La Verne Magazine
Building Good Citizenship The Civitan Way
by Oscar de León
photography by Bailey Porter
Working together to bring happiness to others, the San Dimas Civitan Club and
the Pomona Valley Special Olympics annually co-sponsor a bowling event. Competitors
Carolyn Nelson, Special Olympics area director, and Benjamin Aguirre, a 25-year
Special Olympics athlete, participate in the San Dimas Chaparral Lanes event.
Civitan International was a major component of the Special Olympics founding
Want to make an impact in todays society? Look no further than the San
Dimas Civitan Club. The SDCC is a small branch of the Civitan International,
an association of community service clubs helping people with disabilities and
economic disadvantages in other states and around the world. Their mission is
helping others through hands-on projects in local communities, including San
Dimas, La Verne and Pomona. There are about 32,000 members in nearly 1,200
clubs throughout the world, says Chris Branam, current SDCC president.
The first Civitan Club was established in 1917 by Dr. Courtney W. Shropshire,
a prominent Birmingham physician. More than 50,000 members live in 40 U.S. states
and 19 countries.
Bill Bowden, Lou Jimenez and Tom Runnells founded the SDCC seven years ago.
Bowden, a San Dimas resident and retired elementary school teacher started his
community service by joining the Azusa Civitan Club. I felt the need to
contribute to the community in other ways besides teaching at elementary schools,
says Bowden, who has been a Civitan for about 50 years. Branam became a Civitan
after helping with a car show where money was raised for the Azusa Civitan Club.
Branam thought that it would be a good idea to bring that type of assistance
to his own community. He was elected president of the SDCC not long after joining
and has been in charge for the past five years. When the SDCC was started, there
were about 50 members, but the membership has been dropping. Bowden explains
that various members had to move on. We need young people to get involved.
Ten people currently run the SDCC. Although they have been doing an amazing
job, Branam asks for young community members to help continue their tradition.
The SDCC aids the community in many ways, including buying shoes for elementary
school students who cant afford them. The SDCC works with the Shoes
That Fit organization, donating shoes for 11 years. Money is raised through
car shows every year at the Fairplex in Pomona. SDCC secretary and treasurer
Tamara Latham goes to local stores, buys about 80 pairs of shoes and takes them
to Ekstrand Elementary School in San Dimas. The most rewarding thing is
to see the little childrens faces when they receive their new shoes,
she says. Many of them have not worn shoes of quality brands before, and
when they see the ones we give them, they get very excited.
Another instance of the Civitans community support was September 2002
during the Williams fire in the Angeles National Forest. The fire burned nearly
38,000 acres of land in and around the forest and destroyed 62 homes and cabins
in San Dimas Canyon. We collected clothing from different members and
donated it to the local residents, Bowden says. Everybody lost everything,
and I wished we would have been able to help with more, Latham says. Unfortunately
we did not have the money to do so.
Another SDCC project is the Candy Box Project, in which the SDCC
sets out boxes of candy at local restaurants and asks customers to donate a
few cents if they partake in any sweets . One year, we collected over
$20,000 in pocket change, Branam says. The money goes to the Clubs
largest project, the Civitan International Research Center in Alabama. The CIRC
studies the development of the central nervous system and focuses on clinical
neurosciences, developmental neurobiology, human development and social ecology.
The CIRC offers many clinical services, some of which include audiology, pediatrics,
psychiatry, dentistry, physical therapy and optometry.
The SDCCs service doesnt stop here. They also sponsor an annual
bowling event with the Pomona Valley Special Olympics. The event offers the
disabled an opportunity to participate and win prizes.
Everybody wins, Branam says. One year, I won a big trophy
that read my name, and that I won it because I had scored the highest points
in many consecutive games, participant Benjamin Aguirre says. According
to Aguirres mother, Josefina, Benjamin was run over by a car at age 4.
I have been taking care of him ever since, she says. We actually
take care of each other. Aguirres mother has medical problems with
her legs, and its difficult for her to walk. The only type of recreation
that Aguirre has is participating in the bowling tournaments that the SDCC puts
together every year. I enjoy my life, Benjamin says.
The SDCC also helps to plan events for the Pomona Valley Special Olympics
in May. We also help with decorations for four handicapped dances a year
for the city of La Verne, Branam says. The Civitan Club donates money
or clothing to other clubs like House of Ruth, an organization that helps abused
women and children.
The club meets the first and third Thursdays of each month at 6 p.m., at
the Senior Citizen/Community Center in San Dimas. For information, call Tamara
Latham at (909) 592-6200 or Chris Branam at (909) 599-7741.