When Lori Lee joined the Kiwanis Club of Plainfield in 2017, she was the only female in a group of 12.

“They were so good to me,” said Lee, the current president. “[Club founders] Tom Hilligoss and Frank Davis were there. I knew the Kiwanis mission from my high school days and wanted to get involved.”

The mission Lee refers to is “to improve the world one child and one community at a time.”

In 2024, they are celebrating 50 years of giving back to the community.

After joining, Lee suggested their small evening meeting at the library move to lunchtime at Chicago’s Pizza in Plainfield, and almost immediately added 12 people to the group.

kiwanis club of plainfieldWhen Harry Gill, membership chair, joined in 2019, the group numbered around 50 members, and today they welcome more than 100.

“I had just opened up my insurance agency and joined the chamber,” Gill said. “From there, I was introduced to Kiwanis and thought, ‘This is something I want to do.’ If you want to make the community better, helping kids is one way to do that. I was all-in and started recruiting others to join.”

Meetings are held at 11:30 a.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday each month at Bru Burger in Plainfield (they outgrew Chicago’s fairly quickly), and typically include lunch, a local speaker and a raffle.

It’s part socialization, part networking, and mostly involves supporting children in the community through donations of time and funds.

In addition to the two meetings per month, the members convene for Dine to Donate events, volunteer opportunities, and other gatherings outside of official club meetings. They’ve created a family of business owners, nonprofits and leaders in the community.

kiwanis club of plainfield“The school is a big partner as well as the town,” Lee said. “We’re very connected to the police and fire department, the Hendricks County Sheriff’s Office, Plainfield town manager and others.” Those connections help them accomplish so much in a short time.

“There are times we need something and we have these connections,” Gill said. “With members from all walks of life, people are there for us in a second.” This takes different forms. Perhaps it’s the birthday, get-well and sympathy cards the club sends to members during life changes. It might be the holiday donations they provide for more than a dozen families each Christmas.

“We want people to know that we’re not there just to take donations,” Gill said. “We want to be a part of your life, and a card is a little thing, but it helps. If we hear of someone who is sick or going through a loss, we want to reach out as a part of the Kiwanis family.”

They host annual events like the Santa House each holiday season, which includes hot chocolate, pizza, cookies and a visit with Santa. They sponsor numerous sports teams in the Plainfield area, and what began as two scholarships for high school students has grown to six (one in honor of Hilligoss).

On June 13, the Plainfield Kiwanis members will host their annual Golf Fore the Kids outing with title sponsor Flora Brothers Painting.

“It’s our biggest fundraiser,” Lee said. “It stands out to me because it’s where we receive the funds to do all of the scholarships. It can take 20 years to get a golf outing event to grow. We’re in our fourth year and we sell out.”

With the club’s success, they’ve also reached out to other communities in need of support for their children.

“We’ve invited Cascade to join us too,” Lee said. “We have a member from Cascade who saw the need to come toward Plainfield to get help for his kids, and this year we sponsored four children from Cascade at Christmas. We’ll be offering the scholarships to those students as well.”

In honor of their 50th birthday, the Plainfield Kiwanis has a couple of initiatives planned, including 50 Years of Giving, 12 Months of Gifts, with the goal of collecting at least 50 items each month for a different organization in the community.

In January they collected children’s winter gloves and hats, and well exceeded their goal – as usual for the club.

“Our anniversary committee came up with the idea to give 50 items each month for our 50th anniversary, and the first month we brought in 270 hats and gloves,” Gill said. “We’ve had members say whatever we bring in, they’ll double it.”

In February they collected diapers and wipes for Family Promise of Hendricks County. Over the summer they’ll collect school supplies for teachers and activity bags for children at the Plainfield Youth Assistance Program. This fall they’ll collect toys to donate for the Plainfield Police Department’s holiday drive.

They also want to celebrate with a large event for the people closest to their hearts – children in the community.

From 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on September 14, the Kiwanis members will host a carnival for kids on the lawn of Friends Church in Plainfield.

It’s just one more way they are able to give back and celebrate their successful club.

“We’re still in the planning stages, but it’ll be a free community event and we’re talking about a bicycle rodeo and a dunk tank among other things,” Lee said.

While Plainfield Kiwanis continues to grow and give, the international Kiwanis organization is watching the success that comes from a community working together in numerous ways.

“They’re asking us how we’re doing it,” Lee said. “They have one new member every few months and we have several new members at every meeting. I think people hear about how we’re helping others and they want to get involved. We’re the fun club. We care about each other.”

Members are sticking around too. Lee and Gill estimate more than 75% renew their membership each year, and though they might not make it to every meeting, they enjoy being a part of something big happening in the community.

The more people who know about the club, Gill added, the more they can give back.

“It’s the community coming together and opening their hearts and their wallets,” Gill said. “All the money goes back to our kids in the community.”

Current officers include Lee, Gill, Vice President Rhonda Zollner, Secretary Bill Clendineng and Treasurer Jill Hunter.

Memberships are $135 per year. Anyone is welcome to attend a lunch or reach out to a member via the Plainfield Kiwanis Facebook page, or at plainfieldkiwanis.org.

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