Wilton Kiwanis – A Short History
By Dave Hapke August 2013 (developed from material in the Wilton Library History Room)
The Wilton Kiwanis Club celebrated its charter meeting on June 13th, 1951 with 43 charter members, all local business men. Since that time, the club has grown, and women have joined and often taken leadership positions in the club. During the 1990’s, a time of corporate downsizing, a significant number of early retirees joined the club and the club’s membership peaked at 155 members in 1997.
Today the club is a wonderful mix of 100 members, including local business women and men, as well as a number of semi-retired and active retired individuals focused on service to others. In 1978 the club also formed the Wilton Kiwanis Foundation, a not-for-profit arm for the collection of donations and proceeds from fund raisers. From this foundation the Wilton Kiwanis Club has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to worthy causes.
Our history is best told by noting some of the major contributions of the club.
During its first decade, the Wilton Kiwanis club was busy raising money via scrap metal drives, square dances, the first roast beef dinner, a circus and a house-to-house drive. The first major activity was to purchase Wilton’s first ambulance in 1953. It was a used Packard that Kiwanians found in New Jersey and then drove to the Wilton Fire Department. (Later the club purchased a second ambulance for the town). This support of the Wilton ambulance corps has continued, including gifts of $18,000 within the most recent decade for improvements to the interior of a new ambulance and a new portable defibrillator.
A major project in 1956 was the purchase of 21 acres of land, (a pickle farm owned by Mr. Fullin) which was later donated to a group interested in having a family YMCA. This is now the home of the Wilton Y, Little League Fields and the Y summer camp. Kiwanians cleared the land and dug the pond which is now enjoyed by many at the Wilton Y.
In 1961, the Kiwanis Club bought Wilton’s second site suitable for swimming, Sam Merwin’s dairy farm off Lover’s Lane. Kiwanis purchased the site for $85,000 to be amortized over some years. The Club later sold Merwin Meadows to the town for the balance of the mortgage.
This history of fund raising, giving to local needs and community service has continue over the ensuing decades. Notable contributions have included:
- An education room for the Nursing and Home Care Organization
- A History Room for the Wilton Library
- A significant donation to the founding and development of Wilton Commons
- Periodic contributions to local organizations for specific needs, such as:
o The Bridgeport Rescue Mission
o Homes with Hope
o Norwalk Emergency Shelter
Some of the activities and fund raising is done with designated partners. The annual golf tournament, held for the last 4 years, has raised almost $100,000 for the Wilton Kiwanis Foundation and our partners, including the Trackside Teen Center, the Wilton Youth Council, and Visiting Nurse and Hospice of Fairfield County.
Other partners have been involved with our annual citrus sale. These partners have included the Key Club, Joint Youth Ministries, the WHS Wrestling Team, and Grace Church. We have often partnered with the Wilton Y for fund raising events.
Not all of activities are fund raising – some are “hands on” service to others, such as repairing homes of needy people annually as part of “Homefront” for over 25 years. Other “hands on” projects have included volunteer assistance to Ambler Farm, facility fix-up for the ABC home, and gathering donations of food for the Wilton Food pantry.
In addition to many contributions locally, Wilton Kiwanis has joined with the Kiwanis International organization to address specific issues. This includes the successful Kiwanis International Project to eliminate Iodine Deficiency throughout the world.
More recently, we have supported The Eliminate Project, whereby Kiwanis International and UNICEF have joined forces to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus. This deadly disease steals the lives of nearly 60,000 innocent babies and a significant number of women each year.
The Wilton Kiwanis Club is proud of this record of service to the community and beyond for over 60 years. We welcome all individuals or corporations to join us as members in our ongoing support to others.