April is National Volunteer Month. Throughout the month we will share articles about the history of service organizations in Osceola County.
Kissimmee Kiwanis Club
Organized in April of 1925 with 44 members, the Kissimmee Kiwanis Club held its charter presentation dinner on May 28, 1925, at Bostain’s Hotel, with Ben Bostain installed as the club’s first president. Comprised of business and professional men of the community, the club immediately began plans “to build,” which was the meaning of Kiwanis.
The first major undertaking of the club was to build a swimming pool on the lakefront near Ruby Avenue in Kissimmee. The pool would be 50 by 150 feet, surrounded on three sides by a Spanish stucco building to serve as offices, baths, locker rooms, lobby and lounging room. It is unknown why the pool was never built.
In December 1930, when a train car load of tick-infested dairy cows arrived they were quarantined in the local stockyard for a week. Realizing the cows needed to be milked daily and knowing the Kiwanis Club was interested in helping the children of the community, they were called upon to assist. Twice daily, club members arrived at the stockyard with milk pails. The milk was delivered to the school lunch room and given free to the children.
Over the years, the club continued to aid those in need by providing tonsillectomies to children of families unable to afford the surgery, paying for school lunches for needy children, supplying special shoes for crippled children, assisting school athletic programs and providing training equipment. A 1941 news article stated that 57 Christmas baskets and toys were furnished to needy families. In 1975 more than 100 baskets were delivered Christmas Eve. Christmas food baskets for disadvantaged families and gifts to the children of those families continues to be a yearly project of the club.
The club’s agricultural committee was active in the promotion of the Kissimmee Valley Range Show, the predecessor of the Kissimmee Valley Livestock Show, and aided in getting the livestock auctions established. Both Cub Scout and Boy Scout troops have been organized by the club and Key Clubs in the high schools are supported by the Kiwanis Club.
Written by Anza Bast.
Sources: Charter presentation program; “Orlando Evening Star” April 14, 1925; “Orlando Sentinel” March 14, 1925, April 25, 1941; January 14, 1975; “Kissimmee Gazette” December 18, 1930; photo from Osceola County Historical Society archives.