Duneland service club members are making an impact on the region and beyond through their devotion to community and global causes.
The Chesterton-Duneland Kiwanis group has been active in the community since 1979, supporting initiatives and organizations at the local, state and international levels.
“Our mission is to improve the world, one child and one community at a time. We do this through fund-raising and service,” says Chesterton-Duneland Kiwanis President Joe Juarez. “While we concentrate on local causes, we also participate in several state and international projects as well.”
Group members work in local elementary schools through the Bring Up Grades program as well as support such organizations as the Duneland Boys and Girls Club, Duneland YMCA, Rebuilding Together Duneland, Westchester Food Pantry and the parks departments in Chesterton, Porter and Burns Harbor.
“Our state initiative includes Riley Hospital for Children. Indiana Kiwanians have donated millions of dollars to Riley over the years,” he says. “Our international project includes ELIMINATE, which is an initiative to eliminate neonatal tetanus worldwide. We contributed enough last year to save over 700 lives. To date, Kiwanians worldwide have contributed over $75 million to the cause.”
The group’s upcoming event is its annual golf outing Aug. 14 at the Brassie Golf Club in Chesterton.
The Duneland Exchange and Chesterton Lions clubs also continue to serve through events and programs.
The exchange club recognizes youth who are making a difference through its monthly honor and it hosts events such as the frog hunt and wine tasting event. The club focuses on child abuse awareness and prevention.
The Chesterton Lions Club provides vision screening for all local preschool children and helps those who need assistance obtaining eyeglasses. The eyeglass recycling program funds efforts to help the visually impaired.
As part of Lions Club International, the mission of the Lions is to empower volunteers to serve their communities, meet humanitarian needs, encourage peace and promote international understanding through the clubs, says Chesterton Lions Club President Brad Hinken.
The group contributes regularly to the Boys and Girls Club, Westchester Food Pantry, Meals on Wheels and Rebuilding Together Duneland and offers annual scholarships to Chesterton High School students.
Also, the Lions are often found flipping pancakes at events such as the Family 4th Fest in Porter and Maple Sugar Time and participating in the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program. Members man a booth at the Taste of Duneland.
“The summer events season is our primary opportunity to raise money to assist others throughout the year,” Hinken says. “We hold an annual rubber duck race. Participants can purchase a ticket to sponsor a rubber duck with a chance at winning a cash prize.”
The Chesterton-Porter Rotary Club is marking its 55th year fulfilling its mission outlined during a planning retreat last year, says President Heather Klein Olson.
“Our mission statement says, ‘The Chesterton-Porter Rotary Club is a diverse and passionate service organization made up of community-focused and globally-concerned individuals,’” Olson says. “We support the Duneland community by granting over $15,000 per year to local community organizations, college scholarships to high school seniors and international endeavors.”
Locally, the group supports such organizations as Westchester Public Library, Frontline Foundations, Rebuilding Together Duneland, NeighborLink Porter County, Parents as Teachers and Reigns of Life.
Three years ago, the organization invested more than $10,000 in materials from the club’s financial reserves in the Duneland Diamond baseball field.
“With these funds, we were able to install two dugouts with signage and a storage shed, as well as landscaping and beautification of the field and surrounding natural areas,” she says. “The club continues to support the field on an annual basis with a monetary contribution and volunteer service hours through field workdays.”
Group members can be found at the Westchester Public Library’s Friday night Movies in the Park series. They host the sale of popcorn and soda at the events.
“The low-cost of our popcorn (25 cents a bag) and soda (50 cents a can) allows us to break even on supplies and provides a unique service to the community at this weekly entertainment event,” she says. “Three to four Rotarians staff each Friday evening movie, providing over 120 volunteer service hours throughout the summer.”
The organization is planning to host a concert festival locally that will impact a Chesterton native’s global foundation.
“See Change Foundation is focused on transparently improving the health and education of children in Nepal,” says founder Erik Bouchard. “We believe that helping others is a social responsibility and it should not follow a western business model. It is a responsibility of all of us to improve the lives of those around us.
“Our focus is on orphans and children born into the lowest caste who are socially and financially disadvantaged from the day they are born.”
The event, slated for Aug. 2 at Sunset Hill Farm County Park, will support the foundation as well as the Rotary Club. The event’s name, Babapaloosa, is derived from “baba,” which is grandfather in Nepalese.
“Our club was introduced to Erik a couple years ago through his father, Gary Bouchard, and we were immediately impressed by his personal, unselfish story of service and deeply compelled by his organization’s mission,” Olson says. “Babapaloosa originated from an annual benefit ride organized by Gary. We hope this family-friendly festival will become an annual community event that is enjoyed by all.”
“My father started this event some years ago after visiting Nepal and a local orphanage I support. It really changed the way he viewed life and the way we live in the West,” Bouchard says. “Children have absolutely no possessions but are full of joy and laughter. This is something we want to share - for raising awareness but also showing others they have a million reasons to be happy.”