The Kiwanis Club of Norfolk held its first meeting July 1, 1919 with 98 charter members. They received their Charter from Kiwanis International in October of that year. One of the major achievements of the early years was the establishment of our historic relationship with The Norfolk City Union of The Kings Daughters and particularly The Children’s Hospital of The Kings Daughters. One of the early Kiwanis members brought forth the need for a facility dedicated to treating underprivileged children of all races. In 1921 the club raised (among its members) $14,000 to build a 14-room Children’s Clinic, which was built and dedicated April 7th. In 1923 an additional $2000 was given for further equipping the clinic and in 1925, an additional $25,000 was raised by Kiwanians to add a third floor to the clinic. At a regular meeting October 21, 1926, held at CHKD, David Pender, past president and past Lt. Governor of the Kiwanis Capital District presented the keys to an adjacent building that he had purchased and had renovated and equipped at a cost of $25,000. Over the decades Kiwanians have continued a tradition of service to CHKD including financial assistance for the construction of the Kiwanis Children’s Emergency Center at the present building, Retrofitting for a new Negative Pressure Room, specially equipped Emergency Transport Vehicles and other special needs. Somewhat related service included our club funding a room and partnering with other Kiwanis Clubs for a second room at the Ronald McDonald House that provides close-by temporary residence for parents of children being treated at CHKD.
In 1933, our club planned, established and began operating Kamp Kiwanis, a summer camp for underprivileged kids located on the Chesapeake Bay near Little Creek. In that the Depression era had reduced the resources of members, what cash could be raised for the property, and in-kind donations from members and their friends was enhanced with a tremendous amount of “sweat equity” from members and friends to bring the camp to full operation in late June. The children, 44 girls and 44 boys all of whom were from distressed families, were provided a two-week “Health Building” outing, given medical and dental attention from physicians and dentists who were members of the club, basic hygiene instruction and averaged a weight gain of about 4 lbs. during their two-week stay. The primary gift of good health was enhanced by a lot of fun. The camp was operated each year until 1942 when the USN took the land for the Little Creek Amphibious Base. In 1945 a fund was established to provide a new camp and in 1959, $18,000 was given to the Boy Scouts for the construction of “Kamp Kiwanis” at Camp Pipsico on The James River, and still in operation. This project also established another tradition of Kiwanians working together, shoulder-to-shoulder, providing services such as construction trades and other activities for which they were untrained but became competent providers while building very strong and enduring friendships.
Another relationship of note began with our club partnering with another service club for the construction of the Child Study Center/Speech and Hearing Clinic, on campus at ODU. After construction, our club has provided additional financial aid for various programs and equipment and for additions to the facility.
Our fund raising activities have been somewhat unique in that in addition to raising needed funds for various deserving non-profit organizations, our “events” have been designed to bring favorable recognition and notice to our community. Included are the annual “Kiwanis Bowl”, a series of pre-season NFL exhibition games at Foreman Field, most including the Washington Redskins; and The Kiwanis/Old Dominion Classic, a holiday tournament that brought major collegiate basketball teams to Norfolk to vie with ODU and other teams, and get a taste of Hampton Roads Hospitality. The reviews were always complimentary and a coalition of The Local Press, The City, ODU Athletics and Kiwanis provided quite a show for a number of years.
Our current project, hosted for 21 years, has been The Kiwanis Harbor Party & Seafood Feast, an annual celebration at Towne Point Park. Our club partners with The Virginia Seafood Council, whose members provide and prepare on-site, some of the tasty treasures from our local waters. The VSC considers this event one of their primary sources of funds to finance their annual budget in support of the local seafood industry. Over $Million has been raised for charities by this event and again, included with the successful financial rewards over the years, public awareness of the Downtown, enjoying our famous “Harbor Party Crab Cakes”, “Harbor Party Clam Chowder” and all the other tasty treats, and personally meeting the many local, state and national political figures that regularly attend, are in line with our objectives to bring favorable awareness of our city and the Greater Hampton Roads Area.