A still from a short documentary video about the Kinsmen's Milk for Britain Campaign during World War II, which saw 50 million quarts of milk sent and $3 million raised. YOUTUBE

Council designates Feb 17-22 Kinsmen and Kinette Week

Like many others of his generation in the early part of the 20th century, Hal Rogers spent part of his teenaged years locked in unimaginable horror. But from the trenches and killing fields of Europe in the First World War, something positive grew.

“We think of the devastating hardship of trench warfare, and we think, how can this lead to anything good?” Kevin Twomey, of the Fonthill and District Kinsmen, said of Rogers ahead of the 100th anniversary of Kin Canada, the service club he later founded.

“Hal would rely on camaraderie, and also the love of his native Canada to survive the trenches.”

Rogers returned to his hometown of Hamilton after the war ended in 1918, and tried to join the local Rotary Club — of which his father, who was a plumber, was a member. However, at the time, the club forbade two people from the same business joining.

Looking for that camaraderie and an opportunity to serve his community, Rogers wouldn’t be outdone. On February 20, 1920, he founded Canada’s first Kinsmen Club.

Kin Dave Ripley and Kin Dave Kuckyt present a cheque to Louis Weasner, with the Special Olympics, last Saturday, Feb. 8. The funds were partial proceeds from the Kinsmen’s annual Craft Show. SUPPLIED

One hundred years later, the Kinsmen and Kinettes have about 500 clubs and 7,000 members across Canada. Among other achievements, the organization has raised about $47 million for cystic fibrosis research and treatment.

To mark a century of service, the Town of Pelham has designated the week of February 16-22 as Kinsmen and Kinette Week.

“You can’t measure how much goodness, even in terms of dollars, and how the communities have benefited from Kinsmen and Kinette clubs in their area over a hundred years,” Twomey said. “There’s no number to put on it.”

The Fonthill and District chapter opened in 1951 and will be celebrating its 70th anniversary next year. Ubiquitous around town through its service, the Kinsmen have helped local charities such as Wellspring and Pelham Cares, while presenting their Citizen of the Year award every year since 1998, and hosting Pelham’s annual Craft Show.

As Kin Canada celebrates its 100th anniversary, the world remains a troubled place, albeit somewhat different from Rogers’ era during World War I. Twomey says that the Kinsmen and Kinettes are still there to help, and that their service is a two-way street — both in assisting the community and providing fellowship for members.

“Many people today are living in their own form of trench warfare,” he said. “How do we find fellowship and support in our times of crisis? Can we still find time to help others in our deep valleys? Beyond what you can give, it’s also the camaraderie you can get back, like Hal in those desperate times. When you’re going through a valley in life, you don’t have to do it alone.”

Twomey says that many service clubs are losing members due to demographic shifts, but also suggests it could partly be a byproduct of the almost self-imposed alienation of the digital age.

“I think people have gotten away from camaraderie and fellowship … here, you’re part of a solution.”

The Kinsmen and Kinettes are always looking for new members, and membership is open to anyone regardless of age.