reprinted from Daily Record
October 1, 2014 by Leslie Ruse
(Photo courtesy of Frank Cahill )
Gordon Meth was delighted to be nominated vice president of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Parsippany nine years ago.
“After I was there a year, they asked me to serve as vice president. First I thought, what an honor. Then I realized okay, most of the other people who come regularly have done it or don’t want to do it,” Meth said, laughing.
“But I like the giving back and the camaraderie. I mean, a lot of people say, why should I join a club to do volunteer work? It’s kind of their way to say, why should I do it when I don’t make any money?”
Since that time, Meth has served in almost every capacity for the club. At the 97th annual convention of the New Jersey District of Kiwanis International in August, he was sworn in as governor-elect.
“The way Kiwanis is organized is we have individual clubs and then we have districts. There’s 50 districts of Kiwanis. The whole state of New Jersey is one district. I serve as governor-elect for a year before I take over as governor. It’s a progression,” said Meth, also president of the board of trustees for the Parsippany Child Day Care Center.
“You get elected to one thing and serve for three years straight, first as governor-elect then as governor. It’s like an apprenticeship the first year. You’re an understudy.”
Kiwanis is a worldwide service organization located in more than 96 countries. Their major emphasis is on serving the children of the world one child at a time. Kiwanis were founded in 1915 in Detroit.
In 2015, they will celebrate their 100th anniversary with a host of special events. In its earlier years, the organization focused on business networking but by their first decade, changed the emphasis to service and helping others.
“One of the catch phrases that I kind of made up when I was president of Parsippany’s club, was that we’re in to recycling. We recycle time and money back into the community to give and help out,” said Meth, who lives in the Lake Hiawatha section of Parsippany with his wife and two sons.
To raise money for the many organizations and groups they donate to, just this past year the Parsippany Kiwanis held fundraising events including Touch-A-Truck, Shred-It and a Grand Tasting Event. They also work at local parades and street fairs to raise awareness and solicit donations.
“People gave knowing the money was already back to where it needed to go,” said Meth, of the Kiwanis’ name. “The advantage is we’re a trusted name and it’s already established with a foundation so we’re there to help when we need to.”
Just a few of the groups the fundraisers allowed them to contribute to were the Police Unity Tour, Sharing Network, Parsippany Child Day Care Center, Morris County Park Commission, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Parsippany Community Center, Family Promise and Camp Nejeda, which serves children with Type 1 diabetes.
“Some of the things we’ve done are pretty impressive. The reality is, how much volunteer work do people really do unless they have the framework that lets them do it easily,” said Meth, who’s originally from Canada.
“I mean, how many of us really just go up and say, I’m volunteering to cook or doing service projects or giving to charity unless somebody kind of puts it in front of us to do it. Here we volunteer to be one of the people that does this.”
Once a month, members cook meals for Homeless Solutions in Morristown and serve food to the walkers at the March of Dimes walk. During Hurricane Sandy and Irene, members helped by handing out blankets and cleaning up their neighbors’ homes and the surrounding communities.
“One of the main things Kiwanis offers that other service organizations doesn’t, is it serves as leadership programs for kids. One of the biggest is Key Club, which is a Kiwanis family club for high school students,” Meth said.
“We also have K-Kids for elementary students, Builders Clubs for middle school kids, Circle K for college age kids and action clubs for special needs adults. It’s definitely one of the really good things that Kiwanis does.”
Key Club International is the oldest and largest service leadership organization for teens. It provides its members with opportunities to provide service while building character and developing leadership skills. Key Clubs are extremely popular in New Jersey with more than 14,000 members in New Jersey.
One of the problems facing the Kiwanis of Greater Parsippany, is the same one many service organizations around the country are dealing with, engaging new and younger members.
“The dynamic has changed so we’re having a hard time attracting new members. We’re totally faced with that challenge across the board in New Jersey and actually, across the whole country. Unfortunately the clubs are aging and the number of members is diminishing. People don’t go looking to join service clubs because the whole demographic of how we interact and work together is changing,” Meth said, a civil engineer specializing in traffic.
“For a lot of people, the Kiwanis club was a time to come out and hang out and talk to their friends and do some good work when you do projects. But the social demographic has changed so much, people no longer need to go see people anymore. Between Facetime and Facebook and everything else, you can find out what’s going on without going to a meeting and talking to people.”
Members of the community are invited to attend meetings of the Kiwanis of Greater Parsippany every Thursday at 7:15 a.m. at the Empire Diner, 1315 Route 46 in Parsippany.
“Usually the first time somebody comes we pay for breakfast for them. People are always welcome. We’re always in the back room of the diner. Anybody can show up for that. We have an open invitation,” Meth said.
“I find that people can always find time to do something they want to do. No matter how busy they think they are. So it’s just a matter of wanting to do it. And I want to.”
This year’s 18th Annual Grand Tasting Event will be held from 6:30-9:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 23 at the Hanover Manor, located at 16 Eagle Rock Ave. in East Hanover. Tickets are $60 each and include a dinner buffet, fine wines, craft beers, select spirits, hors d’oeuvres and a silent auction. For tickets or more information, call 973-549-4185.
For more information about the Kiwanis Club of Greater Parsippany, visit parsippanykiwanis.org.