By JENNA BAILEY
Sunday, Aug. 10, 2017 the Freeport-South Walton Kiwanis Club celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their organization. The Freeport-South Walton Kiwanis Club is a small group of volunteers committed to helping Walton County children in need. Their statement of purpose reads, “Kiwanis, a global organization of volunteers dedicated to improving the world one child and one community at a time.” Roughly one out of every three children in Walton County live in poverty and 60 percent of north Walton students are on the free or reduced lunch program.
The organization was founded 10 years ago by Wanda Pitts who is now the club vice president. Bryan Gilbert is currently the club president. The club was originally the Freeport Kiwanis Club and held its meetings in Hammock Bay. Around five years ago the club began holding its meetings in south Walton as the Freeport-South Walton Kiwanis Club. The list of good the Kiwanis Club has done for the children of Walton County is significantly long. In the past 10 years the Club has identified outstanding students at Freeport and South Walton High School and contributed over $18,000 in scholarships to the colleges of their selection. The Kiwanis Club sponsors, financially supports and provides advisors to Key Clubs at Freeport and South Walton High Schools. Each month children are recognized from all 6 elementary and middle schools in Freeport and South Walton for exemplary citizenship.
Their efforts also included showing continual support towards the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center and sponsored a room at the new Children’s Advocacy Center in DeFuniak Springs, provided monetary support to the Children in Crisis efforts to provide foster homes for displaced children, volunteered and donated funds to Children’s Volunteer Health Network, assured all fifth- grade students in Walton County were able to take advantage of a free performance at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center by providing funds for transportation, contribute ongoing funds to Back Packs of Love to secure weekend food for needy children, and donated funds to the new neo-natal facility at Sacred Heart Hospital. Overall, within the past decade the Kiwanis Club has contributed more than $100,000.
The club’s future goals include expanding their member count which currently consists of 27 people. “Thanks to local support of our three fundraising efforts, we are on track to at least double or triple our past 10 years of contribution over the next five years! Think what we can do if we double our membership!” says Kiwanis Club member Bill Fletcher.
The club meets the first and third Wednesday of every month at the library. Their meetings held on the third Wednesday are when they recognize and present outstanding students with a citizenship trophy. “These meetings are our favorite,” says Fletcher.. The community can get involved by joining the club, attending its meetings and participating in fundraising efforts. Fundraising efforts include an annual golf tournament, annual pecan sales each November and their Flag Program. For 10 or more residents in a neighborhood the Kiwanis Club will install a 3’ x 5’ American Flag during six patriotic holidays for $40 per year. From approximately 125 flags five years ago, the club is now approaching 400 flags installed overall. Individuals can also contribute with donations which are always appreciated. For more information on the Kiwanis Club you may check out their website at www.kiwanis.org or call at (850) 835-1001.