POTSDAM — The threat of extinction has fallen upon the Potsdam Kiwanis Club after three decades of serving children and their families throughout the community.
Henry Wallis Walters, a Potsdam Kiwanis Club spokesman and board member, said he was “heartsick” over the news that a decline in membership has put the club’s existence in jeopardy.
The club reached a peak of more than two dozen active members during its 30 years, Mr. Walters wrote, “with a heavy heart,” in a letter sent out Thursday.
Those numbers have declined drastically, he said.
“We used to have 28 members and now we’re down to six, and the international headquarters, which is based in Chicago, for the whole world, their policy is, under eight (members) and they pull the charter,” Mr. Walters told the Times. “And I’m trying to keep the charter going, because once it’s pulled, (we) can never re-establish (ourselves) again.
“We’re on the cusp of being dissolved and I’m fighting like heck,” Mr. Walters continued. “I’m trying to create an interest in the Parishville-Hopkinton school district people and also with the Pierrepont-Colton folks to come in as satellites. If we get four or five from those school districts, that would save the day.”
He said with such low membership, the Club now faces making difficult decisions on the future of its community services, suspending programs like the Rag-A-Muffin parade, the K-Kids and Builders youth clubs, and a highway clean up project along Route 56 from the Price Chopper parking lot north to the railroad crossing.
“This alone is a sad, sad time for active youth who each year looked to the Potsdam Kiwanis Club for sponsorship and leadership,” Mr. Walters wrote in his letter.
The club will continue several of its programs, including the Head Start Reading Programs, into its calendar year 2019-2020, but in a very limited capacity. The reading program recently received funding from Adirondack Federal Credit Union, Mr. Walters said.
“My wife and I both do Head Start reading at Parishville School District and here in Potsdam. We’re in our 80s and it’s so nice, we come through the door once a month to these little boys and girls,” he said. “They are so enthusiastic to see us, that they are absolutely gleeful.”
He said while the importance of the reading program helps children not just learn how to read but helps them communicate, it has formed a special bond between the club and the children.
“At the end of the day, when we have to leave, you would be surprised how they come up and they hug us, ‘Oh, we love you nanny! We love you pops!’ I have them always call me pops, it’s easier to remember over a name,” he said, a chuckle in his voice. “It means a lot to us. We only have one biological grandchild, so what kind of happens we kind of adopt everybody else’s . . .”
Mr. Walters has hope, though, and is extending an invitation to community members to attend their monthly meeting at Ponderosa on outer Market Street, the second Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m., to learn more about the club and participate, in order to keep it alive.
He said he the hours we moved to evenings for those who work and would even “entice” potential members by buying them a buffet dinner, just for coming out.
“That’s all I’m asking, can you give us an hour to an hour and a half once a month to attend the meeting and let’s plan something each month for the children for the next month,” Mr. Walters said. “The thing of it is, I want to get the older population, those who are retired. Just because you’re a senior and you have white hair, just because you have a little snow on the roof, it doesn’t mean that your furnace is out.”
Anyone interested in attending the meeting and the free buffet are asked to call Mr. Walters at (315) 265-3917 beforehand to assure your attendance, as seating is limited in the special meeting room.