After 79 years, the Penn Yan Kiwanis Club has folded. In what the club’s most recent president, Chris Bailey, calls the saddest vote he has participated in, the 12 remaining club members decided to dissolve the club effective Oct. 1.

Long time member Bill Sutherland, who joined in April 1961, said it became clear that recruiting new members with the energy to continue programs was going to be a continuous challenge.

The Penn Yan Kiwanis Club was established in 1939. Deb Clancy, a member since 1997, said the club was formed when businessmen who wanted to know something or someone sat and ate a meal togther. As was the case with most service clubs, all of the first members were men in those early days, when the club met at the Benham. Dolores Sutherland and Marilyn Moravec broke through the gender barriers, joining as soon as women were permitted, in the 1980s.

Barb Pringle joined the club in 2010, and soon was elected to officer positions, serving as president, secretary/treasurer, and board member of the local club. She was also elected to Lieutenant Governor of the Finger Lakes Division.

Her late husband, Bill, was also an officer of the local club. Being a member helped her cope with the loss of her husband last year, she says, adding, “I like being involved in my community.”

She and Bailey say they will continue as members of another local club — perhaps Canandaigua, Geneva, or Waterloo/Seneca Falls. 

The Penn Yan Kiwanis Club conducted a variety of fundraising activities to support programs for local youngsters. Scholarships for the popular Camp Kiwanis were one of the club’s main goals. The club’s fund balance has been donated to Camp Kiwanis, and some of the ongoing fundraising activities are being passed on to other community organizations.

Sutherland, who points out that active participation in service clubs and volunteer organizations has fallen off in recent years, fondly recalls the work that went into the annual fundraising auction. He quickly adds that he wants to thank the community for its support over the years.

Kiwanis International was founded in 1915 in Detroit, Mich. It is headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind., and more than 6,500 clubs are found in more than 80 nations and geographic areas.