Club’s future in peril

-A A +A

Kiwanis Club’s declining membership forcing group to shutter local chapter later this year

Augie Salzer


Riverland News

Dwindling membership is forcing the Dunnellon Kiwanis National Organization to close its doors, which likely will occur in October, and stop its service of giving to the community.

Ellie Pollock is one of the members who has dedicated her time volunteering and is the glue that has kept the club going for so many years.

“Much to our sorrow we have to close the club,” Pollock said. “With so few members we just can’t do all the work anymore.”

When she joined the club in 2002, there were 62 members all working in many different capacities to help the community and now there are only nine members.

The Kiwanis International is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time. The service club was originally founded in Detroit, Mich., around 1915. In 1987, the organization opened its doors for women to become members. The Dunnellon group was formed on Sept. 23, 1980.

Pollock became the secretary just one year after joining Kiwanis. She then held the secretarial position for another three years before taking the office of president for four years and she is still the fundraising chairman.

She has helped on many different programs Kiwanis supported. They had the Terrific Kids program, which focused on the children at Dunnellon and Romeo elementary schools.

“We gave the kids a certificate showing they improved their grades, showed good citizenship and got along with their peers,” Pollock said. “Some kids got a pencil or pin and the parents received a ‘Terrific Kid’ bumper sticker for their cars.”

The group supports the Diaper Campaign to collect diapers for children and adults and give them to the Helping Hands Food Pantry.

They also gather clothes to help fill the clothing closets in the schools.

“Ladies in the community knit scarfs and hats and give it to us so we can give the items to the schools,” she said. “The ladies knit to relieve their arthritis. It is good therapy for them and wonderful for us.”

The Dunnellon High School Key Club was able to start again with the help of Major Carlson of the ROTC at the school.

“We are able to resurrect this community service again and teach the kids leadership skills,” Pollock said. “Major Carlson of ROTC is partnering with the Key Club and this is the help we needed to get this program started again,”

Giving scholarships to students is high on the list for the Kiwanis members. This year, Gavin Szydlo received a $1,000 scholarship to help him attend Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Ga.

“Last year, one student received a scholarship to go to a culinary school in Miami,” Pollock said. “The scholarships are given to those who ask for them. We are looking for dynamic, ambitious students with good grades. If the students go to the College of Central Florida, they will receive $500 a year for four years from an endowment fund.”

The Aktion Club is an organization for adults with disabilities getting together to have a dinner once a month. The ladies from the Dunnellon Presbyterian church do the cooking for them. There are currently 15 members of the Aktion Club and they have their own officers and conduct their meeting. Suzanne Eno was the director of the Aktion Club for many years, but because of her health she was forced to give it up.

“I’m doing it now and I’m going to hate to see this stop,” Pollock said with a sigh. “It breaks my heart to have to give it up. The kids so enjoy it.”

Another project Kiwanis members work on is their Christmas in July by collecting socks, clothes and underwear for the homeless children. The Marion County Alliance know where the homeless are and can give our gifts to them.

“The Marion County Alliance know where they (homeless) are located,” she said. “There are a lot of them and I was shocked to hear how many there were.”

In addition to trying to keep the Dunnellon Kiwanis alive, Pollock still finds time to be the vice president for the Ladies Auxiliary for the American Legion Wall-Rives Post No. 58. Her husband, John, is on the Board of Directors at the Legion, Key Club advisor and on the Kiwanis board, too.

“John is very good with the kids because he was a teacher of vocational culinary and I’m still his student,” she said. “I like to keep him busy.”

With the Legion auxiliary, Pollock is Girl’s State Chairman and interviews all the high school candidates that are interested in going to Tallahassee for one week to participate in and learn about our government. Only one delegate and one alternate are chosen in case the delegate can’t make it. The expenses for the girl chosen are paid for by the Legion. They go to Tallahassee in the Marion County Sheriff’s bus or their parents can take them. When they return they attend a Legion meeting and tell the members about their experience.

“My crowning achievement was when Olana Osborne was the first Dunnellon girl selected to attend Girl’s National,” Pollock said proudly. “There are a lot of rules and regulations, but they are easy to follow and the girls all come back smiling.”

In Pollock’s spare time she takes care of John, does gardening by playing in the dirt and she likes to entertain, but not much now since she doesn’t have the time.

“This keeps me out of mischief and I love what I do. I love people and children,” she said. “Kiwanis is like a family and I wish more people would get involved.”

For information about the Kiwanis Club, it will meet at 11:30 a.m. the second Wednesday monthly, June through August, at Carmela’s restaurant for lunch and a program. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Augie Salzer is a correspondent for the Riverland News. Email her at augie@thingsintown.com.