Park Ridge Kiwanis Club still delivers
Dave Donovan of the Park Ridge Kiwanis Club delivers a pre-made meal for Lois Jedd through Advocate Lutheran General Hospital's "Meals on Wheels" program. | Natasha Wasinski~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 19, 2013 11:38AM
PARK RIDGE — “Is that for me?” Bill Hay called out from behind a screen door on a chilly January day.
Dave Donovan had parked in front of Hay’s Park Ridge home, and was rummaging through a foam cooler in the back of his minivan.
He produced a warm container — “Smells like pork today,” he murmured — and grabbed a second paper box.
“Hi Bill,” Donovan said, greeting Hay on the doorstep. “Happy New Year. How are you doing?”
He handed the elderly man two boxed meals, exchanged a few pleasantries and was on his way to the next house on his list.
Donovan, a longtime member of Kiwanis Club of Park Ridge, has been delivering hot meals to elderly and handicapped residents for nearly three decades.
Kiwanis members assist with Advocate Lutheran General Hospital’s “Meals on Wheels” program a dozen times a month. Donovan typically makes the trip two to three times.
“I wanted to do more volunteering,” he said of joining Kiwanis, which has been serving Park Ridge since 1925 through fundraising activities, direct-service projects and community events.
The Park Ridge club is the local chapter of Kiwanis International, a global organization of volunteers “dedicated to changing the world, one child and one community at a time.”
Park Ridge resident Ted Sigg said he signed up for Kiwanis in 1978 to network for business and pushed for earlier meetings. In 1981 Kiwanis created a morning faction for workingmen who couldn’t attend the weekly afternoon meetings.
“After 35 years I found the right reasons (for participating),” said Sigg, who is now formerly retired but has a business card listing his occupation as “Full-Time Volunteer.”
The morning club, led by Sigg, meets at Le Peep on Wednesdays before 7 a.m. The noon club, of which Donovan is president this year, meets every Tuesday afternoon at Summit of Uptown.
Kiwanis of Park Ridge underwent another big change in the 1980s: allowing women to join. It was a controversial maneuver on the club’s part, as a handful of members who disagreed with lifting the ban left the organization to form their own men’s only group.
That only lasted about two years, according to Sigg, before the some of the departed members returned and brought along female counterparts.
The two Kiwanis groups typically operate independently. The noon club hosts its annual spaghetti dinner fundraiser on Feb. 8, and provides $10,000 in grants a year to dozens of community organizations.
The morning club has a pancake breakfast event in May and, for the past 30 years, has partnered with The Harbour, Inc. to provide shelter and essential services to homeless youth and women in the north and northwest suburbs.
In December the Kiwanis clubs combined efforts to deliver holiday food baskets for the needy. Next month, they’ll reunite again at St. Paul of the Cross to serve hot meals to the homeless.
While both Donovan and Sigg made a personal commitment long ago to helping others, volunteerism has generally has waned in recent years.
Today most “Kiwanians,” as they call themselves, are older, retired adults. The average age of members in the the noon club is 76 years old, though the morning club’s newest recruit is in her 20s.
With computers and TV sets only a click away, it’s become easier to stare at a screen than to interact in person, the club leaders said.
Consequently, traditional service and social clubs only have a sliver of the membership totals they had during the 1960s, when one-third of the population volunteered in some capacity, Sigg said.
“It used to be that being involved was very, very important,” he said.
Recruitment of new members may be tougher, but the good work of Kiwanis and other service organizations is as valuable as ever.
“People need to be helped,” Donovan said. “They have a need.”
He said he encourages his three Eagle Scout sons to get involved in their community in whatever way they can. Because of his own avid volunteerism, the Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce is honoring Donovan with its Lifetime Achievement Award on Jan. 19.
Sigg, whose give-back spirit has taken him on 10 trips to Vietnam, said it only takes a few good experiences to put “the hook” in a volunteer’s heart.
“Helping someone, that’s what it’s about,” Sigg said. As he puts it, “the only thing I can’t do is nothing.”