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Montavilla Kiwanis celebrate 50th pancake breakfast with bluegrass


The Montavilla Kiwanis Club meets Tuesdays at noon in the Chinese Village Restaurant and Lounge, 520 S.E. 82nd Ave. Stop by any week, this convivial group will buy you lunch. Members, from right, Bonnie Matsler, Jeanette Dimick, Gail Lewis and Mike Mignano enjoy their weekly meal together.
TIM CURRAN/Mid-county Memo
Saturday, May 18 is the 50th anniversary of the Montavilla Kiwanis Club Annual Pancake Breakfast. The event benefits the Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp. The Montavilla Kiwanis created the 22-acre camp in 1933 for low-income children. In 1957, the focus changed to children and adults with disabilities. In years past, the annual food fundraiser has drawn from 200-300 hungry donors.

At the annul fundraising auction and dinner for the camp, Volunteer Coordinator Tom Wing (Kiwanis Club of Portland) with Auction Chair Sylvia Maly (Columbia River Gorge Kiwanis Club).
Between 8 a.m. and noon on Saturday, May 14 at the Columbia Christian School Johnson Center, 413 N.E. 91st Ave., off 92nd Avenue between Glisan and East Burnside Streets, whole families can fill up on pancakes, eggs, ham and the usual breakfast refreshments while enjoying the tunes of a live bluegrass band, all for $12.00 per family.

Freshly face-painted kids can take home artistic balloon creations, and parents can appreciate that their breakfast recreation will aid children far less fortunate.

The Kiwanis Club of Montavilla seeks to ensure that this year's landmark 50th annual pancake breakfast draws a good crowd by inviting the band the Fabulous Cover Dogs to duel banjos for the upwards of 300 hungry pancake aficionados expected to attend. In addition to the milestone anniversary and the live music enlisted to celebrate the event, this pancake breakfast differs from years past by taking place on a Saturday due to conflicting schedules at the school. Montavilla Kiwanis hope that the post-church attendees that have flocked to the event on Sundays past will wake up early on Saturday as well to help support the children who benefit from the funds raised there.

While the Kiwanis Club of Montavilla contribute to a variety of local and international programs to support the young, poor and handicapped, the pride of the club, founded in 1929, remains the Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp. The Montavilla Kiwanis opened the camp in 1933 as a retreat for disadvantaged inner city youth, and much of the proceeds from the pancake breakfast will contribute to the camp's revised mission, since 1957, to provide outdoor experiences to children and adults with disabilities.

The 22-acre camp situated along the Zig Zag River, approximately 53 miles from Portland has grown and thrived through the support of the Kiwanis and others. Far more than just a clearing in the woods, the camp now has three lodges named for the donors who helped create them (one of which features an auditorium), a swimming pool specially outfitted for the disabled, zip lines, canoes, hiking trails, horses, and more. A full staff of volunteers and professionals in the special education, therapeutic recreation and outdoor education fields, including nurses, a chef, and a cadre of counselors maintain a minimum counselor to camper ratio of 1:1 while assisting the approximately 500 campers who participate over eight weeks during the summer. Through a partnership with the Special Education department of Portland State University, students in that field may complete their capstone community service requirement by serving two weeks as a counselor. The 40 to 60 campers who attend each week generally suffer from one or more physical, emotional or intellectual disabilities, including autism, down syndrome, vision or hearing impairments, cerebral palsy, brain or spinal cord injuries and other challenges.

“I love the Kiwanis camp,” said 20-year Montavilla Kiwanis member Jeanette Dimick, whose autistic grandson has attended the camp twice. “It is such a wonderful place, not only for the kids, but it also provides respite for the parents, one of the other really big things we do by signing children up to the camp and make them really happy children, happy campers.”

Each weekly camp runs from Sunday through Friday. Campers sleep in groups of six to eight, in cabins or lodges and participate in activities ranging from a challenge/ropes course, horseback riding, hiking, arts and crafts, canoeing, swimming and fishing at Trillium Lake. On Thursdays, the camp holds skit night, a performance event featuring the campers for the parents who wish to visit.

The cost for the food, staff and events add up to approximately $2,450 for one camper to attend one week, though the camp charges parents only $850 for the experience in order to make it more affordable. Still, many parents of children and adults with disabilities have their own financial concerns supporting the medical needs of their dependent loved one, relegating an $850 weeklong retreat as out of their budget. Thus, the Kiwanis clubs established camperships to donate to families who may not otherwise be able to afford the experience. The camp also leases the land from the forest service, which six years ago raised the rate from $80 per year to $4,200. They could not provide the quality of services without donations from Kiwanis and other corporate and non-profit sponsors; that is a whole lot of flapjacks.

On April 16, Kiwanis throughout the area staged the Mad Hatter's Ball, a dinner and auction to benefit the camp. Once held at the airport Embassy Suites, the event outgrew its space, and donors now gather at the Oregon Convention Center. Items up for auction generally include boats, vacations, and gift baskets composed by each club. This year's event drew 475 attendees and raised $191,000 - $57,500 in corporate sponsorships.

The special needs program at the Kiwanis camp runs from June 19 to August 12 this year. This leaves the camp, kitchen and facilities available for rent to families, companies and other groups during the remaining months - an especially winning situation for those whose members are older or have more limited mobility. In this manner, they can easily enjoy a vacation in the woods while helping to keep the camp solvent for its more altruistic services.

Founded in 1915 in Detroit as a business-networking club, in 1919 Kiwanis changed its focus to service. Now Kiwanis International, headquartered in Indianapolis, focuses on serving the world by supporting its children. Located in 80 nations, including some third world countries, Kiwanis International raises millions of dollars every year to support both local and international service projects.

In addition to the Mt. Hood camp, the Kiwanis of Montavilla helped create the bone marrow transplant center at Doernbecher Children's Hospital. They continue to provide scholarship money that aspiring children's cancer interns can use towards their education. The club has also helped fund other community charities, like IRCO, and alternative learning art projects for struggling students at Madison High School. Montavilla members donate their time to Meals on Wheels, collect items and funds for SnowCap, and save every aluminum can tab to send to a Ronald McDonald house that collects them to buy dialysis machines.

Due to the international nature of the Kiwanis club, every regional club also has a worldwide reach. The Montavilla club collects funds and items to benefit children and families of a Philippine village. They participate in the Kiwanis International Eliminate program that aims to rid the third world of maternal and neonatal tetanus, a preventable disease that continues to take the lives of over 50,000 babies each year. Though large in scope, the Kiwanis see the goal as achievable; they eliminated iodine deficiency a few years ago.

The proceeds of the 50th pancake breakfast will in part support all these programs, and the Kiwanis flipping the flapjacks benefit their own morale through the participation. During a recent meeting, held weekly at the Chinese Village (Southeast 82nd Avenue and Stark Street) on Tuesdays at noon, members each displayed their club appreciation in their own way. Gail Lewis, wife of John Lewis, club president, who recently lost her mother, said, “when you get older you don't have many friends because you aren't working, and being in Kiwanis you get some friends that way, and it is really nice besides helping children and other people.” New member Bonnie Matsler recalled attending the Mt. Hood Kiwanis camp as a junior counselor and was excited about returning as a new member of Kiwanis this summer. The meeting also featured two non-members, Greg Bunker, a local business owner of KB Custom Frames (7828 S.E. Stark St.) and the speaker for the day, and Susan Foxman, principal of Vestal school, both of whom attended to support the Kiwanis efforts on behalf of the community and beyond.

For those who would like to donate to the Mt. Hood camp and other Kiwanis sponsored programs, and enjoy a hearty pancake breakfast to boot, bring your family, pour on the syrup, buy a raffle ticket or two and tell your friends about the 50th annual pancake breakfast. It will not matter whether you go home with the grand prize or your ticket turns up blank, because like the Kiwanis club - everyone wins in the end.
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