The Kiwanis Club of Wilton is the longest serving volunteer and service organization in town. Next month, Wilton Library‘s assistant director Mary Anne Mendola Franco will be sworn in as Kiwanis president, a role she says is very similar to what she does in her day job–serving the community. As the Kiwanis Club gears up to begin its annual pumpkin sale fundraiser, GOOD Morning Wilton spoke with Mendola Franco as part of this year’s spotlight feature on club members, finding out more about her and sharing why she became a Kiwanian in her own words. 

(To learn even more, stop by the Kiwanis Club’s pumpkin sale this Saturday. It kicks off at 11 a.m. in front of the Wilton Historical Society, but at 9 a.m., families have the opportunity to participate in the Kiwanis Club’s 2nd Family Service Day for a fun opportunity to volunteer together as a family.)

I’ve worked at the Wilton Library for 23 years. I started as the admin assistant in a part-time capacity, and then I was asked to teach computer classes. Then I did some programming, getting authors and around the time of the capital campaign in 2003 worked in development. Fourteen years ago, I was graduating from library school with my masters and I was asked to take the technology position, so I’ve been doing technology since then.

I started as a one person department and now we’re a department of three. I get to bring the cool, new technology to the community. It’s a lot of responsibility because you want to do the right thing vis-a-vis the staff, the patrons, the volunteers. We, we in technology serve everyone.

In both the Wilton Library and Kiwanis, there is a theme and I believe it’s serving the community and working with people. In Kiwanis, when we address grant proposals and we’re able to help out–as we did recently with funds for the roof on the one room Hurlbutt St. Schoolhouse–that is so rewarding. As is my position at the library–when I work with people and if I can make something in technology that was scary, not scary and maybe even fun for someone, that’s rewarding.

I joined Kiwanis on Dec. 19, 2014. My current title is ‘president elect’–I will be inducted as president on Oct. 2, 2019. The previous positions I’ve held were vice president (in charge of program speakers) and Board member.

My membership is a corporate membership under Wilton Library. When I was promoted to assistant director at the library, my boss, Elaine Tai-Lauria, the executive director of Wilton Library, thought it would be a good idea for me to join Kiwanis as part of the long standing relationship between the two organizations. I already knew so many of the members and appreciated the good work they did so I was thrilled to join. Bob Russell and Paul Hannah were instrumental in bringing me on board.

My first food drive was amazing. The generosity of the community in supporting its neighbors was eye opening. A dad and his young son came out of the store with a full cart of groceries and the little boy said to me, “This is for you.” I asked him, “Which item is it?” He replied, “All of it is for you.” I wanted to cry. I thanked him on behalf of all the people he was helping with his generous donation and he smiled the biggest smile I have ever seen. His dad was so proud of his son.

Our Vision and Mission say it all.

“Vision:  Wilton Kiwanis will enhance and strengthen a vibrant and desirable Wilton through volunteer service, contributions and fellowship. When possible collaboration with other like-minded individuals and organizations will build relationships and magnify impact.

“Mission:  Wilton Kiwanis is a volunteer organization that provides resources and funding to deserving individuals and community organizations, with a focus on the needs of youth.”  

We support our community and provide people power for service projects and funds to continue to help make Wilton a better place.

The friendship, camaraderie, and support that Kiwanians provide to their fellow members is truly a gift. Kiwanis also provides the opportunity for service to the community. This Saturday, Sept. 28, at 9 a.m. in the Pumpkin Patch at the Wilton Historical Society, our family members will help set up pumpkins so the Pumpkin Patch is ready for business at 11 am on Saturday. We are happy to welcome families and anyone else who want to see what Kiwanis is all about. (Note that proceeds from the sale of pumpkins benefits the Wilton community; in fact, proceeds from sales on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 12 and 13 will benefit the Children’s Department at Wilton Library.)

Come meet new friends, learn about new things, and work with us to make Wilton all it can be. It’s becoming part of the community. Not only is it fun to do service, it has opened me up to many people I may not have had the opportunity to work with. And all of the funds that we raise go back to the community, so what we do for service, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Please email me if you have questions or would like more information.