Judy A. Totts | The Gazette
MEDINA — Some of the key words in Alan Penn’s vocabulary are “vision for the future, service and support.”
Penn, who has been elected international vice president of Kiwanis International, is gearing up to serve in the position that will lead to the presidency of the group in 2011 at the convention in Geneva, Switzerland.
The 2009 convention, held in Nashville, Tenn., was “fantastic,” said Penn, who as vice president will serve on the executive, conventions and One Voice (marketing and public relations) committees in the next year. “Our 350 delegates from Ohio worked very hard to get out the vote from other Kiwanis districts. It was a great victory for Ohio.”
For Penn, it’s also been a humbling experience. Before the final rounds of voting, he had 47 percent of the vote. He needed 51 percent to win. In the first of two speeches he presented to an audience of 5,000 people, he decided not to talk about policies and procedures, but about how a simple but meaningful gift introduced him to Kiwanis International.
The group presented heifer calves to orphan children in Honduras, where his parents served as missionaries. The calves arrived one day at the farm where the orphans and Penn’s family lived. The gesture convinced Penn he wanted to be part of the organization one day.
“In high school, the Mount Gilead Kiwanis club sponsored me to Buckeye Boys State,” Penn said. “As a school administrator, father and community leader, I saw the things that Kiwanis did in Medina County, and I knew I had to join. Chuck Hawley and Clay Benjamin were my sponsors to the Medina Breakfast Kiwanis Club.”
When it was time for his second speech at the Nashville convention, he related the story of his 10-year-old grandson, Prestin, who, when faced with making a speech at a leadership camp, was told to “stand up straight, take a deep breath and imagine the audience with smiles on their faces” before telling them what he believed.
“I’m standing up straight, I’m taking a deep breath, you’ve all got smiles on your faces and this is what I believe,” Penn told them as he wrapped it up with what came from his heart about the importance of service to others.
After the final tally, he won with 66 percent of the votes.
Vision to action
With 33 years of perfect attendance in Kiwanis under his belt, Penn, 60, has had plenty of time to translate vision into action. His contributions include reading to young children at Head Start and volunteering in Medina City Schools and serving as Key Club administrator for Ohio and executive director of the Ohio Kiwanis Foundation. On an international level, he was one of the original authors of the Key Leader program, which provides weekend leadership and service workshops for high school students.
Penn said he believes there is no greater calling than to make a difference in the lives of others, and strong leadership is a key element. In many cases, that leadership starts with the kids themselves. He explained Kiwanis youth clubs teach students leadership and community skills through K-Kids on an elementary level, Builders Club for middle school, Key Club for high school, Circle K for college students and AKtion clubs for people with disabilities.
“Kiwanis focuses on the health, education and safety of young children throughout the world,” Penn said. “If we grow as an organization, we will have more hands to serve others, to help children and their families. At the international level, we provide clubs and members with the tools and resources to carry on local projects that will improve the lives of children within their communities.”
To that end, Penn is dreaming big, with plans to continue club expansion in Europe, Africa, the Asia-Pacific region and Central and South America.
Kiwanis is a way of life for Penn and his family. His wife, Jeri, is a charter member and secretary of the All Ohio eMedina Kiwanis Club, and his son, Randy, daughter, Jody, and her husband, James, also belong to Kiwanis.
“As vice president, Jeri and I are assigned to assist with growth initiatives in the California-Nevada-Hawaii District,” said Penn, who will complete his obligation as president of the Medina Breakfast Kiwanis this year. “We will also be traveling to Australia and New Zealand to help them grow. Each year we will work with two or three Kiwanis districts until I am officially elected president in 2011.
“It is amazing that a small-town boy and girl will someday be the president and first lady of a worldwide organization which is in 80 countries and has over 700,000 K family members,” he said.
As Kiwanis International president, he plans to promote the group’s World Service Project, which will be announced at the Las Vegas convention in 2010. Once he assumes the presidency, he and his wife will travel throughout the world.
For now, Penn and his wife are preparing to begin their journey.
“After Oct. 1, Jeri and I will be on the road a lot representing Kiwanis, but also reminding people that we are from the home of the honey bee and three very special Kiwanis clubs — the breakfast club, the noon club and the first Internet-based club in Ohio, the All Ohio eMedina Club. I will remind people of the great service all our clubs do, but especially those in Medina and Medina County.”
Contact Judy A. Totts at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.