The Kiwanis Club of Wilton is the longest serving volunteer and service organization in town. This Friday through Sunday (Dec. 13-15), residents will see Kiwanis members outside of the Village Market and Stop and Shop, collecting non-perishable goods and personal care items for the Wilton Food Pantry, one of four times the club holds a food drive every year.

Jeff Turner is the Kiwanis Club’s Community Service chair, clearly an important job for an organization that exists primarily to perform community service. This Saturday, Jeff is excited to welcome families and Wiltonians of all ages who want to participate in the food drive for a special Family Day volunteer opportunity. We spoke with Turner as part of this year’s spotlight feature on club members, finding out more about him and sharing why he became a Kiwanian in his own words.

(by Jeff Turner as told to GOOD Morning Wilton):

I’ve been a realtor in the Wilton area since moving to Silvermine in 1997. In 2003, I became aware of the good work Kiwanis was doing in the community and was looking for ways to assimilate. I was already involved at St. Matthew’s and was invited by Kiwanis members David Bloomer and Dave Hapke to learn more about Kiwanis.

By far the best part of being in Kiwanis has been the friendships created with other members, through our mutual commitment to serving our community.  The hours spent working alongside other members, provides unique opportunities for meaningful conversation, camaraderie, and a shared satisfaction of helping others.  I have so many memories of times spent organizing, planning, and preparing for fundraising events, or hands-on service projects.

I’m currently the chair of Community Service and the coordinator of the club’s Quarterly Food Drives. I’m also the Kiwanis liaison to Wilton High School’s Key Club, and serve as a committee member for various fundraisers, like the Citrus Sale, Oktoberfest, the Pancake Breakfast, the Car Show, and the Pumpkin Sale. Previously I was president, president elect, and VP, the latter of which wears the hat of the Speaker Programs Chair. I also co-chaired the annual Citrus Sale Fundraiser for six years and chaired the Kiwanis Charity Golf Tournament for three years.

Kiwanis and other like-minded civic and community service organizations are the foundation that make Wilton such a caring and vibrant Town in which to live and work. The underlying commitment to volunteerism throughout this community is evident every hour of the day, making every facet of life here so much more enjoyable and enriching.  I often use the expression “Wilton Needs Kiwanis, and Kiwanis Needs You” to bring others into the organization, but its so true that a community can be measured by the commitment of its volunteers and the levels of philanthropy, that Wilton is a better place because of Kiwanis.  Just look at its notable history of service, like early projects of donating the Town’s first ambulance, buying the land now called Kiwanis Park and donating it for the creation of the YMCA and Little League fields, the purchase of Merwin Meadows, and more recent efforts like a major gift donation to the YMCA’s current Building New Stories campaign, the creation of the Kiwanis Chess Park in Wilton Center, or ongoing efforts to keep the shelves filled at the Wilton Food Pantry.

Wilton has traditionally been one of the largest clubs of the 150 or so clubs in all of New England, so our capacity and capabilities have allowed us to contribute greatly to the Kiwanis International mission of Serving the Children of the World. Globally, Kiwanis has taken on some of the most challenging problems that limit children’s development and opportunity. For example, Kiwanis successfully raised enough money for research and implementation to eradicate Iodine Deficiency Disorder, a severe problem in developing countries. And since 2010 the International Foundation has been making great strides to eliminate Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus. Closer to home, our New England District sponsors the Kiwanis Pediatric Trauma Institute at Tufts, and area clubs joined Wilton to name a wing at the new Ronald McDonald House at Yale. Wilton Club also has a long history of helping the Bridgeport Rescue Mission and Norwalk Open Door Shelter to help feed and house families and persons in need, so we are having an impact outside of Wilton as well.

As a realtor, every day is different, and I get to meet incredible people looking for guidance with their real estate decisions. In both roles, Realtor and Kiwanis Volunteer, I feel the satisfaction of being valued as an asset to the community. Often one of the first contacts for people considering Wilton and this area for their home or business, I can help influence perception and make a positive difference in their successful transition.  A prominent part of my ‘pitch’ regarding Wilton is the great sense of common good I’ve had the pleasure to experience first-hand through Kiwanis and other charitable organizations with which I’ve been involved. The intersection of these roles is very rewarding to me. And I want to thank the people of Wilton, for their generosity in supporting Kiwanis’ efforts to benefit our community.

If you want an opportunity to really make a difference and create enduring friendships with many of the best and kindest people in Wilton, Kiwanis is the place for you!