By Henry M. Holden
The Kiwanis Club is a global volunteer organization that annually raises more than $100 million and dedicates more than 18 million service hours a year to help children.
The Kiwanis Club of Mt. Olive (KCMO) is one of thousands of clubs in the United States with those same objectives.
Since 1995, the Kiwanis Club of Mt. Olive has been responding to the needs of the community through charitable contributions and donations of time and talent. Members are empowered to pursue projects that fill needs in the community.
Kiwanis Club of Mount Olive sponsors a Key Club at the Mount Olive High School. The Key Club is a student-led service organization and has over 200 members and is active within the Mount Olive community.
Kiwanis Club of Mount Olive is always looking for new members and future leaders.
“I was looking for a way to get back into volunteering,” said Heidi Caruso, current president of Kiwanis of Mount Olive. “I had reached a point in my life where I wanted to get more involved with the Mount Olive community, more than just as a resident and a parent. I reached out to a friend on the Town Council and told him exactly what I needed; some connections and what direction I should go in looking for a good fit. After some research I found Kiwanis was on the top of my list.
“I went to a meeting and found this amazing fit for myself and in doing so became a member. I have been a member for a couple of years now.
“Rich Moore, the immediate past president of Kiwanis of Mount Olive, talked with me about stepping up in the organization and I felt it was really just the right time. I was elected president, in October of last year and it really felt like it was the right time to do this.”
But Caruso faced the challenge of Covid. “It has been an overarching challenge for everyone,” Caruso said.
“For us to just continue as a club during the pandemic, we needed to focus on fundraising. From March of last year until now we lost a lot of opportunities. The fundraising we do are all large public fair types. There is the 4-H Club, and the Community Fair that we did the year before. We were also not able to do the Mount Olive Community Day either.
“So, we lost thousands of dollars as a club and we had to find other ways to market ourselves and for us to raise money. One way we found was to pair our social media together. We started using our social media platforms (Instagram and Facebook) and just connecting with our Key Club members from high school. We started looking for opportunities where we could continue to help the community to outsource stuff. So, we did a tree planting day.”
“We had volunteers from the community and about 40 kids from the Key Club show up to help plant trees near the south Raritan River and the community garden. It was an educational day and a day to get some native trees planted back in our community. We were looking to do anything like that because we are really focused on community support and our Key Club is one of our service leadership projects.”
The Key Club hosts events and service projects for members of the Mount Olive Community. Some of their current projects include: Annual Easter Egg Hunt for the children of Mt. Olive, Safe Trick or Treat event at Mt. Olive High School, Food drives for the Mt. Olive Food Pantry, and the Senior Citizen Prom at the Senior Center.
“Our mission is still to sponsor the Key Club in the high school and assisting with any fundraisers that they want to do. Any opportunities that we can find through our organization, we like to have the students working side-by-side. That is really our mission, because we are mentors for the youth in our community and that’s the goal of Kiwanis.”
The money lost because of the Covid restrictions is lost forever so now the organization is looking for grants. “We have a foundation that is part of our particular club, the Kiwanis Club of Mount Olive Township Foundation Inc., which is a registered 501(c)3 public charity, meaning your contribution (but not your membership fees) will be tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law. That is where a lot of our fundraising money goes, into the Foundation, and we give that money back to the community through scholarships for our people’s endeavors or high schoolers who are graduating and going off to college. We also donate a lot to the pantry. We try to provide opportunities.”
“We are in the process of raising funds to charter a Builders Club at the Mt. Olive Middle School. Like the Key Club, the Builders Club is the largest service organization for middle school and junior high students, with more than 45,000 members worldwide.
“We have had Scouts come to us and present their projects whether they be Eagle Scout projects or other projects. We try to provide opportunities for the youth in the community to get involved in a project and if they need money for that we can provide the money.”
“We are working extremely hard at engaging the community, to increase our membership, and to provide more opportunities for our youth to have more mentors from our organization, and for us to continue to fund raise for organizations or the needs of our community.
The Kiwanis is best known for their signature projects. KCMO supports the local pantry in Mount Olive with regular food donation sites to support the Food Pantry. Food is picked up from 18 non-perishable food donation locations at businesses around Mount Olive. All proceeds go directly to benefit the Mt. Olive Pantry, at Christ Episcopal Church. A list of locations is on the website.
The signature projects are a win for business because when a business sponsors a bucket (of food) KCMO puts out press releases to let everyone know where the food is coming from, and the business’ locations. The business gets free advertising because their location is in the press release. It could draw people to their establishment looking for a place to drop off food, or buy their product or service.
Although serving local communities is their focus, on an International level, Kiwanis’ is part of a global campaign for children, called “The Eliminate Project”. It is Kiwanis’ aim to eliminate maternal/neonatal tetanus. Its goal is to raise $110 million and save the lives of a 129 million mothers and their future babies. In partnership with UNICEF, Kiwanis is committing to eliminating a disease that kills one baby every nine minutes.
Becoming a member of Kiwanis offers great opportunities to get involved in your community, networking and socializing with others, all while making a difference in the lives of children, and those in need. For more information contact Kiwanis Club of Mt. Olive www.mtolivekiwanis.org.
Caption; President Installation night:
Back row: NJ Division 9 Lt. Governor Frank Cahill, Treasurer, Kyle Ropp
Front row; Member, Pat Ryan, President, Heidi Caruso, Secretary, Mary Fahy, Member, Kelly Moore, Immediate Past President, Richard Moore, Member, Brian Ropp. (Courtesy Heidi Caruso)