When the Brookfield Kiwanis Club announced it would be dissolving in 2018, its members went out with a flourish, donating its remaining $75,000 to the Brookfield Police Department to fund the purchase of a police dog, a K-9 unit squad car and to pay for the training of the dog’s police handler.
Thus ended a 91-year run for the club, chartered in 1927, which was so central to the village that it named one of its two main parks in the club’s honor. In addition to providing college scholarships to local students, donating money to Special Olympics and sponsoring an annual “Zoo Day” for the intellectually and physically impaired, the club built a community swimming pool that it operated on the village’s south end for three decades.
But with a dwindling and aging membership, the club decided to call it quits three years ago.
And now, it’s back.
Within the past couple of months, a new Kiwanis Club of Brookfield-Riverside has been formed and the nascent organization is in the midst of putting together its slate of officers and recruiting members.
Knowing the proud history of the Brookfield club, Jay Hubbard, a recruiter/club opening specialist for Kiwanis International reached out in early September to Brookfield Recreation Director Stevie Ferrari to see if the idea of a new club would gain traction.
Ferrari ran the idea past the Parks and Recreation Commission and through word of mouth there was enough interest that within a week, Hubbard was meeting with prospective Kiwanians at Irish Times.
“Brookfield has a strong attitude toward community service, and I just thought a new club would thrive,” Hubbard told the Landmark.
“[The former club] just reached a point where it was an old, tired club,” Hubbard said. “The average age now is in the 30s and 40s versus 70s and 80s.”
In just a month, the club had recruited 20 members and began scheduling meetings. According to David Pardun, the club treasurer and co-owner of Fill My Jar in downtown Brookfield, “We are looking for members and people to help us figure out our mission and what we’re trying to achieve.”
For now the club is meeting monthly, with the next meeting set for Tuesday, Dec. 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Linda Sokol Francis Brookfield Library, 3541 Park Ave. Anyone interested is invited to attend. If you have questions, you can call Pardun at 630-240-9406.
“We’re still finding our way and what we’re going to be exactly,” said Pardun, whose grandfather was a Kiwanian and who saw the opportunity to help revive Brookfield’s organization as a way to give back to the community he and his wife call home.
Kiwanis International has assigned two “club coaches” to help the new club get off the ground, Hubbard said, and serve as sounding boards and mentors.
“When clubs are new, the members sometimes don’t know what buttons to press to make it work,” Hubbard said. “The coaches are there to shepherd the club, advise them and help get their questions answered or point them in the right direction.”
While the club members themselves will determine what initiatives to pursue, Kiwanis is different from other fraternal organizations in that the entire focus is on helping young people.
“What differentiates Kiwanis is our focus on youth,” Hubbard said, “but there’s no agenda a club has to follow.”