DAVID YAMAMOTO/SPECIAL TO THE STAR Simi Valley Councilman Mike Judge (left), and his wife, Sarit Judge, talk with Marian Walluks (right) and John Absmeier during the Simi Valley Kiwanis Dance at the Ranch earlier this month. Money from the fundraiser at the Hummingbird Ranch goes to community charities, school clubs and service projects
By Alicia Doyle
Posted: Nov. 25, 2015
The spirit of giving has thrived for decades in Ventura County, thanks in part to three service clubs that are celebrating key anniversaries this year.
The Kiwanis Club of Ventura is celebrating its 90th year, the Rotary Club of Camarillo its 60th, and the Kiwanis Club of Simi Valley its 50th.
These nonprofits have made a difference in the lives of people here and around the world, doing everything from helping to eradicate polio to planning holiday events for local children and dances for seniors.
Here’s a look at the three organizations:
Kiwanis Club Of Ventura
Founded in 1925, the Kiwanis Club of Ventura started with about 25 members and now has about 45. Over the years, the club has held pancake breakfasts, basketball tournaments, yard sales and more, spending the proceeds on local community projects.
“We are more than a nonprofit service club; we want to make a difference in the lives of our children,” said Judy Mullins, of Ventura, the club’s president. “Members are about the mentoring of children to become leaders, obtain higher education and give back to our community by volunteering in numerous Kiwanis Club-sponsored events.”
Initially named the Kiwanis Club of Downtown Ventura, its membership was first made up of professionals in accounting, banking, education, human resources, insurance, law, management and real estate. It met as more of a business group, with members swapping ideas about their professions.
“From this founding group, the focus changed to a vision to serve the children of our community,” Mullins said.
Some of the club’s biggest accomplishments over the years have included purchasing the first blood refrigerator for Community Foster Hospital in 1947, followed by the purchase of the first mobile X-ray machine for Ventura County in 1948. The club in 1950 furnished a room at Community Memorial Hospital and in 1952 sponsored the first high school Key Club.
Ventura Kiwanis is also responsible for the Aktion Club, which serves individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Children and youth leadership development programs are sponsored at local schools, and a number of college scholarships are provided each year to high school students.
Local nonprofits that benefit from the club’s efforts include the Rubicon Theatre children’s program, Salvation Army Ventura, ARC of Ventura, Ventura Family YMCA and Ventura Music Festival Youth Program.
“Our longevity is attributed to our club members whose service to others is an important component of their day-to-day lives,” Mullins said. “From the moment a new member becomes inducted, the membership encourages the new member to become involved in the world of service to children and young adults. We make our club stronger by helping make our community a better place.”
Rotary Club Of Camarillo
Members of the Rotary Club of Camarillo learn to approach things with the “four-way test,” said Max Copenhagen, of Camarillo, the club’s past president and director of public relations:
“Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”
The club has about 55 members who participate in weekly lunch meetings to hear from speakers about current issues, other organizations and local history. The members also network with other business leaders and professionals.
The Rotary Club of Camarillo began in mid-1955. A group of prominent local business and professional men decided to start a Rotary Club, and since each new club must be sponsored by an existing club, nearby Oxnard Rotarians agreed to help.
The first organizational meeting of the Rotary Club of Camarillo took place Sept. 8, 1955, in the old community center on Ventura Boulevard, and Guy Craig, personnel director of Camarillo State Hospital, was elected president. Regular weekly meetings continued to take place, and on Oct. 24, 1955, the club was granted its official charter, admitting it to Rotary International.
Today, “our club has local and international service projects, such as hosting a track meet each spring for middle school students and financing mobile medical vans in Chile and Tibet,” Copenhagen said. “Locally, we try to help youth with scholarships and grants to the Boys & Girls Club and Casa Pacifica.”
International areas of focus including peace and conflict resolution, disease prevention and treatment, water and sanitation, maternal and child health, literacy and community development.
“Our main international project is eliminating the disease of polio; we are very close to this becoming reality,” Copenhagen said. “By working together and donating our time and resources, we have an opportunity to do good in the world. The Rotary Club of Camarillo continues to exemplify the Rotary motto of ‘service above self’ and is a powerful force for good in our community.”
Kiwanis Club Of Simi Valley
The Kiwanis Club of Simi Valley began when a couple of local residents got together to charter a club in 1965.
The club has 102 members who are dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time, said Michele Bennett, of Simi Valley, the club’s president.
She attributes the club’s longevity to the enthusiasm of members who are passionate about helping children and the senior population in the community.
“We truly all like each other and are an awesome group of friends that we can call family,” Bennett said.
The club has been a driving force behind the Simi Valley Pioneer Days & Carnival. It also is responsible for the Round-Up fundraisers that generate money for local charities.
The club sponsors Key clubs at Simi Valley and Royal high schools, and Builders clubs at Valley View, Hillside and Sinaloa middle schools. It also sponsors the Simi Valley Boys & Girls Club. It supports K-Kids clubs at Knolls, Hollow Hills Fundamental, Santa Susana, Madera and Township elementary schools and co-sponsors an Aktion Club, a program for adults with physical and mental disabilities.
The club helped buy a van for the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District and was involved in the Painted Turtle Project, a camp based at Lake Hughes that was co-founded by the late Paul Newman for youths with chronic or life-threatening illnesses.
“We are looking into several large service projects that would team us up with the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District or the Simi Valley Unified School District,” Bennett said. “We are continuing to recruit more members in order to build our events and continuing to support and reach out to help more organizations in our community.”
DAVID YAMAMOTO/SPECIAL TO THE STAR Nancy Fisher (left), Wendi Demmerte and Linda Offner enjoy conversation while making bids in a silent auction during the Simi Valley Kiwanis Dance at the Ranch. Money from the fundraiser at the Hummingbird Ranch goes to community charities, school clubs and service projects.
DAVID YAMAMOTO/SPECIAL TO THE STAR Chad Watson (center) of the Chad Watson Band plays country music as guests enjoy the Simi Valley Kiwanis Dance at the Ranch. Money from the fundraiser at the Hummingbird Ranch goes to community charities, school clubs and service projects.
DAVID YAMAMOTO/SPECIAL TO THE STAR Louise Duboff and Efrin Arana participate in a circle dance during the Simi Valley Kiwanis Dance at the Ranch. Money from the fundraiser at the Hummingbird Ranch goes to community charities, school clubs and service projects.
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Viva La Comida is a longtime project of the Rotary Club of Camarillo; the next one is Jan. 25. Here, at the first event in 1971, Rotarian Mike Loza cooks enchiladas in the kitchen of the Camarillo Community Center. He would prepare them at his El Tecolote Restaurant, then would take them to the center, where he and volunteers would cook them in the oven. Loza died in 2001. This year’s event is in honor of the late Rotarian Bill Kohagen, who sold more than 100 Viva La Comida tickets to friends and family last year.