Local Kiwanis Leaders Seek to Empower Citizens With Disabilities, Promote Inclusion

Photographer: Glenda White

National service organization Kiwanis Club has announced the forming of one if its sponsored clubs. The Geist-Fishers Aktion Club just launched in October bringing a whole new level of involvement in the community.

Aktion Club is a Kiwanis Program for adults with disabilities and has thousands of members worldwide in more than 500 locations. Aktion Club is the newest of Kiwanis sponsored club and joins several other Kiwanis sponsored clubs like Key Club for the high school level and Circle K for collegians. The program brings community service into focus by teaching and encouraging adults with disabilities to become actively involved in community service projects.

Talks to form the Geist-Fishers Aktion Club had been ongoing for months. Local Kiwanis leaders and members used other Aktion Clubs like the Noblesville Aktion Club, which is a very active club, as a model for the new one. To put all the pieces in place, Kiwanis leaders enlisted the help of some key people and businesses in the Geist and Fishers community who are already involved in the disabilities field, like Opportunities for Positive Growth (OPG), Outside the Box, Behavior Analysis Center for Autism (BACA) and Hamilton Southeastern Schools.

Opportunities for Positive Growth, an organization which provides support to individuals with intellectual disabilities, was tapped early on for assistance and will serve as host for the meetings. Since OPG already works with individuals with disabilities, the organization was a direct fit for a partnership for the Geist-Fishers Aktion Club.

OPG lent some of their talent to the venture as well. Michelle Steltz, Director of Operations for OPG, is on a Fishers advisory committee on disability and played a big role not only in making the launch happen but in forming the partnership with OPG. Once the pieces were in place, Steltz handed the reins to her colleague, Dana Pottschmidt, a Behavior Support Specialist for Opportunities for Positive Growth.

Pottschmidt was an easy pick to take on the lead role as Kiwanis Advisor to the club. She has a strong background in working with people with disabilities. With two autistic family members, she has a personal interest in the welfare of individuals with behavioral disabilities. Professionally, she has been a direct support caregiver to individuals with disabilities prior to joining OPG.

“Becoming involved with Aktion Club was a natural gravitation,” she says. “I just want to help these people see they have an important role in society and they can make a difference. These people are learning valuable skills through volunteerism and it gives them a purposeful life. The club brings to light and creates awareness that people with disabilities are employable. We want this club to make a difference in the lives of our members and promote inclusion.”

The Geist-Fishers Aktion Club may be in the beginning phase, but they’ll be able to get rolling quickly, thanks to the Kiwanis Club’s already established connections for fundraising and community service projects. Dave Humes, member of the Kiwanis Club of Geist and other Kiwanis Club members provided their assistance in organizing the club. Aktion Club members will provide the same quality community service as in all other Kiwanis sponsored clubs.

“The difference for these members who live with disabilities is that they often have skills but little opportunity to develop or apply them,” Humes adds. “Now they’ll have opportunities to interact socially with other adults with disabilities while making a positive contribution to society.”

In September, the club held a launch fundraiser and silent auction at the Geist Yacht Club. Proceeds went to purchase playground equipment for a local school and to help launch Aktion Club.

Members will participate in community service projects throughout 2019, like visits to a nursing home, park beautification projects, fundraising projects like car washes and other community needs projects like food drives. Members will have an opportunity to participate in social and educational components like a trip to a museum or the zoo and listening to guest speakers.

“It’s all in an effort to help these individuals gain independence,” Pottschmidt says.

Kiwanis Club is working through their channels to help promote and recruit membership to the Geist-Fishers Aktion Club. The club already recruited the minimum number of 15 allowing them to establish a charter.

“We’re hoping to grow to 25, and it would be great to get closer to the average number of 40 to 50 members,” Pottschmidt says.

Members must be 18 years of age or older to join Aktion Club. Annual dues are $8, and the club meets twice a month at Opportunities for Positive Growth at 10080 East 121st Street in Fishers, usually on Tuesdays and Thursdays. To learn more about becoming involved and joining, contact Dave Humes at davehumes@comcast.net.

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