Downtown Kiwanians mark 100 years with new Visalia mural

The Downtown Visalia Kiwanis Club commemorates its 100th anniversary by donating a mural that encapsulates the club’s past and present community service

VISALIA – With a new century came a new mural, as one of Visalia’s Kiwanis clubs celebrated its birthday with a gift that will be visible for all residents to enjoy.

On Nov. 22, the Downtown Visalia Kiwanis Club commemorated its 100th year anniversary by donating a mural that will be painted on the Visalia Senior Center exterior wall facing 310 N. Locust St. at the corner of Oak Avenue. The Downtown Visalia Kiwanis Club celebrated its century milestone at 210 Cafe, with guest speaker and local historian Terry Ommen giving a snapshot of the Kiwanis club’s history.

“The mural itself depicts the past and the present. So it kind of addresses the history of Kiwanis and our future service to the community,” Downtown Visalia Kiwanis Club member Olivia Velasquez said. 

The muralist working on the project will be Stevie Daniels, who will begin on the mural soon and should be finished in roughly two to three months, according to Velasquez. Within the last hundred years in Visalia, the multiple Kiwanis clubs have uplifted the community in so many ways, according to Velasquez. 

Velasquez said the most recent endeavor was when Downtown Visalia Kiwanis Club partnered with Linwood Elementary School and raised $1,000 dollars for the Miracle Mile of Quarters, which is a fundraising event that raises money for Valley Children’s Hospital. Of all Kiwanis clubs throughout Tulare and Kings County, over $12,000 was raised on the quarter donations alone, according to Velasquez.

“We have a lot of service projects that support children to encourage them to believe in themselves, and to in turn, as they become adults, do service in the community,” Velasquez said. “We’ve had an amazing response.”

Ommen has been a guest speaker for the 85th, 90th and now 100th year anniversary celebrations. At this point, it has become a tradition, according to Ommen. He said that the Downtown Visalia Kiwanis Club began in 1922, but the very first Kiwanis club began in 1915 in Detroit, Michigan. Velasquez said  the club got its name from Detroit’s official historian, who suggested the Otchipwe Indian tribe phrase “NunKeewan-is,” which has various meanings. 

In this case, the Otchipwe tribe’s phrase meant “We trade,” but it also meant “We have a good time,” or “We make noise.” Within six months of Detroit’s Kiwanis club being established, it already had over 200 members. Fast forward to today, and the Kiwanis club has over 550,000 members from all over the country. In Visalia alone, there are three total Kiwanis clubs established, which are the Downtown Visalia Kiwanis, Sequoia Visalia Kiwanis and the West Visalia Kiwanis. Ommen himself was involved with the West Visalia Kiwanis years before. 

“They started with a pretty good group of people that had an interest in serving the community, socializing and having some fun,” Ommen said. 

Velasquez said in the press release that if people are interested in serving with Kiwanis, to contact the local clubs, which is needed, according to Ommen. Within the last few years, membership has begun to dwindle. This could be in part of families working more, with both parents on the clock, limiting family time. However, he said that the club’s membership numbers have fluctuated throughout history. 

Downtown Visalia Kiwanis service projects include scholarships for Visalia high school graduates, Terrific Kids awards at Linwood Elementary and Pursuing Victory With Honor sports awards in collaboration with Tulare County Office of Education. They also recognize sportsmanship and academic excellence, Cub Scouts Pack 343 sponsorship, are involved with the Key Club at Redwood High School, the Giant STEM games at STEAM Expo, BookFest, Relay for Life and many more, according to Velasquez.

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