Clyburn: I understand Obama's decision to boycott conference

Congressman James E. Clyburn (D - S.C.)

Although there are variations in the translation of the Native American word "kiwanis," one variation is: "We gather together to make a loud noise."

And this month, members of the Kiwanis Club of Charleston have great reason to raise their voices and hold their banner high. With a legacy steeped in public service, especially those benefitting children, the club is 90 years old.

The Charleston club was chartered April 13, 1921, and is one of the oldest active service clubs in the Lowcountry. The club has 65 members who "are all united by a singular mission: to change the world, one child, and one community at a time," said Pat Hogan, the club's public relations chair.

Three other Kiwanis clubs are active in the Greater Charleston area. The Summerville club was formed in 1983 and has 37 members; the Moncks Corner club came together in 2001 and has 19 members; and the East Cooper-Mount Pleasant Kiwanis Club formed about 1975 and has 37 members, said David Manzi, a lieutenant governor for the local Kiwanis' district.

Kiwanis International was founded in 1915, and in 1919, its mission became focused exclusively on community service with a special emphasis on children's and youth programs. There are more than 260,000 members in 8,000 Kiwanis clubs in 96 countries.

Charleston club members joined friends from the neighboring clubs at a 90th birthday banquet April 13 at Charles Towne Landing. Speakers made it clear that Kiwanians have more than just the passage of years of which to be proud.

"It's about public service," said Bernie Grant of Johns Island, a Charleston Kiwanian since 1969. Grant, who owns H&R Block income-tax service outlets in Moncks Corner and on Hilton Head Island, said his grandfather was a club member and the inspiration for his decision to join.

"I like to give back to the community because it's been good to me," Grant said.

Ryan Hamm of James Island, the immediate past president of the Summerville club, said he joined Kiwanis in 1994, initially with the Charleston club. He served as a club president before joining his father at the Summerville club. An insurance firm owner, Hamm said he found he really likes providing public service.

He said reading to 4- and 5-year-olds has been among the most rewarding of the youth services the organization provides. Hamm has chaired the annual Kiwanis Golf Tournament for all seven years of its existence. This year, it will be held April 28 at Shadowmoss Golf Club to benefit the Terrific Kids Program.

Charleston club President John Nash said that after nine decades the club is anything but stagnant. The club has grown 10 percent in the past year, and new members include many people younger than 40, he said. The club is involved with many programs befitting the Kiwanis mission with the most visible local effort being the Terrific Kids Program, he said.

Terrific Kids promotes character development, self-esteem and perseverance, club literature states. The club sponsors Terrific Kids programs at 12 elementary schools in Charleston, where students work with teachers and establish goals to improve behavior, peer relationships, attendance or schoolwork.

The Charleston club also is involved at all levels of education and provides funds and volunteers to local nonprofits, including Big Brother Big Sisters, Boys & Girls Club, Dee Norton Lowcountry Children's Center, First Day Festival, Habitat for Humanity, Hospice of Charleston Foundation, Jenkins Institute for Children, Medical University of South Carolina Children's Hospital, Ronald McDonald House, Teachers' Supply Closet, Trident United Way, Windwood Farm Home for Children, Charleston Community Sailing, HALOS, Metanoia and Darkness to Light.

Kiwanis also sponsors three Charleston area high school Key Clubs and a Circle K Club at the College of Charleston.

The Charleston club meets at 1 p.m. Thursdays at The Citadel Alumni Center's Renken Room, 69 Hagood Ave. Visitors may attend. The club can be reached via its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=28403930648.

The Kiwanis Club of Moncks Corner meets at 8 a.m. Tuesdays at the Holiday Inn Express, 505 Rembert C. Dennis Blvd. The club can be reached at 761-5900 or www.monckscornerkiwanis.org.

The East Cooper-Mount Pleasant Kiwanis Club's Web page is http://eastcooperkiwanis.org.

Reach Edward C. Fennell at 937-5560