Atascadero Kiwanis celebrated its 50th year of serving the community. Member Jack Scott spoke on the changing times and the countless hours the group has donated for the betterment of the city. The local chapter represents the international organization whose mission is to empower communities to improve the world by making lasting differences in the lives of children.

The year was 1969, Scott told the raucous Kiwanis group, when he first joined several men who were kicking around the idea of starting a local chapter. Scott said it was a time when “getting a buzz” meant you got a haircut and you could almost drive the entire length of the city without having to stop. 

Scott said he first learned of the prospect of the club in the Atascadero News in November of 1968. He decided to meet with the group who was trying to gather enough men to start a Kiwanis chapter. In January of 1969, he became the eighth man to join the group. It was not until May of that same year that they gathered enough gentlemen to found the chapter. Scott said they originally met at Rosie’s Cafe now where David’s Cafe is located at the south end of town. 

The group has gone through many changes and gathered in several different places over the years until they found their home at Kiwanis Hall, 7848 Pismo Ave., Atascadero, next to the Atascadero Lake Pavilion. 

Kiwanis not only donates its time to the community, but also raises money. Scott spoke about the various fundraisers the group experimented. The organization sold large coloring books and American flags that apparently made great wedding and anniversary gifts, he joked. They also tried their hand at raffles, but the real money raiser for the organization was their Mid-State Fair concession booth.

“That was our savior. [It] was about 1976 and we are by far the longest participating concessionaire on the fairgrounds to this day,” Scott said. “We started with a breakdown plywood booth in the middle horse racing track.” 

He went on to say that with the booth Kiwanis went from generating $15,000 and year to $50,000. He also mentioned the annual Kiwanis & Mayors’ Winemaker Dinner as another huge contributor to their fundraising efforts.

Over the years, the Kiwanis contributed to projects for the betterment of the community. In the 70s, the association installed wheelchair access throughout all of the curbs downtown. They planted trees, gave away food and toys for Christmas, built barbecue areas for the high school and the lake park, as well as, built and rebuilt the lake’s grandstand. 

Along with the majority of chapters in the national organization, Atascadero Kiwanis voted to let women join the group in 1987. The first female member was Joy Butterfield and the first female president for the local group was Bonne Scott, Jack’s wife. He said that the association lost several members when Bonne took office. 

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“Best thing that happened to this club,” said Jack referring to the admission of women.

Jack spoke on how the group evolved for the better during his lifetime. The chapter resolved to avoid sensitive issues like politics and religion for the betterment of all, as well as, stay out of politics. The boisterous group is full of men and women that appear to genuinely enjoy spending time with each other, celebrating their history and traditions and giving back to the community that has grown up around them.

The group meets every week on Thursday at 7 a.m. at Kiwanis Hall, 7848 Pismo Ave., Atascadero.