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Four decades of dedication

The Seminole Kiwanis and Woman's clubs celebrate 40 years of civic activities.

Their accomplishments are intertwined with the city's history.

Since 1960, the Kiwanis Club of Seminole has sold Christmas trees, candy, light bulbs and other items for charity. Members have sponsored fish fries and chicken dinners. And they have assisted at the birth of key Seminole projects such as the city's post office, Seminole High School and the incorporation of the city.

During those years, the Pinellas Seminole Woman's Club has sponsored numerous bake sales, ice cream socials and holiday bazaars to raise money for its community.

The two groups, which have won numerous awards from their national organizations, will celebrate 40-year anniversaries in the next few weeks.

"I remember how we sold light bulbs door-to-door because one of our members worked for Florida Power," said Eugene Mohney, a past president and one of three charter members still active in the Seminole Kiwanis club, along with Gene Harris and Al Repetto.

"After that, we sold peanut brittle for $1 a box," said Mohney, 75, who owns a Seminole motel. "But we quickly switched to gumdrops because people complained the peanut brittle broke their teeth."

In its first year, the Kiwanis club had 34 members, including bankers, attorneys, a judge and the school district's superintendent. Even though it was a men-only club until 1990, many spouses were involved in projects.

"When you talk about Kiwanis, you talk about a family," said Bill Miller, 40, current president and a funeral director at the Lewis W. Mohn Funeral Home in Seminole. He meant that figuratively and literally.

Miller is the son-in-law of Mohney, who was the son-in-law of another Kiwanian, the late Jesse Johnson _ often regarded as the father of Seminole.

Miller, who also is head of the club's annual fundraising fall festival, is the only Kiwanian in the club to serve a second term. His first term, in 1992-93, saw the club swell from 34 to 94 members. Today, there are 49 members, ranging in age from their 40s to their 80s, including several women.

"We were very involved in getting out the vote to make Seminole a city, going door-to-door with fliers," said Harris, 72, a retired stockbroker who was Kiwanis president in 1965. He now lives in Largo.

After four unsuccessful tries, voters approved a referendum making Seminole a city in 1970. It was incorporated at a Nov. 15 meeting that year at Jesse Johnson's Seminole Shopping Center (now the Seminole Mall).

Although the Woman's Club, affiliated with the General Federation of Woman's Club, is prevented from political activities by its bylaws, many of its members also worked on the referendum, said Marty Mohn, a two-time president, founding member and the only charter member still active.

"Yes, we did our part, too, convincing people to vote," said Mrs. Mohn, 75, who owns the Mohn Funeral Home with her husband, Lewis.

Although they operate separately, the Kiwanis and Woman's clubs have worked on many of the same projects, such as the Seminole Community Library.

"We help the Kiwanis Club, and they help us lots of times," said Virginia Julius, 82, in her second term as president of the 80-member Woman's Club. The club members range in age from their 40s to their 90s.

Both groups have raised thousands of dollars for the library for books, furnishings and other equipment.

"Libraries are something the federation wants us to be involved in," said Mohn. One of the projects, she said, was selling pins made out of old eyeglass lenses in 1970. The pins, which sold for 50 cents each, raised $4,000 for the library, then on Johnson Boulevard, and other club projects.

Among the activities the Kiwanis Club either founded or is involved in:

+ Bay Pines Wheelchair Escort Service _ Begun in 1960, Kiwanis members still escort non-ambulatory patients to and from weekly church services in the chapel at the VA Medical Center at Bay Pines.

+ Seminole High School Key Club _ The service club for teenagers was established in 1963, a year after the school was opened, and is still going strong.

+ Seminole Post Office _ Kiwanians, led by Johnson and Martin Bradshaw, helped make the post office a reality in 1965.

+ Circle K _ A service club established in 1977 at St. Petersburg Junior College. Today there are branches in St. Petersburg and Seminole.

+ K-Kids _ Service club for youngsters at Seminole Elementary School begun in the early 1990s; then expanded to Bauder, Oakhurst and Ridgecrest Elementary Schools.

+ Doorways scholarships _ The club has donated enough money to help finance more than 30 Doorways college scholarships for area young men and women.

+ Young Children, Priority One _ Seminole Kiwanians have raised thousands of dollars to help the international Kiwanis organization build salt plants in Third World countries, where a lack of iodized salt has caused thousands of iodine-deficiency disorders.

+ Horses and the Handicapped _ Founded by Harris and his wife, Pat, in 1982, it now is supported by the Kiwanis Foundation. The project provides therapeutic sessions for about 40 disabled riders weekly during the school year.

+ Every Child a Swimmer _ Founded in 1985, the free program teaches about 100 youngsters to swim each year.

Not to be outdone, the Woman's Club has awarded scholarships since its inception in 1960. Earlier this year, the club awarded five four-year scholarships, worth $1,250 each per year.

Other Woman's Club accomplishments include:

+ Helping administer hearing and eye tests to more than 6,000 Pinellas County children of school age during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

+ Purchasing shoes for needy children for many years.

+ Holding holiday parties for residents of area nursing homes.

+ Serving as bellringers, along with Kiwanians, for the Salvation Army's annual Christmas fundraising efforts.

+ In the mid 1970s, giving $1,500 to the Seminole Fire and Rescue Department to purchase a Jaws of Life to cut accident victims free.

_ Information from Times files was used in this report.