New Kiwanis Club forms in Grosse Pointes

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published May 14, 2019

GROSSE POINTES — The Grosse Pointes once again have a Kiwanis Club of their own.

During an initial meeting May 8 at American House Senior Living Communities Cottage in Grosse Pointe Farms, the nonprofit — which was founded by a group of businessmen in Detroit in 1915 — established the Kiwanis Club of Grosse Pointe. Kiwanis International has clubs and members around the globe dedicated to its mission of serving children; service projects have included building playgrounds, teaching children with different abilities how to ride bikes and mentoring youths.

Dewey Smith, a past Kiwanis International trustee, said Kiwanis has roughly 7,000 clubs worldwide and about 150 just in Michigan, but it no longer had one in the Pointes. On May 7, he said, they opened a new club, the Kiwanis Club of Macomb, at a restaurant in Macomb Township. Smith said they try to launch clubs “if we think there’s a need.”

In addition, the Kiwanis Club’s Key Club — which Smith said is “the largest youth service organization in the world” — has a chapter at Grosse Pointe South High School, but not at Grosse Pointe North High School. He said they’re hoping to expand South’s Key Club now to include North students.

“Our main thrust is children,” Smith said. “We want to improve the lives of children and communities.”

Within a period of three days last week, Kiwanis opened eight clubs in metro Detroit, including ones in Corktown and Oakland County, said Marian O’Higgins, the immediate past governor for Kiwanis in Michigan.

“Each club makes their own choices and decisions” on service projects, O’Higgins said. Her club, Detroit #4, which is based downtown, has worked at soup kitchens and schools, for example.

“We serve children,” said Barb Thompson, area coordinator for the Midwest. “We make a difference in the lives of children.”

During the May 8 meeting, the new club elected Deborah Renshaw, who lives and works in Grosse Pointe Farms, as president. At press time, the first meeting was slated to take place at 6 p.m. May 20; anyone interested in joining the club and attending the meeting can contact Renshaw about the location.

“A side benefit of Kiwanis is the friends you make,” Smith said.

Ernie Buechler, who serves on the board of the St. Clair Shores-based Shorewood Kiwanis, was active for about 20 years in the former Kiwanis Club of Grosse Pointe. He said the Grosse Pointe club dissolved roughly eight to 10 years ago because the members were getting older and many were moving to Florida and could no longer attend meetings. Buechler said the club used to pay for buses to take kids in the Grosse Pointes to their respective city parks, among other initiatives.

“It was a strong group,” he said after the May 8 meeting.

The newly formed club aims to build a strong new chapter.

Anyone interested in joining the Kiwanis Club of Grosse Pointe can contact Renshaw at (313) 343-8437 or at deborah.renshaw@morganstanley.com. They can also contact Marian O’Higgins at (586) 801-6706 or at marian.o@sbcglobal.net.