BY JILL NAGY
Saratoga area service clubs, such as Kiwanis,
Rotary and Lions Club, raise money
all year but, around the holiday season,
most of them are giving it back through
gifts and donations to nonprofit groups, and
Saratoga-Wilton Kiwanis is typical. That
club distributed 85 Thanksgiving baskets
to local families and bought gifts for some
dozen local organizations to distribute.
On Saturday, Dec. 13, they will sponsor a
breakfast with Santa at the Saratoga Senior
Center, free for kids, $10 for adults.
“We fund-raise all year but Thanksgiving
and Christmas use up most of our budget,”
according to immediate past president April
During the year, Kiwanis participates in
Reading is Fundamental. Once a month,
members read to pre-school children and
donate enough books for every child to bring
one home. Weygand estimates that they give
away 2,000 books a year.
Kiwanis also sponsors the Key Club, a
sort of junior Kiwanis, at Saratoga High
School. “We are starting to work together,
for example, with co-fundraising,” Weygand
said. Two adult Kiwanis members act as
advisors to the high school organization.
In the past, the Kiwanis chapter did a
lot of work with the Wilton Senior Center
but, according to Weygand, “it was getting
overwhelming” and they had to stop.
The Wilton chapter started in the 1980s; Saratoga Springs, at least 50 years ago.
Last year, the two separate groups merged.
Weygand estimates that there are between
35 and 40 members, about 20 of whom are
The largest and one of the oldest service
organizations in the area is the Saratoga Lions
Club, founded in 1925. At 100 members,
it is one of the largest Lions Club chapters
in the state, according to their president,
Joe Sporko. He characterizes the group as
“a very active vibrant club” and takes pride
in including several younger members.
The club is “dedicated to sight, hearing,
diabetes, youth and community causes.”
Lions Club has depositories for used
eye glasses and hearing aides. But the
dedication to eye health goes beyond that.
The Saratoga chapter was instrumental in
creating the Lions Eye Institute at Albany
Medical Center which treats 5,000 children
and 30,000 adults from a 24-county area
each year. Longtime board member Dave
Carr, who died in November at the age of
83, spearheaded the effort to create the
center. Support comes from Lions Club
Last summer, the club sponsored Camp
Ability, a one-week all-expenses-paid
program housed on the Skidmore College
campus that served 20 blind children from
throughout the state. It will repeat in 2015.
The Lions also sponsor the Saratoga
Ice Stars ice skating program for disabled
children. Club members teach and skate
with the children once a week, beginning
in January and, in late March, everyone
participates in an ice show.
Throughout the year, the Lions Club
raises money through a variety of activities.
Almost as big as the Lions Club chapter
and older by one year is Saratoga Springs
Rotary, with 95 active and three honorary
members. Their main holiday activity is a
series of cash donations to organizations that provide food and gifts to people in
A major gift last year went to Saratoga
Warhorse, an organization that provides
therapeutic horseback riding opportunities
to veterans with mental health issues. That
gift is made during the summer but the club
will be gearing up in January to plan for it.
A separate Rotary Education Foundation,
funded by the Rotary Club, awards college
scholarships to local students.
The Saratoga Springs Rotary Home Show,
held at the Saratoga City Center in late
February or early March, is the major fundraiser
and the biggest project for Saratoga
Springs Rotary. According to club president,
Charles V. Wait Jr., more than 120 vendors
participated in last year’s home show. A
wine-tasting was introduced last year and
will be repeated in 2015, Wait said. The bulk
of the funds raised go to a scholarship fund.
The Wilton Rotary Club is a relative
newcomer to the local service organization
scene. Chartered in 2002, it has 18 members.
They recently made a $500 contribution to
the Wilton Food Pantry and also help support
Wilton Youth Baseball, Wilton Wildlife
Preserve and Park, Double H Ranch, Junior
Achievement and disaster relief.
An annual golf tournament is a major
fundraising event for the organization.
The Twin Bridges Rotary chapter draws
its membership from the Clifton Park-
Halfmoon area. It has about 40 members.
They will sponsor a Breakfast with Santa
and Mrs. Claus on Saturday, Dec. 13, at the
Clifton Park Elks Club. They also sponsor
a Breakfast with the Easter Bunny and
a Spirit of Thanksgiving dinner. Once a
month, members cook dinner at Ronald Mc-
Donald House near Albany Medical Center.
Main fundraisers are a Karoake Night in
October and a Taste of Southern Saratoga
event at the Sportsplex of Halfmoon in the
Photo Courtesy Wilton Rotary Club