Sycamore Club History

Detailed History of the Sycamore Kiwanis Club

The Sycamore Kiwanis Club was organized as the 195th club in the district on June 30, 1951. The club was sponsored by the DeKalb Kiwanis Club and the Charter banquet took place on July 17, 1951.

There were thirty charter members, many of whom held leadership roles in the Sycamore Community at that time.  Charter members included Fabian S. Aita, F. E. Anderson, Lester Arison, Christian H. Baie, Edward I. Boies, Lewis J. Boumgarden, Rodney D. Breunlin, Ernest C. Carls, Henry Clingman, W. Harold Edwards, Alason H. Franking, Edward L. George, Charles E.Goodley, Dr. George D. Green, Ed G. Hoffman, Dr. Howard L. Jennings, Hays Knodle, Matthew Kus, Paul V. Larson, Ross E. Millet, Forrest C. Mossholder, Gail C. Moyers, Paul Van Natta, Harold F. Paterson, Stuart E. Rasmussen, W. O. Schlegle, Everell A. Smith, Dick Strain, Russell L. Thompson and Dr. Charles W. Young. 

Many of these men were life-long members and were responsible for the early growth and integrity of the club.  Their leadership in the club and the Illinois-Eastern Iowa District of Kiwanis International was defined by the many service activities and projects that were accomplished in their era.  During the first ten years the club raised over $5,000 which was used to advance the premise of “We Build”.  Fund  raisers included the “Sycamore Stars” Benefit Show, Pancake Day, Peanut Sales, sponsoring a local Circus and selling Fruit Cakes.  The funds raised were used for a multitude of Youth and Community needs. Charter members who were active in the club for many years included F.S. (Pete) Aita, Harold Edwards, Matthew Kus, Everell A. Smith, and Dick Strain. Everell Smith served in many club capacities and was president in 1955.  He  was largely responsible for the long term professional operation on the club and its publicity and record keeping.  He and others gave the Club their strong determination to succeed, and resolve to challenge the members to greater heights.  Additionally,Harold Edward served as Lt. Governor on behalf of the Division in 1955.

The second decade for the club gave birth to the Travelogue.  This excellent Community program entertained the community  for thirty-seven years.  The Little Miss Peanut Contest was sponsored by the Sycamore Kiwanis Club and carried the public interest for several years. It evolved into a Pumpkin Queen Contest and still later into the Pumpkin Festival Parade Junior Marshall essay contest.  This decade saw the club raise $38,986. which was returned to the community through various service projects.  One notable activity in 1969 was the development of a liquid gas torch  for destroying green hemp/marijuana plants. (Matthew Kus and Harold Edwards developed the torch.) Members then worked with the DeKalb County Sheriff”s Department to eradicate DeKalb County of these plants.  Club Presidents during the 1970s were William Scott, John Chestnut, Robert Schrode, Matthew Kus, Harold Patterson, Joe L. Ripple, Joe B. Quin, Joseph Bussone, Ken Kruger, and LeRoy Greathouse. Joseph Bussone also served as Lt. Governor for the Division in 1969. The Club continued to meet on Tuesday evenings for a meal and a program. One such program was the Voice of Democracy winners, a program sponsored by the local VFW Club. Early winners of this program who presented their speeches to the Sycamore Kiwanis Club members included Margaret Cliffe, Dennis Dimarzio and Marie Wylde.

The Sycamore Kiwanis Club celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1976. It was announced that the club raised a total of $40,000 during the first 25 years. The guest speaker for the gala was Mr. Robert W. Reed  Governor, Illinois-Eastern Iowa District Kiwanis International and first lady Janet.  All of this money supported youth programs and community projects that were in need of additional funds.   A wide range of groups such as Boy and Girl Scouts, youth sports activities, and many other local requests, benefited from Kiwanis funding and participation.  The Club started neighborhood trash bag sales as part of Mayor Red Johnson’s “Keep Sycamore Clean” Program.  We also participated in the Sycamore High School Prom and Post Prom activities, by taking pictures and serving as chaperons.

In 1970 the annual High School Sports Banquet was held.  It was jointly sponsored by Kiwanis, Rotary and the Jaycees.  Under the leadership of President, Ron Myers, Quito, Ecuador was selected as our sister club.  Major improvements were made on the Pumpkin Princess Carriage, one of which was a large Kiwanis logo.  This large community festival was supported by the Club, with leadership on the Festival Committee, sponsoring the Pie Eating Contest, and in later years, manning a food booth.

It was during the 1970s that Peter Smith, son of Everell, became a 2nd generation Kiwanis member.  Serving as Club Presidents were: Keith Moberg, Ray Garland, Ed Karnafel, Lowell Akers, Richard Brush, Thomas Brotcke, Donald Bagby, John A. Wilson, Lane McMillion, and Ronald Myers.  Everell Smith served as Lt. Governor for the Division in 1979-80.

One of the more popular fund raisers over the years has been Peanut Days.  In 1980 net sales produced $1,8702.04.  This money became part of our annual Service Projects budget.  Lori McMillion, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Lane McMillion, was chosen as the 1980 Pumpkin Festival Princess.  It was during this period that the Club mourned the recent loss of Everell Smith, one of the charter members.

The Club washed windows at the local Hi Rise, worked with the Park District to develop a Kiwanis Memorial Park, donated two outdoor benches to the Sycamore Hospital, and gave the high school coaches $3,500 for safety equipment.

Serving as Presidents were:  Richard Ott, Robert Keil, Kenneth Mundy, Dan Wunsch, George Oldham, Donald Robinson, Harry Best, James Hipple, Peter Smith, and David Leifheit.  John A. Wilson was elected Division Lt. Governor for the year 1988-89.  The Club marked its 40th anniversary early in this decade.  Membership remained strong, but the club lost two long time members in 1993.  Matthew Kus, a charter member and Paul Schryver.  Matt had been one of the club members who started the Travelogue Series, which was sponsored by our Club for 37 years.  Paul was an early club member who served as our Club Treasurer from 1975 to 1996.  Paul was ably assisted by his wife Betty, who helped Paul produce annual Club scrapbooks throughout his tenure.  These books and other Club records are currently held by John A. Wilson.  A major new service project, Adopt-a-Highway, was added in 1994, and continues today.

The Club’s Lottery Night, started by Dick Graham, continues to be a major fund raiser, as does our annual Pancake Day, now the oldest continuous Club fund raiser.  The Sycamore Club nominated Joseph Bussone for the Dr. Louis V. Amador Medallion in 1994.  This, for his many years or service, especially project fund raisers.  This prestigious award was presented to Joe at the District Convention.  The following year John A. Wilson was presented the same award for his service to the Club.  In 1996 the Sycamore High School Key Club was formed.  The first female member, Kathryn (Brown) Johnson joined the Club.  A new member orientation program was started and proved to be successful.  The Club committed to supporting the first ever Kiwanis World Service Project (IDD), a program to eliminate Iodine Deficiency Disease Worldwide.  

Serving as Presidents were Richard Graham (1991-92), John Kroos (1992-93), Gary Crain 1993-94), Rob Higdon (1994-95), Nick Ruggerio (1995-96), James Edwards (1996-97), Richard Duellman (1997-98),  Kathryn Johnson (1998-99) and Andy Hargrave (1999-2000).  William FitzPatrick served two terms as Lt. Governor for the years 1996 through 1998.  John Wilson served again in this capacity for the year 1998-99.  During this period, John, Roger Jacobson, and Joseph Bussone were all presented the “Tablet of Honor”, the Club’s highest award.  Roger was honored for serving as Club secretary since 1971.  Joe and John were rewarded for their outstanding dedication and unselfish service. 

On July 20, 2001 the Kiwanis Club of Sycamore celebrated fifty years of service to the community.  A large banquet was held at the Fargo Restaurant (Strattford Inn) with many displays of memorabilia reflecting the history of the Club.  The guests attending this gala event had the opportunity to review some of the Club’s highlights, projects and awards.  A structured program followed said banquet attended by 137 guests.  During the evening five women were named as Honorary Members of the Club.  They were:  Marie Carlson, Nancy Leifheit, Kay Jacobson, Wanda (Askelson) Sabin, and Mary Smith.  All of these person having given unselfishly of their time and talents in some phase of the Club’s programs.  The Illinois-Eastern Iowa District Governor, Rae Rupp-Srch headed a group of Division & District Officials in attendance and made some special club member presentations.  The guest speaker was Paul Palazzolo, of the Kiwanis Club of Springfield.  Paul having already served as I-I District Secretary, Treasurer and Outstanding Governor, was welcomed by the group.

As earlier mentioned, the Sycamore Club had committed to the first Kiwanis International Project, the IDD Program.  In May 1995 a goal of $110.00 per member, per year was established with an overall club goal of $13,200 at the end of the effort.  A club plan of action was initiated which included personal pledges totaling $7,500.  The Club picked up the challenge with enthusiasm and dedication.  Success was soon evident and our numbers began to grow.  Over time, this total continued to grow and ultimately nearly $24,000 or an average of $550.00 per member was raised for this World Service Project.  As such, the Sycamore Kiwanis Club qualified as an Honor Club relative to this project.  The Club took great pride in having personally helped to eliminate the most prevalent cause of preventable mental disability in the world, iodine deficiency. 

Richard Graham became the 6th Sycamore Club member to serve as a Division Lt. Governor for the year 2001-2001.  He was followed by Larry Forsberg in 2003-2004.  Both men served with distinction, providing leadership to the entire Kiwanis family in our Division.  To help support our Key Club group, the Shrimp Dinner fund raiser was renewed.  Under the leadership of William Lantz, this community wide project has proven to be a favorite meal for the local folks and has provided needed funding for the Key Club. 

Sycamore Kiwanis Club has supported the annual Car Show by providing breakfast for attendees.  Info Children Priority One (YCPO), an International project, has been continually supported by this Club, for many  years.  Various programs and funded issues fall within the parameters of YCPO, one of the many youth programs sponsored by Kiwanis.  The Club also completes activities and funding for other Major Emphasis Programs, including Three Rivers Head Start and the purchase of Braille books.  Books given to the library, specialty items for needy folks, Volunteer Santa Clauses during the holidays, providing gift certificates and clothing for those in need.  Countless other projects in and for the local community, make the Sycamore Kiwanis Club a true service organization.

Sycamore Kiwanis now supports the Key Club at Sycamore High School, a Builder’s Club at the Middle School, The Aktion Club at Opportunity House, NIU Circle K at Northern Illinois University, and K-Kids at Southeast Elementary School.  For a number of years the Club has held an organized Golf League during the summer months at the Sycamore Golf Course.

Club membership hit an all time high of 50 men and women in 2001.  The energy and enthusiasm of the club reflects the leadership of the past 50 years.  During that period, the club returned over a third of a million dollars to the community.  Members have provided thousands of hours of community service and continue to dedicate themselves personally and as a club, to the needs of others.  The Sycamore Kiwanis Club has been blessed with the strong support of the local community.  These two factors will surely lead the club through the next 50 years as a very real force in our society.

Changes are occurring within he structure of the International, District, Division, and local club.  These changes will make the Kiwanis movement even stronger and more service minded than it has already been.  The Kiwanis Motto,We Build” adopted in 1920 has been changed to “Serving the Children of the World”.  This new motto tells the world that Kiwanis is the premier service club focused on the needs of the children.  A new defining statement has also been adopted, “Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time.”

The Illinois-Eastern Iowa District of Kiwanis International also celebrated a 50th anniversary in 2002.  This was the anniversary of our finest project, the Spastic Paralysis Research Foundation.  This foundation started in 1941 was for medical research addressing the area of spastic paralysis.  Supported by the clubs of the District, total contributions through the year 2001 were $4,136,000.  This program is a gift to the world from the I-I District and the many researchers who have been funded with grants from this Foundation.  The Sycamore Club has been named consistently to the Honor Roll of Kiwanis clubs underwriting this wonderful work. 

Larry Forsberg became President in 2001-2002, Don Phelps served in 2002-2003, Jea Nae Wood was elected for 2003-2004, Mike Hermes for 2004-2005, Debbie Huntley for 2005-2006.  Alex Smith, the 50th Club member and our first 3rd Generation Kiwanian (Founding member Everell and father Peter T), served as President (2006-2007), Vicki Simon (2007-2008), Chris Frankovich (2008-2009) and Christel Springmire (2009-2010).  A special honor for the Club was the selection of Jea Nae Wood in 2004 as the I-I District Secretary.  The District Office was located in DeKalb.  All Kiwanis Officers take over their responsibilities on October 1st of each year.

In 2010-2011, Christel Springmire served a consecutive term as president.  At the same time, Larry Forsberg served as Governor for Illinois & Eastern Iowa.  He was the 1st person to serve as governor from the Sycamore club and only the 2nd to serve from Division 14.  She was followed by Lois Anderson Hoffman (2011-12), Robert Ogle 2012-13), Greg Akers another 2nd generation Kiwanian (2013-14), Juanita Mundy (1st Spouse to serve) (2014-15), Sandy Lancaster (First Sister to Serve (Christel Springmire)) 2015-16, Debbie Elleson (2016-17), Cary Niewold (2017-18), Lisa Dewitt (2018-19), Dana Crowley (2019-20).  Both Lisa, Dana and Kathy Dombek (2020-21) served with distinction during the 2019 2021 Pandemic.  Lois Anderson-Hoffman served at Lt. Governor in 2012-13.  The club was able to meet remotely utilizing the Zoom platform.  Meetings were also held at the DeKalb Municipal Airport hanger so we could practice “social distancing of 6ft.  Between 2012 & 2017 The Kiwanis Club of Sycamore contributed a total of $25,000 to help eradicate Maternal & NeoNatal Tetnus in the world!

2020-21 President was Kathy Dombeck.  Kathy was followed by Beth Bollinger 21-22 and in 2022, Beth’s sister Jodi was installed as president.  They are the second “Sister Act” to serve as leaders. Lisa DeWitt served as Lt. Governor 2021-22.  The club contniued to meet at Sorrentos during the summer and starting in November each year, the meeting moves to town to meet at the Sycamore Park District golf course.  

May this ever so brief history of the Sycamore Kiwanis Club be reflective of the passion, the dedication and the integrity of the men and women who have nurtured and guided this club for the first 50 some years.  Local individuals who would like to participate in such an organization, are invited to visit and learn more about the Club.  The Sycamore Kiwanis Club currently meets on the first, third and Tuesday evenings at Sorrento’s Restaurant, 3 miles east of Sycamore on Rt 64 at 6PM from April to October.  From November to March the meeting is at the Sycamore Park District Golf course at 6PM

Authors note: The original Kiwanis Charter of the Sycamore Club is now housed in the Sycamore Historical Society Museum.  The above history of the Sycamore Kiwanis Club was gleaned from archives, records and other historical materials, and complied by John A. Wilson & updated in 2023 by Larry Forsberg.