By Henry M. Holden
The 2020 pandemic was disastrous for many service organizations. An inability to meet in person or hold fundraising events that have been the life blood of organizations such as Kiwanis was a serious disadvantage. Months before forming the Kiwanis Club of Greater Roxbury, one man had a dream to do more for his community.
Cain Pope had seen the statistics that sixteen million American children struggled with hunger each year. An estimated 48.8 million Americans, including 16.2 million children, live in households that lack the means to get enough nutritious food on a regular basis. As many as 1 in 4 kids could face hunger because of the coronavirus.
Pope knew he could not solve that larger issue, but he could do something.
Pope, the manager of the Fuddruckers restaurant, in Succasunna, said he decided to try launching the new club after he donated food to another area Kiwanis Club, and learning Roxbury used to have its own and still has a park bearing the name.
“That was a little disheartening,” he said. “If there was a Kiwanis Club here, I would have just joined it.”
Kiwanis’ Lt. Governor Frank Cahill met Pope at a food drive held by the Tri-Town Kiwanis Club in Boonton. There he explained to Pope the mission of Kiwanis and Pope joined Tri-Town. When Pope asked why there was no club in Roxbury, Cahill told him the previous club ceased, and Pope indicated he wanted to revive the club.
The Kiwanis Club is an international service club founded in 1915 and is in more than 80 nations. Kiwanis volunteers are dedicated to improving the world one child and one community at a time.
Membership in Kiwanis and its family of clubs amounts to more than 600,000 members. Each year, Kiwanis clubs raise more than $100 million and report more than 18.5 million volunteer hours to strengthen communities and serve children.
Roxbury’s first Kiwanis Club was founded in 1947. It shut down after being reformed in 2003 as the Kiwanis Club of Roxbury – Succasunna Foundation.
“The new club will be part of Kiwanis International New Jersey Division 9,” said Cahill. “There is a lot of enthusiasm in Roxbury for the idea.”
The club gained nonprofit status on December 7, 2020, “When I heard that, I reached out to friends, family and coworkers, who wanted to also make a difference and described to them what I was planning,” said Pope. “Eighteen of us met and formed “Kiwanis Club of Greater Roxbury” and relaunched the Roxbury Kiwanis chapter.”
Pope’s first event with the new Kiwanis Club was holding a free holiday food giveaway on December 21, in Kiwanis Park, on Makin Lane, in Succasunna.
The event provided food resources to residents of Roxbury, Ledgewood, Succasunna, Kenvil, Mount Arlington and Landing. With his motivation, the volunteers distributed 100 boxes containing 35 to 40 pounds of food within 45 minutes of the starting time at 10:00 a.m. to families in need due to the coronavirus.
Kiwanis’ Lt. Governor Cahill said “A special thanks to Senator Anthony Bucco for donating money to help these volunteers achieve today’s goal. I want to thank the Roxbury Police Department, the Roxbury Recreation Department, and Mayor Bob DeFillippo for their cooperation in the planning of this food distribution.”
In January 2021, the Kiwanis Club of Greater Roxbury kicked off the new year with the purchase and donation, of 1,400 masks to the police department in their local area of service: Roxbury Township, Wharton (Mine Hill), Mount Arlington, and Dover. “It is important for our club to keep our front-line heroes safe and healthy,” said Pope.
Other officers in the club who were an integral part of this initial effort were Jessi Simon – Vice President; Damian Hernandez – Treasurer, Aysha Avalos – Secretary. Heidi Caruso, Mt. Olive Kiwanis President and Laura Wohland, President of Kiwanis Club of Greater Parsippany are serving as club coaches.
The Kiwanis Club of Roxbury is seeking donations from local businesses and residents to conduct more of food distributions. Donations may be made online at www.roxburykiwanis.org/donations