Be the Change #19 – Be Like Debbie

Debbie Whitfield is my oldest friend.  We’ve known each other since we were little girls attending Sunday School at Trinity Lutheran Church in Sheraden.

Today, Debbie is a wife, mother, grandmother, working woman – and dedicated volunteer with Kiwanis.  This week’s blog post is easy, because when I asked Debbie about her volunteer experience, she sent me such a powerful story that I share it here in her own words, edited only for brevity….

I was raised by parents who served. They served at church, at our school, and with youth programs. They instilled in us the importance of giving back, and my brothers and I followed their example. I have been blessed in many ways and I want my footprint on this earth to be a positive one.

When my kids were young I volunteered at their schools and youth programs. As my kids grew up, I moved on to community groups . Kiwanis was holding a recruiting dinner and my husband and I attended. I knew most of the people there and they shared their Kiwanis story. The official mantra is that Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers, dedicated to changing the world, one child and one community at a time. I was on board in no time.

As time went on, I found out that those lofty goals were actually achievable. The Kiwanis family offers groups for every age level. We have K-kids for elementary school, Builders Clubs for middle-schoolers, Key Club for high-schoolers, Circle K for college age and action clubs for adults with special needs.

My Sheraden club sponsors many of the Kiwanis family clubs, introducing young people to a life of serving others. My club is located in Sheraden, an inner city neighborhood that has been hit hard with poverty and the issues that come with it. Sometimes partnering with other service organizations, we sponsor or co-sponsor events for kids and families throughout the year: a biggest bedtime story, an Easter egg hunt, an annual community picnic, and Halloween and Memorial Day events.  The health, safety and fun fair is my favorite event. We partner with other agencies to provide health, education and public safety resources for families. We do this in a fun hands-on environment. We provide lunch and every child receives a free bike helmet.

We also distribute books by the thousands. Owning books encourages kids to read and kids who read are kids who succeed.

The signature project at the PA state level is early childhood learning and we have distributed over 145,000 early learning guides. These guides help parents and other adults to fill the Pre-K learning niche. Kids who enter school with a solid foundation are far more likely to be academically successful.

On a global level, Kiwanis International adopts a cause and Kiwanians all over the world work on the problem. Over $100 million was raised for iodine deficiency disorder, virtually eradicating the problem on a global scale. Kiwanis International also partners with UNICEF on other significant health initiatives. Our most recent endeavor was Project ELIMINATE, geared at eliminating maternal and neonatal tetanus. Simple vaccinations save lives.

Recently Kiwanis adopted a new marketing campaign that I love because it embodies the Kiwanis spirit: “Kids need Kiwanis.” The work we do with children is important and we do it with a passion to impact their lives. I would go one step further and say Kiwanians need kids, because the work we do is so rewarding. By joining my fellow Kiwanians we are changing the world, one child and one community at a time.

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