New Lenox resident Paul Balducci is the last man standing, as Frankfort Mokena Kiwanis go. Make that the last original charter man standing in this local service organization, which celebrates its 35th anniversary Nov. 3.
The chapter's participation in Peanut Day on Friday, Sept. 23, and Saturday, Sept. 24, will mark its 34th weekend of "shaking their cans" and collecting donations by handing out peanuts, Balducci said.
The Frankfort Mokena Kiwanis meet at 7:30 a.m. Thursdays in the Griffins Lair at with members attending as regularly as their schedules allow.
"Geographically, we're set up to serve Frankfort Township in the areas of youth, special needs, senior citizens and the community," Balducci said.
The club's projects run throughout the year and include things like holiday food baskets and providing breakfast for campers and counselors at during the week that welcomes campers with cancer.
Another major initiative is sponsoring the annual Cabin Fever Games in February or March. Balducci originally came up with the idea to run a mid-winter game day for participants more than two decades ago. has helped the Kiwanis underwrite the cost of the game for 20 years, and Joe Pascale of has donated the lunches for 21 years, Balducci said.
In addition, each month the principals from and East high schools, along with the principals from and , each nominate a student to be honored during a Kiwanis meeting. Students receive a certificate, a Kiwanis keychain and a $50 bill. Annual scholarships are awarded to graduating students from East and North, as well.
The Kiwanis support of area students goes even deeper than monetary awards. The local chapter sponsors Key Clubs in the high schools and Builders Clubs in the junior highs.
"The Builders Club promotes an opportunity for our students to give back to the community," said Hickory Creek Middle School Principal Kevin Suchinski "It allows the students to put their character into action and truly make a difference."
Like their fellow community servants at both the adult and junior high levels, Key Club members at the two Frankfort high schools are heavily involved in service projects, both independently and with the Kiwanis chapter.
"Students ... learn valuable lessons in working with their peers and other adults, maintaining a balance between school, sports and activities and giving back to others," said Jennifer Snow, Key Club sponsor at L-W East.
Matt Jordan, the club sponsor at L-W North, agreed, saying Key Club has been teaching the students the value of service and opening the door to new interests.
"Many students have gained employment with the skills they've acquired and the professional contacts they've made, and many of our alumni (in just two years) have reported continuing their volunteerism beyond high school," he added.
Key Club students will add to the volunteer force when they join the adult Kiwanis members this weekend to collect money and pass out peanuts at Frankfort intersections. Internationally, the fundraiser generates millions of dollars for this service organization, with Frankfort contributing $7,000 to $8,000 (the goal is $10,000).
Look for the Kiwanis members at the following locations from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24: Colorado Avenue and LaGrange Road; Nebraska and White streets; Center and Laraway roads; and White Street and LaGrange Road.
For more information about Kiwanis, visit a Thursday morning meeting or call Balducci at 815-485-4187.