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East County News Service

February 7, 2015 (La Mesa)--Chartered in February 1940, the Kiwanis Club of La Mesa celebrates its 75th Anniversary with a special, invitation only event at the La Mesa Community Center on Thursday, February 19, from 5:30 – 7:30 pm.  An opportunity drawing will be held.  Complimentary hors d’oeuvers will be served, and there will be a no-host bar. Although the event is by invitation only, persons interested in attending may contact the event chair, Glenna Bloemen, at 619-743-5192 to receive an invitation.

Known as a service organization with an emphasis on youth, the La Mesa Kiwanis Club is the long-time sponsor of the Helix High Key Club, and more recently, of the La Mesa Middle School Builders Club.  Through its La Mesa Kiwanis Foundation, the club annually awards thousands of dollars in college scholarships to graduating seniors at Helix, Grossmont and Chaparral High Schools, the latter being supported by the Chubby Sykes Memorial Trust.

Over the past dozen years, the public image of the club has been the Drew Ford/Kiwanis Club of La Mesa Soap Box Derby, which was held three times a year on Junior High Drive adjacent to Highwood Park and La Mesa Middle School.  Frequently the club’s Soap Box Derby races were covered by TV and print media, including a spread in Sports Illustrated Magazine.  Joe Drew, who was active in the club into the late 1980s, was named an honorary member and Drew Ford continued to fund club projects until sale of the dealership last October.

La Mesa Kiwanis originated “Miracle Mile of Quarters” in 1987, spreading quarters on mats on the mall at Grossmont Center to raise funds for Childrens’ Hospital.  “MMQ” went “national” and has become a method to benefit childrens’ hospitals nationwide.  A mile of quarters totals about $15,000.  The club’s Annual Washington Apple Sale was a major fund-raiser for many years.  The club also is a sponsor of Peter Pan Junior Theater.

Other service events have included painting the Historic La Mesa Train Station, and participation in the Grossmont Games Special Olympics, the Chamber’s Involvement Free Enterprise, the La Mesa Police Department’s Grafitti Patrol,  Grossmont Healthcare District’s Kids Care Fest, the City of La Mesa’s Annual Flag Day Parade, La Mesa Library’s Authors & Artists fair, and “Pooch in the Park” at Canine Corner in Harry Griffin Park. Currently, La Mesa Kiwanis is supporting a Key Club Walkathon, pitting Helix vs Grossmont to raise the most money for East County Boys & Girls Club; and a Builders Club “Breakfast at the Springs” for residents at the seniors apartments.

Although the Diamond Anniversary event on February 19 is by invitation only, persons interested in attending may contact the event chair, Glenna Bloemen, at 619-743-5192 to receive an invitation.


Among charter members of the Kiwanis Club of La Mesa were Elmer Drew (Drew Ford) and John C. Davis (Davis YMCA).  Over the years other community leaders have included Heartland Savings & Loan President Chuck Latus, City Councilman Hardy Kuykendall, Helix Water District General Manager Bob Friedgen, Grossmont High School Principal Bill Davis, Grossmont Healthcard District board member Michael Emerson, Grossmont Escrow owner Bill Verbeck, La Mesa Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Gordon Austin, East County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Eric Lund, East County Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Jerry Fazio, Lutheran Pastor Herb Hoffman, and Adventist Pastor Steve Asmuth.  

Also attorneys Keith Meeker, Clayton Anderson and Bill Fischbeck; accountants Cliff Asay, John Ahern and Walt Weisman; dentists Jeff Gray and Pear Karlsgodt; stock brokers Andy Knutson and Bob Shultz; Realtors Glen Mitchell, Connie Butt, Dick DeNure and Tom LeDuc; veteranarian Cyril Padfield, and business owners Steve Blake, Bob Battenfield, Dave Gillespie, George Felix, Ken Justo, and Roger Arnold.

Oscar Knight, owner of Knight Financial, rose from La Mesa club president to Division Lt. Governor, to California-Nevada-Hawaii District Governor, and finally to the Board of Trustees of Kiwanis International.


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