Brief History of Kiwanis Club of North Lake Tahoe
November 8, 2002
David C. Antonucci
The Kiwanis Club of North Lake Tahoe was initiated by the Kiwanis Club of South Lake Tahoe – Sunrisers. In 1981, Lt. Governor Tom Millham sought to reestablish a Kiwanis Club on the Northshore of Lake Tahoe. An earlier attempt to form a club in Incline Village, Nevada failed. This time the new Kiwanis Club would be based in Tahoe City, California.
Millham and a Kiwanis International representative appeared in Tahoe City and made contact with David C. Antonucci. He was a former Sunrisers member and had recently relocated to Tahoe City. The group walked the main street of Tahoe City going from business to business recruiting new members.
When the requisite 25 members were attained, a charter application was submitted to Kiwanis International and approval was granted to form the club.
The club was officially chartered on November 4, 1981. The charter officers were Bill Bannister, President and David C. Antonucci, Secretary. Due to a quirk in Kiwanis bylaws, the new club could not assume the name of the defunct Incline Village club, Kiwanis Club of North Lake Tahoe. Instead it began as the Kiwanis Club of North Tahoe, Tahoe City. However, the new club was given the banner, bell, gavel and podium from the old club and from the beginning called itself the Kiwanis Club of North Lake Tahoe anyway. Later the name was officially changed. On December 4, 1981 the new club held its charter banquet and installation ceremony at the Cal-Neva Casino Resort.
The Club was almost entirely composed of baby boomers with young families. This trait was influential in the Club initially determining to put emphasis on youth academics, youth sports and the schools.
The under-30 age and 60’s attitude contributed to the Club rejecting the pomp and circumstance and rigid rules of typical of Kiwanis Clubs. At various times, the Club refused to pay international dues, attempted to induct women, declined to submit monthly reports, ignored inter-clubs and generally distanced themselves from district, region and headquarters bureaucrats. The Club had a “maverick” image but nonetheless got excellent results. Most upper level Kiwanis officials followed a passive, hands off approach in dealing with the Club.
In the year following its charter, Club membership dropped precipitously to fewer than 10 active members. For the next few years the Club was on life support. Fueled by a1984-85 resurgence in community activism, the Club rapidly grew to 40-50 members and has held steady in that range since.
A familiar truism was though the affluent Rotary Club members owned the town, Kiwanis ran the town. At one time the Club boasted membership by sheriff’ s substation commander, local fire chief, state parks superintendent, school principal, newspaper publisher, utility district manager, church minister and president of the Board of Realtors.
Fund-raising and community service had very humble beginnings. A mere $500 was raised in 1982. Since the Club had no funds, it relied on its only other resource – the volunteer labor of members. The first community service project was the razing of a dilapidated and unsafe building on the 64 Acres site. Another early project was to place collection bins at various locations around town for food donations during the holiday season.
The Club was fortunate to have two state park rangers as members, Bob Macomber and Ted Reinhardt. These two conceived a fund raising project that involved cutting, splitting and bagging dead wood culled from various state parks. The Club would mobilize all its members and anyone else who would help, to process and deliver up to 7,000 bags of firewood for resale at state campgrounds. During the 15 years the program was active, the Club earned well over $250,000 for investment back into the community.
As available wood was beginning to dwindle, Club member Fred Wickman proposed a community benefit auction as replacement. The Club rallied behind the idea and conducted its first auction at Granlibakken. Auction income steadily grew to its current (2002) net income of $25,000+. It is now the main fund raising mechanism for the Club.
Other lesser known, but nonetheless important fund raising programs are the annual SNOWFEST spaghetti feed and sale of raffle tickets.
Another notable accomplishment was the Club’s penchant for frequently changing meeting locations. The Club has held its regular meeting at more than 13 different restaurants since its inception. Many of these restaurants went out of business while the Club was still meeting there, making for some quick scrambling by Club officers. The Club currently meets Thursdays at noon in Rosie’s penthouse dining suite.
The Club focuses then and now are youth programs, schools and education, community support and infrastructure improvements. Some of the most notable projects the Club has funded and supported: Computers for Kids, Fenley Field renovation, Teen Center, Special Friends program, Halloween Carnival, college scholarships, all kinds of youth athletic and academic programs, North Tahoe Invitational cross-country running meet, Tahoe City boardwalk, Tahoe City Beautification Project, Pumpkin Patch, Easter Egg Hunt, skateboard park, fish restocking at Fanny Bridge and Commons Beach climbing wall.
There has always has been an element of family activities as a social function, which is a primary reason for Club’s success. Through internally generated funds, the Club supports softball teams, volleyball teams, Father’s Day raft trip, Precision Snow Shovel Drill Team in the SNOWFEST parade; dinner cruises, boat trips, and state park tours.
For the future, the Club will try – but not too hard -- to stay in tune with Kiwanis International. Other goals are recruitment of Generation-X members, improvements to the benefit auction and developing a legacy community project. The Club is fortunate to have unprecedented community support and involvement. The Club has been privileged to serve its community since 1982.