Kiwanis: Soldiers’ fees not waived

Though not mandated,
individual chapters still may decide to waive their fees.

COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio Kiwanis members rejected a proposal that would have mandated clubs statewide to waive the dues of active-duty soldiers, in a move officials called unrelated to member sentiment about the war.

Individual chapters of the volunteer community service organization can still waive the $15-per-year fee for their local members.

Fewer than half of those attending the Ohio District Kiwanis Club’s annual meeting in Aurora on Saturday stood in favor of a bylaws amendment mandating the waiver brought by Kiwanians from the Columbus suburb of Gahanna, said state secretary David Whiteman.

“Our members totally support our armed forces,” Whiteman said. “It was not a referendum on the war at all. It is just that our membership is very diverse, in that we have Christians, Jews, Muslims and so forth, and while we wanted to encourage clubs to do that [waive dues], people didn’t want it to become a bylaw issue. We wanted to be cognizant of others’ beliefs.”

Some of the issues debated at the meeting included difficulty defining which soldiers might qualify as fighting in a “combat zone” or responding to a “hostile act,” Whiteman said.

Kiwanis International, based in Indianapolis, was unaware of any clubs waiving soldier dues.

Left to the locals

Spokeswoman Karen Yakovac said an international-level amendment was prepared but never offered after individual clubs were advised it was simpler to handle the fee waiver issue at a local level.

“We were not only talking about Iraq, because it was a very general amendment that would have affected clubs in more than 70 countries around the world,” she said.

Yakovac was unaware of any other state chapter that had taken up the issue but said clubs have sent gift baskets to soldiers and sailors, staged pro-armed forces letter-writing campaigns, and, in one case, sent 80 children from military families to summer camp.

“So this doesn’t mean we haven’t been supportive of the military,” she said.

The Ohio proposal arose after the Gahanna club’s recently elected president was called to active duty and members there were unclear on how to handle the situation, said club member Frank Walker.

Walker said the amendment appeared to be rejected for technical reasons. He said some members worried it would be impossible to keep track of the status of soldiers eligible for dues waivers if they were mandated.

“For the majority of the people that were there and voted against it, they weren’t doing it as a means to oppose the war at all,” he said. “It was a matter of concern over whether a precedent would be set involving our dues structures. There was no malicious intent at all.”

Other clubs’ policies

Similar membership groups, such as the Eagles, Moose and Veterans of Foreign Wars, also have left soldier dues waivers to individual clubs, representatives said Monday.

“A couple folks have suggested it [waiving the dues] to us, so I assume they’ve moved ahead with it,” said Bob Wahls, retiring grand secretary at the Eagles’ international headquarters in Grove City. “But we didn’t go with anything national.”

James Rowoldt, national membership director for the VFW, said the veterans group allows each of its 8,000 posts worldwide to make its own decisions on whether deployed soldiers’ dues are waived.

“It’s not in the national bylaws or the state bylaws to waive the dues, but there are many posts worldwide that are doing so,” he said. “We leave it up to them; they’re all autonomous separate working units. The key is that we’re all taking care of veterans.”

Moose International spokesman Kurt Wehrmeister said the umbrella group is not able to dictate rules to its member lodges but may only enforce decisions they approve.

“We have for decades and would continue to encourage our individual lodges of the Loyal Order of the Moose or our local chapter of Women of the Moose to fund the dues of any active-duty soldier or sailor to the extent that it’s practical,” he said.

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