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Former Kiwanis club members eye new course

Members of one of the oldest civic clubs in the state have severed ties with their international organization and are in the process of creating a new group.

     At their meeting Wednesday, former Brookhaven Kiwanis Club members began the task of forming a new organization with a new name and bylaws. Their mission, though, will remain the same.

     “We want to continue the focus that the club has had for many, many years, and that’s children,” said Dustin Walker, club president.

     A change in the dues payment structure with the international organization prompted all local club members to resign, effective Oct. 1, Walker said. Dues-related issues have been discussed in previous years.

     “This isn’t a decision we made overnight,” Walker said.

     Club officials said the change will allow them to put even more focus and funds toward local efforts and activities.

     “It was about stewardship,” said Nic Belk, club secretary.

     Walker said the club is taking a positive view both in terms of its history as the Kiwanis club and in its future as a new organization.

     “I think everybody is on board with our reorganization,” Walker said.

     The Brookhaven Kiwanis Club was founded in 1921, a little more than six years after the first Kiwanis club was formed in Detroit in 1915. According to Kiwanis International, the Louisiana-Mississippi-West Tennessee District was formed in 1920.

     Tom Moak is the senior club member with more than 60 years of service, with records showing he joined in 1948.

     “I’ve been with it a long time. I hate to see it happen,” said Moak about the change.

     Moak, 90, has been lieutenant governor of the district, local club president and chairman of its annual pancake day fundraiser numerous times. He plans to continue supporting the new local club.

     “I’ll keep coming,” Moak said.

     What the new club will be called remains up in the air. Several ideas for names have been submitted and the board of directors will make a recommendation.

     Former Kiwanis Club officers and members of the board of directors were elected to the same positions in the new club Wednesday. Club members are also pursuing having it designated as a 501 C-3 organization for tax purposes.

     As for the new name, club members expressed a desire to have it incorporate aspects of service, history, mission and community. Walker indicated the process will be deliberative.

     “We don’t want to rush into something just to get it done and checked off our list,” he said.

     Other items on the list include revision on local dues structure, fundraising efforts and a membership drive.

     “I certainly anticipate hitting the ground running and generating some interest in our new club,” said Walker, adding it is open to any who would like to join.

     The club’s two main fundraisers have been the annual pancakes and sausage day in the early part of the year and red beans and rice day, which is usually held in November. Club members indicated they planned to continue the red beans and rice day, although details still needed to be worked out.

     Walker and other club members are looking forward to a bright future as a new organization.

     “This is an opportunity to take something that was great and make it even better,” Walker said.