Perhaps autumn is his favorite time of year, for he knows the howling, bone-dry Santa Ana winds will rip across the Southern California landscape, sucking the last bit of moisture from vegetation that has been baking all summer long. Conceivably, the arsonist felt powerful as he lit the single match that sparked what would be a five- day reign of terror-the Laguna Beach firestorms of October 1993. Raging through neighborhoods and ecological preserves, this blaze charred 16,682 acres, and left hundreds of residents homeless.
Dedicated firefighters eventually stopped this arsonist’s brief reign. and the outpouring of county wide support for fire victims stripped him of his power. Help from the heart donations of time and basic necessities by groups and individuals lessened the agony of loss. Many heard the call to action. One such group, appropriately called the AKtion Club, answered this call loudly with a barrage of supplies and money, immediately and lovingly donated.
The AKtion Club is a community service group composed of developmentally disabled adult citizens who strive to return, through their service to others, the help. care, and opportunities of employment that they have received from the community. Simultaneously the club’s efforts help to develop and improve the qualities of initiative and leader- ship within its membership. Why is AKtion spelled with a “K”? AKtion Clubs across the country are sponsored by local Kiwanis clubs, in cooperation with community rehabilitation programs, and they not only raise money for community needs, but also participate in environmental projects, park beautification, food drives, and nursing home visitations.
There are currently sixty Aktion Clubs nationwide; the branch that came to the aid of Laguna Beach fire victims is a part of Saddleback Community Enterprises, a rehabilitation program located in Mission Viejo, California. Each year, this AKtion Club’s members elect new officers who brainstorm with the group to come up with creative fundraisers. Hand-delivered “holiday-grams,” a colorful cookbook full of scrumptious recipes concocted by club members, and a greatly anticipated annual theme dance are just a few of their ideas that have been put into action to serve the surrounding community. The money raised has gone to a variety of people, from Northridge quake victims to homeless families in Orange County.
The Mission Viejo AKtion Club’s caring outreach, however, extends far beyond local boundaries One person in particular a very special child in Africa-has been the beneficiary of the AKtion Club’s helping hands. The eyes of AKtion see no borders.
Juliet George lives thousands of miles away, in a small country on the west coast of Africa called Sierra Leone-the name means “mountains of the lion” and she is grateful to have the support and friendship of the AKtion Club. Working with the non-profit organization Childreach, the AKtion Club sponsors Juliet by raising twenty dollars a month.. Shawna Crout, a club member, sees it this way: “Her mom and dad have some troubles right now, and we help her so that she can go to school, have good food, and be healthy.” Childreach is also committed to Juliet’s community, and works with families to establish projects centered on health, income generation. and community development.
The financial contribution is crucial to the improvement of Juliet’s life, but it is the friendship between Juliet and the club members that has proven to be the biggest inspiration to the people in both countries. The mutual correspondence-pictures, drawings, and cards-lets Juliet know how much the club cares about her, and also enables the club to learn about Juliet’s day-to-day life. In a recent letter, a family member writes: “Juliet is presently taking her final school year exam. She needs your prayers for her total success.” This personal connection is vitally important and meaningful for everyone involved.
As AKtion Club member Tony Meza says about community service, “It makes me feel so happy. Everyone should get out there and help because it just feels good.” It is easy to sit back and worry about problems in your community, but as the members of the AKtion Club have learned, the extra effort it takes to get out and do something to solve these problems is more than worth it. The club members understand and appreciate the fact that they have received an abundance of support in their lives, and by giving back to others in their community-their world-it continues the circle of support. They know the truth of the words written long ago by the philanthropist and author Samuel Johnson: “To receive and to communicate assistance constitutes the greatest happiness of human life…”
For information on starting an AKtion Club in your community, contact your local Kiwanis Club or Kiwanis International at 1-800-KIWANIS.
by Christina Gaugler