Catalyst Midland presents the first of a series of articles on service clubs which support the quality of life in the area as seen through the eyes of its members, so that more people know what is available to share their talents if interested.
We first selected Kevin Shaughnessy, incoming president of the Midland Kiwanis Club
,, who grew up in the Detroit area and graduated from University of Detroit with a degree in chemical engineering. He had a 39-year career at the Dow Chemical Co., retiring in 2016 as the global director of Process Safety.
His wife, Mary, is also from the Detroit area and she graduated with a degree in nursing from Michigan State University. She worked at Midland County Health Department and Urgent Care. They married in 1980, moved to Midland and raised 4 children, and are proud grandparents to 10 kids. They enjoy being active in the community in a variety of ways.
Aside from Kiwanis activities, he volunteers at West Midland Family Center
, Blessed Sacrament Church
, Camp Neyati
, Central Park Elementary
, Home to Stay
, Habitat for Humanity
, and co-leading an annual mission to Guatemala.
This question-and-answer is conducted by writer, Ralph E. Wirtz, for Catalyst Midland. Wirtz is also is a Kiwanian.
STEM in the Preschool classroom with Kevin Shaughnessy
Q: You are the president-elect of the Midland Kiwanis Club which has a long and storied history in MIdland. Tell us a little about how you got here?
I joined Midland Kiwanis in January 2008 after attending a couple meetings as a guest. I had heard about some of the community works this service club was involved in through a couple of their members, and wanted to check it out.
I had been involved in coaching soccer for 10 years and when my last team graduated high school, I was interested in engaging in new ways to support youth and the Midland community. I found a match in the Midland Kiwanis Club. It also proved to be a window to appreciating the focus of many other community organizations who are working to serve youth.
I have been involved in many roles and volunteering activities within the club; more so after I retired. I gain a lot of personal satisfaction in knowing that I've contributed to something that helps kids have positive experiences.
Kiwanis team building bridge on playground at Longview.
Q: Tell us a little about the club and what projects are upcoming? Historically, what projects have Kiwanis been associated with.
The Kiwanis Club of Midland formed 102 years ago as one of the initial clubs in Michigan, dedicated to improving the quality of life with an emphasis on children. Under the Kiwanis International umbrella, with over 500,000 members in 80 countries, each club is empowered to serve the individual needs of its area. Over the past century we grew to then sponsor a second club in Midland, Kiwassee Kiwanis.
Tall in the Saddle program with Ben Dollard, Midland Kiwanis Club
Midland Kiwanis has been involved for many years in building outdoor and playground structures throughout the county, volunteering in the Midland Family Centers and area schools, supporting 4-H, Tall in the Saddle, sponsoring HS Key Club and Northwood Circle K Kiwanis programs, and more. Our efforts routinely impact infants, toddlers, youth and seniors.
We are blessed to have a Foundation which helps provide $100,000 for the multitude of projects and organizations we support each year. It was instrumental in the establishment of Camp Neyati over 85 years ago to provide nature and camping experiences to Michigan non-profit organizations and groups; and remains very involved to this day.
In recent years, we have done some unique projects at Coleman Family Center
, Midland County ESA
, and West Midland Family Center
; each tailored to the needs and ages of the kids in focus. We just finished a multi-year playground area at the Pediatric Center for Rehab and Behavioral Services, located at Homer and Isabella roads. This is the largest project we've done and offers accessibility to kids and therapists, as well as the general public. We are about to start a swing set project at the Midland Shelterhouse
Q: The pandemic hit the Midland community quite hard as it did the rest of the country. Has the club bounced back in the three years since then, and if so, how?
The pandemic was a learning experience in itself. Although our volunteering activities temporarily diminished as you'd expect, our club continued to provide some financial resources for needs that didn't go away with the pandemic.
As a club, we maintained connectivity through Zoom; even having remote guest presenters share information about their organizations and pandemic impact.
Q: The service clubs are different in a lot of ways from other types of organizations, in that developing camaraderie and friendships are made to last generations, as well as providing resources to help the community. Do you see changes coming?
Frank Aerstin, Cal Goeders, Roger Bohl at the Midland County Fair Kiwanis Popcorn Booth
Service clubs indeed offer camaraderie and development of new friendships. But they offer knowledge too. I've become much more aware of what other organizations are doing and opening a door to lend support for some of their efforts. I often share the comment that 'If you are interested in volunteering, but don't know what matches up with your interests - Join a service club and you'll never be bored’.
Q: If someone wanted to join, what would they expect?
I believe all service clubs have a challenge in sustaining memberships. A good part of this is due to our societal changes with individuals and families managing more activities than previous decades. I think it's important to appreciate that Midland Kiwanis and other service clubs have a variety of members in backgrounds, working as well as being retired, some attend frequently and others less so, some engage in a few activities and others in many, but there is a role for any background or interest within our club - if you have a desire to serve.
If someone is interested see if our activities align with their interests,
they can contact us via our web page at www.midlandkiwanis.org
, our Facebook page
, stop by our booth at the Midland County Fair this August, or just stop by First United Methodist Church Hearth Room on the first or third Monday nights of the month at 6:00p.m.
Know that another way to get to know us is by joining in one of our projects. We're always looking for some additional hands to lighten the load - and share in the satisfaction!
Cathy Devendorf at the North Midland Family Center Christmas party
Q: Because of Kiwanis, places such as Camp Neyati, West Midland Family Center, North Midland, etc., are better situated to serve their communities. How can Kiwanis carry forward in the future?
Midland Kiwanis has withstood a test of time, having celebrated our century mark with an outdoor celebration at one of our family centers during the pandemic. Not many service clubs or organizations last that long.
Our predecessors set up the Midland Kiwanis Foundation in 1959. Their foresight in doing this remains a powerful instrument to our financial capabilities as it has grown over the decades. Although we're not nearly as large as other Midland area foundations, we are able to impact a great many small and moderate non-profit projects throughout the county.
We are situated to sustain our community impact through continual assessing of how we can best serve the community, financial management of our Foundation resources, and continuing to attract members who seek to lend a hand to support the needs of others!