A Brief History
Shortly after the end of WWI, returning soldiers to Eau Claire thought there needed to be an expression of service in the environment of civic clubs, American Legion Posts and other organizations. Kiwanis was created in 1916 in Detroit, Michigan and very shortly thereafter a second club was formed in Windsor, Ontario providing Kiwanis with an international status.
The Kiwanis Club of Eau Claire was officially chartered on March 22, 1919, with about 100 people in attendance. The Kiwanis creed was “service brings its own reward” and the Club’s charter carries the number 00035. Later that year the Kiwanis International motto was changed to “We Build” and remains such today. The Eau Claire club embraced that change and never waivered in its purpose.
During its nearly 100 years, the Kiwanis Club of Eau Claire has made a significant impact on the Eau Claire community. The primary mission of Kiwanis has always been a focus on bettering the learning and living environment of children throughout the world. Kiwanis believes that the opportunity to become a Beethoven, a Shakespeare, a Da Vinci, or an Edison should be available to every child and the Kiwanis Club of Eau Claire is no exception. By sharing their “K” the Club has helped to “build” over 11 other Kiwanis Clubs in NW Wisconsin.
Whether it was supporting the continued operation of the new normal school in Eau Claire, involvement in many civic betterment projects, fighting drug addiction, planting trees to create a forest later donated as a park, or providing books to thousands of young children who never owned a book before, the Kiwanis Club of Eau Claire was there. Over the years, hundreds of worthy children’s projects were carried out using thousands of dollars earned from serving millions of pancakes and countless hours of volunteer labor.
The ”Reading Is Fundamental” (RIF) program was initiated by members of the Club and during a two-year period, Kiwanians distributed over 10,000 books to grade-school children in Eau Claire and Altoona. Kiwanians not only distributed books, but took the time to read to children in their classrooms to introduce them to the joy of reading. This activity won for the Club, the highest award Kiwanis International can give—the International Single Service Award.
Another legacy of the Kiwanis Club of Eau Claire is the Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum. During the 1930s, Kiwanians Drs. Roy Mitchell and EC Murphy thought a facility should be developed to remember the people and industry that founded Eau Claire. Thus, the Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum was born.
Situated in beautiful Carson Park, the Camp became an instant attraction. However, the years took their toll on the physical structures and the Kiwanis Club of Eau Claire led the effort with the two other Eau Claire Kiwanis Clubs to move and renovate the Camp. This entailed three years of work and over thousands of person-hours. The renovated camp was completed in 1981 at a cost of $190,000 all raised by Kiwanians. In 1987, the Henry O. Strand Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Interpretive Center was completed and dedicated by Wisconsin Gov. Tommy G. Thompson. 2005 saw even more space added to the camp and an independent non-profit foundation was created to help support the needs of the Camp in future years.
Kiwanis International again recognized the Kiwanis Club of Eau Claire in 1982 by awarding the Club its second International Single Service Award for the initial renovation of the Camp. Everything told, the Paul Bunyan Lumber Camp Museum represents a Kiwanis investment of almost $1 million dollars and host well over 12,000 visitors per year.
Yes, the Kiwanis Club of Eau Claire is truly a club that follows the motto “We Build.”