Once mighty Kelowna Kinsmen Club trying to rise from the ashes - InfoNews

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Once mighty Kelowna Kinsmen Club trying to rise from the ashes

A sign that's much reduced compared to other beach signs in Kelowna is an ironic reflection of the decline in membership of the Kinsmen Club of Kelowna.
March 25, 2019 - 6:30 PM

KELOWNA - There was a day when service clubs were about the only choice for people wanting to give back to their communities. Today, with so many options to choose from, the former stalwarts of the community have fallen on hard times.

The Kinsmen Club of Kelowna, like many local service clubs, helped build the city and many of the amenities we continue to enjoy like Kinsmen Beach, Kinsmen Ball Park and was the leading fundraiser for the city’s first indoor pool at Parkinson Recreation Centre. The local club has fallen from a peak of about 80 members a few decades ago to a low of 10 over the last few years – despite merging with the Rutland Kinsmen Club about 15 years ago.

“Currently we’re on a little bit of a growth spurt,” past president and current historian Scott McKinnon told iNFOnews.ca. “We’ve always had a solid core. Now we’re having a bit of a rebirth with new members who had past connections to Kin and have moved to Kelowna and joined and we’re getting a few younger members, so it’s coming along good for us.”

The membership is up to about 15.

Despite the low membership, the club has contributed at least $30,000 a year to the community over the last few years, plans to hold a major fundraising event this summer and host a regional Kinsmen dinner next February to celebrate the service club’s 100th Anniversary.

Kinsmen is the only major service club that is all Canadian, started by Harold Rogers in 1920. A World War I veteran, he was unable to join his local Rotary Club because it limited members to one per profession. So he started his own club.

The Kelowna club was chartered in 1944.

While not as strictly limited to businessmen as Rotary once was, it has similarities in promoting ethical business practices and teaching members, through campaigns and projects, organizational and financial skills, McKinnon said.

Unlike Rotary, it has evening dinner meetings that stretch into social events, rather than breakfasts and lunches as is typical of Rotary.

Kinsmen’s motto is ‘Serving the Community’s Greatest Need.’ That means they pick a project, like an arena or swimming pool, that seems most important. Often it’s a sports or recreation facility.

So, what led to the fall in stature? 

“Back in the 60s and 70s and into the 80s, when service clubs were doing well, when a person got to a point in their lives where they wanted to give back to the community, they had four or five choices and those were all service clubs,” McKinnon said.

A new crop of non-profits and societies organized to meet specific needs since then, increasing the choice of where volunteers put time and money, he said.

Combine that with the trend he saw starting in the 1970s of both spouses needing to work, people have less time to devote to service clubs.

Kelowna's Kinsmen Park is one of the largest donations Kinsmen have made over the years.
Kelowna's Kinsmen Park is one of the largest donations Kinsmen have made over the years.

“If there is any time to do fundraising, it’s fundraising for their kids to go on a trip with their ball team or fundraising something that they have a specific interest in, rather than thinking, ‘if I belonged to a service club I could get involved in getting a ball diamond here, an arena there,” McKinnon said. “Now it’s ‘my kid is in BMX so I’m going to fundraise for BMX so they can get a track.'

“It’s become very selfishly focused. People give their time and money to things that are near and dear to them and their family and not so much the broader community.

“Every one of those new non-profits are fundraising so they’re competing against the Lions and the Rotary that have their big annual fundraisers that everybody will support. Instead of buying tickets for that lottery they’re going: ‘I’ll buy tickets for my kid’s lottery.’ So, the money is redirected because of competition.”

McKinnon is not giving up on service clubs and is encouraged by others who have chapters opening in high schools and universities, something the Kinsmen Club of Kelowna doesn’t have the volunteer resources to attempt.

He is hoping to get some much needed publicity through this summer’s fundraising event and hopes that rekindles interest in Kinsmen.

A look back through the history of the city shows Kelowna just wouldn't be the same without contributions from service clubs. Here are just a small handful of examples just from Kinsmen clubs. 

  • Kinsmen Beach One of the most significant donations to the city off Lakeshore Road.
  • Jubilee Bowl Donated $35,000 towards the construction of Jubilee Bowl Bleachers in City Park. Jubilee Bowl fell into disrepair and was eventually burnt down.
  • Parkinson Recreation Centre The Buy-a-Brick campaign encouraged other groups and individuals to rally behind Kelowna’s first indoor swimming pool. Kinsmen were honoured by Mayor Parkinson with the “Order of the Ogopogo” certificate. (Ceremonial Keys to the City).
  • Kelowna General Hospital - Together We Care In the early 1990’s, contributed $25,000 to Kelowna General Hospital to top off their successful “Together We Care” campaign
  • Kelowna Kinsmen Bursary Program Both national and local bursaries available.
  • Kinsmen Softball Complex - Mission Sports Fields The first participant in the city’s “Partner in Parks” program of the 1980’s-90’s, including $120,000 to build the 2-storey Kelowna Kinsmen Media Centre (with washrooms & concessions). Another $250,000 over five years to help build bleachers, install lighting and other field improvements
  • Kin Kid’s Playland Built the first wheelchair accessible playground in Kelowna with the Kin Kid’s Playland in 1998 and contributed to the playground in the softball complex in 2015.
  • Kelowna Kinsmen Softball League - Mission Sports Fields As part of their fundraising for the sports fields they get the use of them two days a week and raise money through the softball league.
  • Mission Creek Greenway - Founding Patron Became a Founding Patron of the Mission Creek’s buy-a-metre program with a $10,000 donation in 1998 and contributed cash and built the Kelowna Kinsmen & Kinettes Playland (in the Mission Sports Fields) as an anchor attraction for the walkway
  • Disabled Sailing Association - (COSA - Central Okanagan Sailing Association) In 1998 donated $5,000 towards the purchase of a “Sip & Puff Sailboat,” and another $1,000 the next year for a wheelchair lift at the club house.
  • Camp Dunlop - Central Okanagan Boy Scouts For decades, donated money and manpower to the betterment of Camp Dunlop, operated by the boy scouts of the region
  • Scouting Canada In the early 1990’s donated funds to help rebuild a new roof on the scout cabins at McCulloch Lake
  • K.O.M.P.G (Kinsmen Okanagan Miracle Grand Prix) The Kelowna Kinsmen took over the organization of the fundraising event for the Children’s Wish Foundation and added Cystic Fibrosis as an added beneficiary. The event ran for 6 years.
  • Rutland Kinsmen Youth Centre - Boys & Girls Club House on Hartman Road Built in the 1980s for sports & recreation in the Rutland Sports Fields, before being donated for use by the Central Okanagan Boys & Girls Clubs.
  • Kelowna Fire Department Bought four of the first defibrillator units to outfit the department for their “First Response” initiative. Also donated several thousand dollars to help outfit their inflatable rescue boat and we have sponsored Fire-Safety Booklets provided to children in Grades 3 and 4.
  • Kettle Valley Trestle #11 The club contributed both money and manpower to securing planking and handrails along the length of the trestle, which is the longest all-wood curved trestle in the Myra Canyon trail.
  • Kelowna Minor Sports Supported minor baseball, soccer, football, lacrosse, hockey, gymnastics and more.
  • Kelowna Minor Lacrosse In 2010, began financial assistance for their “Learn to Play Lacrosse” workshops and helping them host a one-day youth Lacrosse workshop in Kelowna. Recently honoured as Sponsor of the Year by the BC Lacrosse Association.
  • Kinsmen Room - Kelowna Memorial Arena Made a significant donation to the fundraising efforts to build Kelowna Memorial Arena. In recognition of that donation, an extra auxiliary room was built on the 2nd floor called “The Kinsmen Room. “The room was converted into the Kelowna Military Museum.
  • Handi-Dart Van In the early 1990s the Kelowna Kinsmen donated approximately $18,000.00 to purchase a specialized wheelchair van for the BC Provincial Handi-Dart bus system
  • Cystic Fibrosis Local and national contributions exceeded $250,000.
  • Kinsmen Pub Putt for Cystic Fibrosis For 26 years, ran a project called Pub Putt for CF – a pub crawl aboard a shuttle bus, raising tens of thousands of dollars for Cystic Fibrosis research.
  • Kelowna Wheelchair Rugby In 2016 the Kinsmen donated approximately $7,500 to purchase a new specialized wheelchair for the local association to help them grow the sport
  • Community Recreational Initiatives Society (CRIS) In 2016 the Kinsmen donated about $5,000 towards a new portable wheelchair lift for their adventure van.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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