Of Greater Chico
It’s a commonly expressed sentiment that living and working in the Chico area is a privilege. The Kiwanis Club of Greater Chico wants you to consider the adage “the work I do for my community is the rent I pay for the privilege of living here.”
The Kiwanis Club of Chico was chartered in 1936 and sponsored the establishment of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Chico in 1954. The two clubs combined into one in 1993. Club membership at this time numbers about 40.
With the motto “We Build,” the Kiwanis Club believes in undertaking “hands-on” projects, with the members providing the labor. The club gravitates toward projects that benefit youth and children. The funds for these projects are raised primarily by running the parking concession at the Silver Dollar Fair.
Some past projects include building and making improvements at numerous playgrounds and picnic areas, including the original Crooked House at Caper Acres. The club is responsible for many of the seatbelt reminder signs at local parking lots and installed the lighting at the BMX bicycle track at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds.
The Kiwanis Club also acted as the lead organization for the Chico Fire Department’s Fire Safety House Trailer, used to teach fire safety practices to school children. Ongoing projects include sponsoring the Kiwanis Key clubs at both Chico and Pleasant Valley high schools.
The Kiwanis Club’s current major project is perhaps its biggest to date—and has the group aiming for the stars. The club is in the final stages of building the Kiwanis/J. Schwartz Community Observatory at the Horseshoe Lake area of Bidwell Park. The building is scheduled to be completed within the next week and will offer access to two telescopes. Public access will be available Thursday through Sunday nights, with the North Valley Astronomers Club acting as docents. Access to educators will be available at other times as well as through the Internet.
A dedication ceremony is scheduled for Sat., Nov. 17, at 3 p.m., with stargazing beginning at dusk. Kiwanis Club members are justifiably proud of what they believe to be the first true community observatory, since most are built by governmental or educational institutions.
“We truly feel it’s a community asset that we’re building. It’s going to be the community’s observatory. We’re going to oversee it, make sure that it’s kept up, and see that’s it’s being used for its original goal, which is providing youth access to the universe,” said Kris Koenig, Kiwanis Club first vice president.
Although the building is near completion, Kiwanis members are still raising funds to pay for the installation of a solar-power system to operate the observatory. A camera for the telescopes is also needed.
To help raise these funds, the Kiwanians have created several sponsorship programs, including the Messier Wall of Stellar Supporters. In the 1700s, French astronomer Charles Messier developed a list of 110 objects that could be easily confused as comets. Today, amateurs use the list of “Messier Objects” to identify the most spectacular objects in the night sky. Donors who contribute $500 will have their name or company name featured on a plaque featuring an image of a Messier Object.
With the observatory nearing completion, the Kiwanis Club is exploring its options for its next major project and welcomes suggestions from the community. The club also hopes that its success will make it a "want to join" organization. Prospective members are encouraged to join the club for a lunch meeting held each Wednesday at noon at Nash’s Restaurant.