The Metro Scene

Kiwanis – 100 Years of Helping Children

100 Years of Helping the Children of Montgomery and Central Alabama

There are many volunteer service organizations that do good work for their communities, but none does more than one group in central Alabama that helps children in need reach their full potential. That group is The Kiwanis Club of Montgomery. The Kiwanis Club of Montgomery is part of a global organization with a worldwide mission to be a positive influence in their communities so that one day all children will wake up to believe in themselves and become productive individuals. The Kiwanis Club of Montgomery has been fulfilling that mission for the past century.

On October 31, the Kiwanis Club of Montgomery celebrates its 100th anniversary. A special breakfast at the Alabama Activity Center on Dexter Avenue will commemorate this event. The local club has more than 250 members and is known throughout the global organization as the third largest club in the world.

The Kiwanis Club of Montgomery began in 1919 with a group of charter members that helped organize one of the best and most active civic groups in Montgomery. Through their commitment and service, they laid the foundation that gave men like Jimmie Pruett, Bill Brewbaker, Hartwell Davis and Bill Kent, along with others who followed, the recognition as the civic club of Montgomery.

The Montgomery club is a fiscally strong organization with more than $3 million in total assets and a record of having consistently made charitable grants of approximately $250,000 annually to children in the community.

Since 1955, the club has made charitable donations of nearly $9 million.  Sam Johnson, President of the Kiwanis Club of Montgomery, explains, “The Club looks to give back to organizations that have the biggest impact to children as a way to strengthen our community, one child at a time.”

Some of the major projects and organizations funded by the Kiwanis Club of Montgomery are:  Miracle League Ball Field, Boundless Playground, Brantwood Children’s Home,Goodwill Industries, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Camp ASCCA, Thompson House (Old Alabama Town), YMCA Camp Chandler and YMCA Camps Chandler and Grandview, Friendship Mission, Resurrection Catholic Mission, American Red Cross, Boy’s and Girl’s Club, Montgomery Zoo, Montgomery Area Food Bank, Common Ground Montgomery, Camp Kiwanis Girl Scout Camp, Valiant Cross Academy, Children’s Center of Montgomery AND Boys Scouts of America.

The club’s charitable contributions to these, and many other worthy organizations, are funded from three sources: the Alabama National Fair, the Pete Peterson Trust, and individual contributions.

The Kiwanis Club of Montgomery hosts its annual fundraiser, the Alabama National Fair, each October for 11 days. It is known as the “11 Best Days of Fall” for families in the Montgomery, Alabama area. The fair was founded as the South Alabama State Fair in 1954 under the leadership of Kiwanians such as Jimmie Pruett and Ben Wilbanks. The name was later changed to the Alabama National Fair. The anchors of the Alabama National Fair are its agricultural exhibits and competitions that draw participants from the Southeast and beyond with prizes that have exceeded $3 million. Also, as part of the Alabama National Fair, and perhaps the most visible aspect of the event, are the traditional “fair” activities including exciting outside shows such as racing pigs, frisbee-catching dogs, and leaping tigers, as well as a high-energy carnival with amusement rides for all age groups, games, and the traditional and not-so-traditional carnival food.  While all of these activities are exciting and fun, the true benefit gained are the funds generated to aid the youth in the community.

In 1968, longtime Kiwanian Pete Peterson died. To the surprise of almost everyone, his will provided a $675,000.00 bequest to the Kiwanis Club of Montgomery to be used for the youth projects of Kiwanis. Since that time, the club has distributed more than $3.3 million from the trust to children in need in the community.  Individuals can also make contributions to the Kiwanis Club of Montgomery Foundation at any time.  At the donor’s request, these donations are used to support local nonprofit agencies, like those listed above, that assist children in need.

Clearly, as the Kiwanis Club of Montgomery’s primary fundraiser, many people work extremely hard to make the Alabama National Fair a success each year.  Kiwanis International recently recognized this hard work.  Kiwanis signature projects show the impact a Kiwanis club can have on a community. From playgrounds and parks to festivals and fundraisers, signature projects are the hallmarks of what Kiwanis clubs are known for in their communities. Each year, Kiwanis International holds a signature project contest recognizing the most impactful signature projects in the world. This year, the Kiwanis Club of Montgomery (through the Alabama District of Kiwanis) entered the Alabama National Fair into the contest and was notified that it was 1 of 3 finalists.  At Kiwanis International Convention this summer, the Kiwanis Club of Montgomery/Alabama District received Gold for its submission of the Alabama National Fair.

While the Kiwanis Club of Montgomery works very hard each year to ensure the Alabama National Fair is a success so that it can assist children in need, the Club also helps children by funding college scholarships. Specifically, the Club funds 3 scholarships for high school students graduating and needing financial assistance to attend college.

The Kiwanis Club of Montgomery is not all work!  Its members meet weekly for lunch downtown to eat, visit, and listen to a speaker from the community.  These lunches are a wonderful way to catch up with friends who share a passion for helping children while learning about significant community events.

Immediate Past President Douglas McElvy explains, “It is a great honor to be associated with the Kiwanis Club of Montgomery that for 100 years has given millions of dollars to encourage and support community organizations that foster education, health, recreation, and other nurturing activities for the children of the River Region. Our finger prints can be found on practically every charitable activity working to improve the lives of our young citizens.”  The Kiwanis Club of Montgomery is also proud of its record assisting children in need in Montgomery and Central Alabama.  Most recently, it is especially proud of the $370,000 it donated to these children in 2019.  However, its members also know there is much to be done to continue to improve the lives of these children, and they plan to work extremely hard another 100 years so that all children in the community can work to achieve their full potential.

Back to top