Bradenton Kiwanis Club celebrates 100 years of community service

The Bradenton Kiwanis Club recently celebrated the service of 23 Manatee County public safety agencies, saluting their dangerous, often life-saving work.

Five of the agencies — Cedar Hammock Fire Rescue, West Manatee Fire Rescue, Bradenton Police Department, Bradenton Fire Department and Manatee County Sheriff’s Office — each received checks for $2,000 to benefit a charity of their choice.

The five were chosen based on letters of recommendation submitted to the club highlighting heroic deeds.

Although this was the first year of public safety recognition for the Bradenton Kiwanis Club, it was consistent with the club’s 100 years of service to the community.

The range of community service provided by the Bradenton Kiwanis Club since its inception on August 22, 1922 is impressive.

Where to start ? Consider that the club has provided over $9 million to support the community since 1998. That was the year the club formed a foundation following the sale of Bradenton Trailer Park, 2310 14th St. W.

The club’s initial investment of $17,000 in 1936 in what became one of the largest trailer parks in the state has paid off over the years. Although land rent at the Bradenton Tropical Palms Trailer Park was initially only $1.05 per week, profits from the park have helped the Bradenton Kiwanis Club invest millions of dollars over the years in the community to help children and young people.

The club was instrumental in founding the Bradenton Boys Club and in purchasing or donating land for the West Bradenton Girls Club, Manatee Family YMCA, buildings for the Manatee County Chapter of the American Red Cross and the United Way building.

Bradenton Kiwanis also helped found the Bradenton Area Convention and Civic Center in Palmetto. In 1977, the club pledged $500,000 in start-up funds to challenge the Manatee County Commission to build an exhibition hall large enough for local high schools to hold their graduation ceremonies.

These days, the club recognizes veterans, hosts a Farm Town Week luncheon, and offers scholarships to Key Club members, Take Stock in Children, and 4-H members.

Bradenton Kiwanis also sponsors more than 10 K-Kids, Builders Clubs and Key Clubs and re-establishes an Aktion Club for young adults with disabilities.

Bradenton Kiwanis supports a Boys & Girls Club program at Manatee Elementary, Bringing Up Grades (BUGS) at various schools in partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee, and participates in the “Every Child a Reader” program in conjunction with Early Coalition of manatee learning.

The club participates in projects throughout the year helping agencies such as the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels, Kids Against Hunger (a food packaging event hosted by the Manatee Sunrise Kiwanis Club) and the Jerry Hill Memorial Fishing Tournament.

Recent Kiwanis grants have been awarded to HOPE Family Services for a children’s counseling center, Boy Scouts for the renovation of the Flying Eagle Camp, Strength in Action (Mount Carmel Resource Center) for a pickup truck, and the City Police Department. City of Bradenton for the renovation of a community center at the former Little Girl Scout House in Bradenton.

Club president Gilbert Smith, Manatee County Circuit Judge, writes a history of the club and calls it a “book of admiration” of the club and its members over the years.

“It becomes a story of Bradenton and Manatee County,” Smith said of the book, which is expected to be available this fall.

In 1993, the club opened its membership to women. The first woman to join, Dr. Gladys Branic, director of the Manatee County Health Department, was also the first black person to join.

“I felt very welcome from day one. Everyone was very friendly and supportive. If there was any hesitation about my joining, it didn’t show,” Branic told the Bradenton Herald in 2002.

“It’s a working club and I get a lot of rewards when I work together with others. I really enjoy meeting people from different areas who want to reach out to those in need. We are all like-minded people,” Branic said.

The Bradenton Kiwanis Club kicked off its 100th anniversary with an anniversary exhibit at the Manatee County Fair in January. The exhibit will be on view through October in the lobby of the Manatee Performing Arts Center, 502 Third Ave. W.

The club’s 100th anniversary gala on October 1 at the Bradenton Area Convention Center was postponed by Hurricane Ian.

Innovative Dining and Bradenton Kiwanis donated the food that needed to be prepared for the gala to first responders during the hurricane. Rich Knowles delivered steak, potatoes, salad, asparagus and cookies to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Operations Center for 24-hour deputies.

The gala will be postponed.

Meetings are held Tuesdays at 12:15 p.m. on the second floor of the Manatee Performing Arts Center.

The club’s motto is “A better way of life…a better Bradenton.”

For more information about the club, visit or the club’s Facebook page.

About Kiwanis International

Founded in 1915, Kiwanis International is a worldwide organization of clubs and members dedicated to serving the children of the world.

Kiwanis and its family of clubs including Circle K International for college students, Key Club for students ages 14-18, Builders Club for students ages 11-14, K-Kids for students ages 6-12 and Aktion Club for Adults Living with Disabilities, dedicate more than 18.5 million service hours each year to building communities and serving children. The Kiwanis International family includes nearly 558,000 adult and youth members, and 82 nations and geographic areas.

count butz speaks kiwanis 78.jpg
United States Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz speaks at the Kiwanis Club, 1978. Manatee County Public Library Historical Digital Collection

bradenton kiwanis trailer park 1951.jpg
Residents dine in the auditorium of Kiwanis-owned Bradenton Trailer Park in 1951. The room is decorated with welcome flags and signs on the wall warning residents of emergency exits, warning that the Jitterbug Dance, Spinning and Dance breaking are strictly prohibited. Folk and square dancing events are announced and dance music instruments are seen on stage. Photo of Odom Photography Studio on Old Main Street in Bradenton. Manatee County Public Library Historical Digital Collection
Kiwanis Club Manatee County Public Library Historical Digital Collection

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Bradenton Trail Park, operated by the Kiwanis Club. Photo 1973 Manatee County Public Library Historic Digital Collection

Manatee County Search and Rescue was one of 23 public safety agencies recognized for their service Sept. 6 by the Bradenton Kiwanis Club. Above is Steve Litschauer, Deputy Director of Public Safety for Manatee County, (left) with John Elwood, Deputy Chief of Search and Rescue for Manatee County, and “Karma,” who was credited with nine saves and five assists. James A. Jones Jr. [email protected]

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Jill E. Washington