South-West Kiwanis Club
Kiwanis International was founded in 1915, initially focused on business networking. Just four years later, in 1919, they changed focused to service – specifically dedicating their work to improving the lives of children, one community at a time.
The South-West Kiwanis Club of Peoria, established in 1957, is one of nearly 8,000 clubs worldwide performing more than 240,000 service projects each year. This global volunteer organization annually raises almost $340 million and dedicates more than 7.3 million hours to strengthen communities and help children.
Beginning in the summer of 1992, a dedicated group of 20 South-West Kiwanis met every Tuesday afternoon at Lincoln Branch with the children living in Peoria’s South Side. Over the course of each three-hour session every Tuesday, the adult volunteers and eager children would read together and play games. Checkers and Uno were favorites. There is a saying that children are great imitators so give them something great to imitate. This club did that. While only volunteers, this dedicated group treated every Tuesday afternoon like it was their job to be there. Cross-generational friendships flourished. Young Lincoln Branch readers found a goldmine of patient wisdom within their friends at South-West Kiwanis. This club had a positive effect on students in a variety of ways, including their personal life, academics, and professional endeavors. Two Peoria Public Library employees, Maggie Nelson and Suzanne Buchanan, were also instrumental in starting and stewarding this important program.
In addition to the Tuesday tutoring program at Lincoln Branch, the South-West Kiwanis also spent time reading to students at Peoria Public Library’s former South Branch, located in Harrison Homes. Funds were donated to purchase books for the Lincoln and South branches. Additional monies were given to expand Peoria Public Library’s Summer Reading program, benefitting every child in Peoria.
“Reading is so important to the development of children. It allows them to be creative and helps them understand themselves and others.” ~ Suzanne Buchanan, Lincoln Branch head librarian, who helped start the South-West Kiwanis mentoring program.