A call to Aktion

Adults with disabilities provided a service club to call their own
Aug. 14, 2014 @ 09:30 AM

People living with disabilities want and deserve to be treated like everyone else, which is why the Kiwanis Clubs of Forest City and Rutherfordton are joining forces, along with supporting organization Rutherford Life Services, to help establish the first Aktion Club in Rutherford County.

Aktion Club is the only service leadership club designated for adults who live with disabilities.

"The mission of Rutherford Life Services is to 'assist individuals and families with special needs to enhance the quality of their lives both personally and within the community,'" said Amanda Freeman, program supervisor at Rutherford Life Services. "How better to do this than to help sponsor a club that promotes participation in the community, with the community and giving back to the community."

"Our club is excited about helping establish an Aktion Club in Rutherford County," said John Carroll, director of Rutherford County Department of Social Services and Forest City Kiwanis member. "Rutherford Life Services is a perfect supporting organization and avenue to establish this club, and we could not do it without their support. It is an opportunity for our citizens with disabilities to give back to the community and participate in meaningful projects."

What is Aktion Club?

In 1987, George D. "Jake" Swartout, 1988-89 Governor of Kiwanis International's Florida District, organized the first Aktion Club in Putnam County, Florida for disabled adults. With the assistance of fellow Kiwanians, the Aktion Club concept spread throughout the Florida District and throughout the Kiwanis world by word-of-mouth.

Aktion Club became an official service leadership program of Kiwanis International on October 1, 2000. Today, there are clubs across the Unites States as well as Canada, Barbados, Malaysia, the Bahamas, the Philippines and Australia.

"I had never heard of Aktion Club until our Rutherfordton Kiwanis Club had two sponsors for the Spruce Pine Aktion Club come and speak at one of our meetings. They brought with them two members of the Spruce Pine Aktion Club and as I listened and learned what Aktion Club is all about, I became interested," said Peggy Truscott, Rutherfordton Kiwanis member. "Then when one of those members stood up to talk, I saw how happy she was to tell what the Aktion Club meant to her. Her excitement about participating in Aktion Club was contagious."

Aktion Club members hail from various organizations that support individuals with disabilities, as well as other community programs. Championing the motto, "Where development has no disability," each Aktion Club's vision is to develop competent, capable, caring leaders through the vehicle of service.

Aktion Club ultimately helps to improve members' self-esteem and make use of their many talents by providing a club for them to call their own.

"It will allow adults with disabilities to make new friends, have a sense of belonging and purpose and provide ways for them to give back to the community," Truscott said. "Some of these people had difficulties relating to other people, and are now leaders in their club. Aktion Club has changed their lives."

Who can become a club member?

With more than 11,000 members worldwide, Aktion Clubs provide adults living with disabilities opportunities to develop initiative and leadership, to serve their community, to be integrated into society and to demonstrate the dignity and value of disabled residents.

"Why should adults with disabilities join the Aktion Club? Fun, fun and more fun," said Debby Meissner, Rutherfordton Kiwanis president. "These adults will be making new friends not only in their club, but also in the two sponsoring clubs. They will be participating in the community by planning local projects."

Adults who are interested in service and are of good character and leadership potential are eligible for membership. The club will meet one or two times every month and members are asked to be present at each meeting.

Aktion Club has an annual membership fee of $5 per member. Fees provide an annual membership card, lapel pin, member handbook, club and member benefit programs and liability insurance coverage.

Operating like Kiwanis, Aktion Club has elected officers including a president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer. Officers are members in good standing, and no other limitations or restrictions are placed on potential officers.

Each Aktion Club also establishes a Board of Directors, which is responsible for the administration of the club. Directors bring their viewpoints to board meetings and assist the club president in his or her duties by taking on special assigned tasks from time to time.

Aktion Club committees are formed to assist in the club's administrative and activity planning, including the Service Project Committee and Public Relations Committee. The club may assign additional special committees to address and fulfill local needs. All club members are encouraged to serve on a committee, this way they remain involved in club activities.

What service projects can members undertake?

Aktion Club can address many needs of the community and help the sponsoring agency because many Aktion projects target the agency's needs. Aktion Club members strive to return to their communities the benefits, help and caring they have received, while at the same time developing important skills.

There is a substantial list of recommended service projects an Aktion Club can undertake such as major emphasis projects designed around the theme of serving the children of the world; partnership projects with area Kiwanis sponsors; a mentoring program for children and the elderly; civic involvement to address a concern or need in the community; and partnership projects with outside organizations on a local or national level.

"I believe folks who participate in the Aktion Club will enhance their knowledge of the community and increase their independence within the community," Freeman said. "Folks will develop friendships, have a sense of responsibility, ownership and commitment to making the community a better place."

If anyone is interested in becoming a member of the Aktion Club, an organizational meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 21 at 10 a.m. at Rutherford Life Services, 230 Fairground Road in Spindale. During the meeting, new members will be signed up and the first club officers will be elected.

"The Aktion Club will not only benefit members as they build leadership, decision-making and organizational skills, but also other community programs as well, through meaningful service projects they will bring to our community," Carroll said. "They will learn that working together people can make a difference, as this joint effort between our town Kiwanis Clubs and Rutherford Life Services has the goal of accomplishing."