted to use my skill set in Fundraising to add value and structure to the Foundation’s work. It’s an incredible feeling being able to directly connect to our community and know that the work of our Club and Foundation is impacting hundreds of children and youth each year.
What was the situation like when you started?
Tim: When I joined the Club, the membership numbers were quite low, especially considering that Club enrollment had been over 100 in the late ’90s and early 2000s. Still, there was a dedicated core group of people that enjoyed bi-weekly fellowship and doing good work in the community.
Andrea: Having joined several years after Tim, the membership numbers were already on the rise and the work we were doing with the Boys and Girls Club (BGC) Toronto Kiwanis and other local charities was very relevant.
How has it changed since?
The Club has made leaps and bounds forward with membership, now close to 60 people. We’ve expanded the number of service projects each year and have increased the amount of funding we are able to deploy to charities supporting children and youth. The demographics of the Club have changed with the times also. While we still have many senior members involved, there’s been incredible membership growth in those ages 40-50. New members bring new ideas and new connections.
What more needs to be done?
We are always looking for new members to join us in our work! It would be great to see more people get involved in community building. There are so many ways to support your own community or a nearby community in need. Our Kiwanis Club participates in many one-day (Kiwanis Cares) service projects such as yard clean-up; interior painting; building emergency relief kits; organizing office space. Many hands make light work!
How can our readers help?
Get involved! Come and volunteer with us during one of our upcoming Kiwanis Cares one-day service projects in Toronto. Join us for an upcoming lunch at the National Club on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month; we always have interesting speakers and presentations. Connect with us on social media for more information.
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity/non-profit that you love?
Through our Kiwanis community work, we’re fortunate to connect to many amazing charities that are supporting and inspiring the children and youth of Toronto. If we could highlight just two, in addition to all of the great work we do with the BGC Toronto Kiwanis in Regent Park and Cabbagetown, we’d like to mention MJKO for their dedication to leadership training through positive healthy choices and the Leacock Foundation for inspiring young people to overcome barriers and unlock their potential using literacy and leadership tools.