In the late spring of 1921 a group of men headed by Kaywin Kennedy, A. L. Beyer and C. W. Frey, among others, called their friends and associates together to form a Bloomington Kiwanis club. The group, which met at the Illinois House Hotel, grew to more than fifty members during the summer. Soon after their formation the group applied to Kiwanis International to be chartered as an official club. The charter was granted on September 21st 1921. The charter was delivered to Bloomington on November 14, 1921 by the sponsoring Kiwanis Club of Springfield.

In 1928 the Bloomington Kiwanis Club absorbed the Bloomington Lions Club adding members and prestige as these two clubs of community leaders became one.

In 1932, The Kiwanis club, in association with the Bloomington Pantagraph developed a Community Gardens project in which several acres of land south of town were loaned by land owners to plant vegetable gardens to help feed a community suffering from the deprivations of the Great Depression. The project provided work for unemployed men in the community and also provided a bounteous harvest to feed the hungry.

In 1931, the Bloomington Pantagraph, under the leadership of Kiwanian Reverend Frank Breen began sponsoring Camp Limberlost, a camp for area children. By 1932 Kiwanians were increasingly involved in the project and in 1934 Kiwanis became co-sponsor. In 1940 The Bloomington Kiwanis Club became the sole sponsor of the project. For more than 75 years this project has continued. It is now the longest running continuous project in all of Kiwanis International. It is also the oldest residential camp in Illinois. Thousands of third and fourth grade children have been involved in this camping experience over the years. Children, grandchildren and recently great grand children of campers have attended the camp.

Kiwanis also has several other projects focusing mostly on children, ranging from the annual summer picnic for Foster children and their foster parents that brings together foster parents to share their experiences and attend seminars by various representatives from supporting agencies. The children meanwhile enjoy food, fun and games and get acquainted with other foster children in the area.

The Bloomington Kiwanis club has developed many fund raisers to help support its many projects. The annual Peanut Days has been a fixture on area street corners on a September weekend. Area residents have been coming to the annual Pancake Days in February or March and they have bought Kiwanis Cheese during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season. Recently, the newest fundraiser, The Kiwanis Mothers Day Flower Sale has been a popular event on the first weekend in May.

All of these fund-raising events provide the support for the club’s nearly $60,000 annual budget for community service… all of it raised by Kiwanians who donate their time, energy and expertise to these projects.

Recently the Bloomington Kiwanis Club celebrated 90 years of service to this community. Over the years we have partnered with many agencies in the community to help make our corner of the world a better place to live and work and grow. The community has opened its arms to us in the effort to make Bloomington-Normal a great place to live. We hope to continue the relationship for another 90 years.

- By John W. Kirk