When Lawn Griffiths continued his 26 years of perfect attendance at the Kiwanis Club of Tempe’s weekly meetings at noon on Thursday, there’s no doubt that he and likely a number of his fellow Kiwanians put a “Happy Dollar” in the hat as it was passed around.
A Happy Dollar is something Kiwanians gladly donate during the meeting for an accomplishment, a job well done or just a happy occasion — and Lawn definitely celebrated one this week.
His project was one for “The Club of Clubs” that needed to get done and it should come as no surprise that Lawn — sometimes referred to as “Mr. Tempe” himself — was the man for the job.
During the last three years, he compiled and wrote a history about the Kiwanis Club of Tempe, that very recently was released in a book loaded with facts and photographs of the long-storied community service club that has a history going back to the early 1930s before it was formally chartered in 1952.
The title of the book is “The Club of Clubs: The 60-year History of the Kiwanis Club of Tempe.”
But, if you’re a member of the club or even a local history buff, you might want to move quick to purchase the book published by Agreka History Preserved for the reasonable price of $20. With some help from the club, Lawn shouldered most of the book’s $3,000-plus expense of having 100 books published by simply putting it on his credit card.
After Thursday, there were 75 copies of the book left.
The Kiwanis Club of Tempe is the sixth oldest Kiwanis Club in Maricopa County, a community service club consisting of numerous city leaders and businessmen who raise money for many things we may not realize they do: fireworks at the annual 4th of July celebration at Tempe Town Lake, scholarships for Tempe students and funds to help pay for swimming lessons at the Tempe YMCA for underprivileged children, and Impact Education. The club also will host a Thanksgiving dinner for the Girls and Boys Clubs of Tempe.
“I think it (the book) showcases what the Kiwanis Club of Tempe is all about,” said Griffiths, 66, a four-time Kiwanian of the Year who has edited the club’s weekly award-winning newsletter, the KCOT Bulletin for 22 years.
Griffiths, a member of the Tempe Kiwanis Club since 1986, is a former journalist with the East Valley Tribune whose 25-year stint here included being city editor of the former Tempe Daily News, daily columnist of the “Town Crier” column and later religion editor and writer.
I first saw the good news about Griffiths’ accomplishment on my Facebook page on Wednesday morning when he posted that he was “relieved and happy” to get the book out. He unveiled it Thursday at the club’s weekly meeting at noon at the Shalimar Country Club Restaurant, 2032 E. Golf Ave.
When I called Griffiths on Wednesday morning about scheduling an interview with him to talk about the book, he was quick to bring a copy of the book into the Tribune office minutes later and discuss the project. Lawn credits the inspiration of writing it to longtime attorney Richard Neuheisel, also a longtime member of the club who encouraged Lawn to write such a book.
And, if it wasn’t for Griffiths’ persistence and dedication in what could’ve been a crushing blow of defeat a little more than two years ago — he easily could’ve given up and discarded the project.
In 2010, the computer he was writing the book on crashed — the information was not backed up, saved on a disk or even printed — and 35,000 words were lost. He just started all over.
“When I was researching the history of the club, I came to appreciate what a true service member is, realizing the dedication of a lot of its members and seeing the many city leaders who have been members of the club,” Griffiths said.
Members of the Kiwanis Club of Tempe still include Jim Harelson, 90, who is the club’s remaining charter member, and Ralph Packer and Ralph Lingerfelt, both members since 1961.
Lance Gray, director of the Tempe YMCA, is the current president of the club, which has about 65 members, including four city council members and Mayor Mark Mitchell, who follows six former Tempe mayors who were members of the club along with school officials and member Alfred Thomas Jr., who was elected Kiwanis Governor of the Southwest District. Membership peaked at 115 in the early 1980s, according to Griffiths.
Griffiths hopes the best is yet to come for the book — and the club.
“I hope members and Tempe city leaders get the book,” Griffiths said. “The book helps to show what an impact the Kiwanis Club of Tempe has had on the city and the quality of people in its members.”
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