With Grapefruit League baseball now underway in Florida, the Historical Society of Ottawa offered its own double header on March 8, 2023, at the Main Branch of the Ottawa Public Library. Both sessions focused on the importance of making connections and building the community. Leading off was Phil Rossy who spoke on the long and continuing involvement of the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa in the development and delivery of community services in Ottawa. Next up was Sam Laprade who reflected upon her role as a radio host during the early days of the pandemic. Both Phil and Sam knocked it out of the park.
Phil Rossy has been a member of the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa for 23 years, having served both as Club President and as the President of the Kiwanis Eastern Canada and Caribbean District. He has over 40 years of Hospitality experience in Hotel and Restaurant Management as well as contract management and consulting in Hospitals, Long-term Care and Retirement Communities. Among his many roles, Phil is also an educator, being the coordinator and principal developer of the Retirement Communities Management Program at Algonquin College.
Phil gave us some of the highlights of the long history of the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa. Sixty-two members attended the Club’s first regular Friday lunch, which took place on the 7th of December 1917 at the Chateau Laurier. These bimonthly lunches continue to this day, now at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club. Receiving their official Charter in 1918, with W. G. Keddie becoming the first President, they set right to work by providing transportation from Union Station for returning veterans. Like many organizations founded at that time, membership was restricted to men. This changed in 1990, when Shirley Tomblin became the Club’s first female member.
The Club has always had a sharp focus on the needs of children. It founded the Kiwanis Boys Club, now the Ottawa Boys and Girls Club, in 1924 and Camp Banting, a special summer camp for children living with Diabetes, in 1953. In 1942, the Club established the 211 Kiwanis Air Cadet Squadron, which it supports to this day. Club members currently provide a reading program for kindergarten students, while the Club also supports 8 Key Clubs in local High Schools, and two Circle K Clubs in our local universities, providing leadership opportunities for these youth.
The autonomous nature of Kiwanis allows individual Clubs the flexibility to respond to the specific needs of their own community. Thus, over the years, the Club has supported the Kiwanis Music Festival and Special Olympics and supports the Youville Centre, providing services to young mothers and, much earlier, the Club even recommended the formation of the Better Business Bureau to our City Council.
Though Kiwanians are far from shy about rolling up their own sleeves, volunteer hours being a membership requirement, they are also well known as effective fundraisers. Many fondly remember the Kiwanis TV Auction and the Kiwanis Duck Race, from years gone by, and today, the Kiwanis TV Bingo is very popular, and provided a much-needed diversion during the early days of the pandemic. The funds raised stay in our community, with organizations such as C.H.E.O. being major recipients.
The Kiwanis Club of Ottawa remains a vibrant organization. There are 120 current members, with King Charles III being their most notable honorary member. The members, bound in fellowship and their determination to help where needed, stand ready and willing. Phil reminded us that there will always be those in our community who fall through the cracks and so always a need for those, like the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa who are prepared to step in where needed. Ottawa Kiwanians can be justly proud of their long and ongoing contribution to the betterment of life within our city and they welcome any interested in lending their hearts and hands to join them in their work.
You can learn more about the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa at www.ottawakiwanis.org