The Kiwanis Club of Stuart, FL continues to use custom ornaments for raising funds after 24 years of partnering with Beacon Design. Virginia Lane Hill shares that the foundation has been serving the children of Martin County since 1938. The Kiwanis Club is the second oldest club in Martin County and has a tremendous amount of history. Their amazing history has been a large part of the success of their annual ornament program.
The History of the Club’s Ornaments
The Club participates in a variety of projects throughout the year that involve fundraising, community service, and assisting children locally and worldwide. Together hard-working men and women devote their extra time to making a difference for their community. As a matter of fact, Virginia Lane Hill is one of those amazing members.
Virginia is an interior designer and typically designs commercial buildings like medical offices and hospitals. During our conversation, she also shared that she has a passion for history. With this in mind, I was not surprised to learn that Virginia took over the annual ornament program in 1999.
She explained that the first two ornaments created back in 1995 was a joint fundraiser between the Garden Club of Stuart and another local organization called, Keep Martin Beautiful. Both organizations had decided they could not maintain that type of inventory nor did they have the available cash flow. However, they did not want to see the idea go to waste and looked for a local organization to give the idea to. Kiwanis secured an agreement with the City of Stuart, who owned the property that they began work on in 1990. Kiwanis transformed that property into a beautiful park called, Kiwanis Park at Woodlawn.
Raising Funds for the Kiwanis Park at Woodlawn
The club’s annual ornament funds are the main fundraiser for the Kiwanis Park at Woodlawn. The children’s park is located in downtown Stuart. Originally a piece of empty property purchased in the 1900s, the club made it their goal to raise enough funds to build a park for the children. In recent years, the funds raised with the ornaments have gone directly to making the park accessible for children with disabilities. As a matter of fact, well over a million dollars has gone into the renovations. Virginia says they have been able to provide a place where handicap-accessible vehicles can pull right up and bring children into the park to play. Additionally, the club’s efforts paid off when they were named the premier park in Martin County. Not to mention, most visited and permitted park for children’s parties and events.
Over Two Decades of Custom Ornaments
Interestingly, Virginia explained to me how the local historical society called, Stuart Heritage sells the bulk of ornaments for the club. In return, Kiwanis gives them $5.00 of every ornament they sell to help them towards raising funds for the maintenance of their organization. However, their partnership plays another important role for Kiwanis. Virginia and the members from Stuart Heritage work together each year to research the history and images needed to begin the development of her annual ornament design.
The annual ornament theme varies and typically highlights a historical place, building, or something with historical significance in Martin County. Included with the ornament is a brochure that details the history behind the ornament design. “I love getting to know the people at the Stuart Heritage. They are such interesting people with a wealth of knowledge. Learning the history makes me love the place I live even more”, Virginia adds.
This year the club designed not one but two iconic ornaments. One is a 90th celebration ornament celebrating the Chamber of Commerce anniversary. The other celebrates the history of the Downtown Stuart Water Tower.
The Future of the Kiwanis Club
Without a doubt, Kiwanis will continue raising funds with annual ornaments in order to maintain and expand its programs. Virginia mentioned in a recent email that Stuart Heritage is already close to selling out of ornaments at their museum. She shares that about two-thirds of their customers are annual collectors. Their customers are very proud knowing they have the full collection. Subsequently, ornaments that have sold out in the past, have then popped up in yard sales and other places and have gone for $100-$125 in bids that the historical society has put on.
As far as Beacon Design’s partnership with the club, Virginia shares that they take a lot of pride in the fact that they use a U.S. made company. She says, “Beacon Design has such an incredible history themselves with the production of the White House ornaments and their long history as a company, that it aligns with our mission. They are really one of the last great ornament companies in the United States.”
When I asked Virginia what the most rewarding part of her work with the Kiwanis Club has been she said, “It gives me chills to see the park full of kids who need a place to play and I feel a deep satisfaction knowing I have helped better our community.”