SIKESTON -- A belief in the community started the Kiwanis Club of Sikeston 70 years ago, and members say it's that same belief that's kept the civic organization operating all these years.
"Any vibrant community -- and I consider Sikeston a vibrant community -- must have civic clubs that are interested and devoted to a community," said Roger Sherman, past district governor and member of the Kiwanis Club of Sikeston since 1964.
When Sherman was growing up in the Catron and Lilbourn communities, the leaders of the communities were the Kiwanis members, he said.
"In those days the Kiwanis Club served as a Chamber of Commerce in Lilbourn, and we knew if we needed anything, the Kiwanis Club were the people to go to," Sherman recalled.
The Kiwanis Club of Sikeston organized on Oct. 18, 1935, and was chartered on Nov. 21, 1935, with 28 members. Today Kiwanis membership stands at 41, most of which are 20-year members.
"If you look at the membership, a lot of gentleman and ladies are truly interested in Sikeston and the kids," Sherman said.
In 1938, a plan was adopted by the organization's Public and Business Affairs Committee to bring a hospital to the community. An investigation by the Kiwanis revealed a charitable foundation, Commonwealth Foundation, donated large sums of money for construction of hospitals in large areas where services were needed.
After several years of joint effort, the combined committee obtained a large contribution from the Commonwealth Foundation, and construction of the local hospital began in 1946. Kiwanian James Kevil is credited for conceiving the idea.
The Kiwanis were instrumental in the drive for Sikeston's original city zoning ordinance and Planning and Zoning Commission. The civic club promoted the idea of a public Park Board, which was later adopted by Sikeston voters. The club also developed the idea of the a small lake and the Sports Complex.
But Kiwanis members are quick to point out many of the community's other civic clubs and organizations played roles in some of the same projects.
"The community's service clubs have had the importance of history long before a government was here," Kiwanis Club president Greg Krokstrom pointed out.
A celebration in honor of the club's 70th anniversary was held Saturday night at the Clinton Building in Sikeston.
"Most of your civic clubs are volunteer organizations, and having good leadership through the years certainly keeps the longevity or the stability," Krokstrom said. "Our community is blessed with a number of them, and our group through the years has been great."
When the club began, its focus was to serve the area youth, and that remains the same today. Over the years the Kiwanis Club has been associated with Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Little League baseball and basketball, youth soccer, YMCA, Parents as Teachers, Sikeston D.A.R.E program and the Kenny Rogers Children's Center, to name a few.
But the club doesn't just concentrate on kids and young people. The club has also made contributions to the Sikeston Public Library, Sikeston Depot and the United Way.
In addition, the Kiwanis conduct annual fund-raisers, such as fish fries and pancake days as well as the Kiwanis National Peanut Day and National Day of Prayer breakfast. Proceeds from fund-raisers are then dispersed to the other organizations in the community.
Most recently the Kiwanis Club has made contributions to the Sikeston Jaycee Regional Dialysis Center at Missouri Delta Medical Center. The Sikeston club even sponsored a new club in Jackson over the past year.
Although the Kiwanis Club serves several purposes in the community, one of its most important purposes is a social climate, Sherman said.
"We believe in what we're doing. The strength in the community can be measured by civic clubs and the Chamber of Commerce," Sherman said. With 43 years of membership, Bob Meyer is the club's oldest member.
"It's been a very big asset to me," Meyer said about the club. "I've met a lot of fine people through Missouri and Illinois and at international conferences."
The Kiwanis Club is currently looking at expanding its services and associating with older citizens, Sherman noted, adding the club is always looking for new members.
Sherman said: "We're proud of the community and that pride is what makes our club go."