Kiwanis In The Community: The Great Elastic Kiwanis

Kiwanis members gather for the 75th Anniversary Celebration of the club at the Blue Window Restaurant. Photo by Karin Church

BY CHERYL PONGRATZ
Los Alamos Kiwanis Club

Kiwanis has been in Los Alamos for 75 years. Some of you may know that it was a fraternal organization from 1948 to 1987. That means a “boys club.” No women allowed! Even the High School Key Club was all boys. The reason for this was partly “historical”—those types of groups had always been for the men—and partly a feeling that women really weren’t interested. 

Well, life changed for Kiwanis in 1987. Women were welcomed into the club. There is no organizational memory on whether men left in protest or welcomed the new members but we know that women have become an essential part of every aspect of the club.

Lorraine Hartway (local CPA) was the first female president of the Los Alamos Kiwanis Club in 1994 and Krissy Jones was the first of the Sunrise Club in 1999. The Sunrise Club disbanded in 2001 but the LA Club continued seeing female presidents almost as frequently as males. The current club membership is right at 50/50 men and women. 

Kiwanis Clubs have expanded and contracted in Los Alamos. While the Kiwanis Club of Los Alamos has remained steady for 75 years, a very active Sunrise Club operated from 1981 to 2001. Many of their members remain in Kiwanis in the LA club. Another Club was organized briefly (about 1986-1988) to specifically serve White Rock. 

Kiwanis Clubs used to be prevalent in the Northern New Mexico area with large active clubs in Taos, Espanola, Cimmaron, two in Las Vegas and two in Santa Fe. Unfortunately, now only one Los Alamos Club, two Las Vegas Clubs and one Santa Fe Club continue and only Los Alamos supports multiple youth clubs at the schools.

There are fewer Kiwanians in this part of the state but all of the existing clubs continue the legacy of community service—the largest program is Zozobra, run by the Santa Fe Club and the most critical program this past fire season was an outreach to collect and distribute funds to help victims of the Calf Canyon/Hermit’s Peak Fire by the Las Vegas Clubs with support from clubs all over the southwest.

The Los Alamos Kiwanis Club is always seeking new community service projects. We can’t do it all, but we do want to expand our active role in the community. You can email Cheryl or Morrie Pongratz (cheryl1438@gmail.comn or mpongratz1942@gmail.com ) with your suggestions. Of course, that means we always need new members so you can also contact one of those emails to invite yourself to one of our meetings and see if you want to be part of the new generation of Kiwanis.