Members of the service club Circle K International take their motto of “live to serve, love to serve,” seriously.
Circle K International, or CKI, is the largest community service-based college organization, and is sponsored by Kiwanis International, an international service club, and works with organizations such as UNICEF and March of Dimes.
Currently, CKI is working with UNICEF on a project called WASH, which stands for water, sanitation and hygiene. WASH aims to bring clean water to villages in Haiti.
“At every meeting we collect happy change,” said Colton Kitzmiller, the current president of CKI. “We give a reason why we’re happy, and that’s followed by a donation of spare change, which really adds up in the end. Along with that, we have service projects here and there that are dedicated to WASH. Like last year, we trick-or-treated for UNICEF, and that was pretty productive.”
CKI also does fundraisers at local restaurants and gets donations from the Johnson City Kiwanis club. CKI’s ETSU chapter is still relatively new with CKI being brought to ETSU two years ago.
“Since high school I’ve been in Key Club, and when I was a senior I decided I wanted to keep doing it, and I found out about CKI,” said Al Thebphakone, a former president of the club. “I was actually one of the chartering members. I just wanted to keep doing this because I wanted to keep serving my community, and I love what the Kiwanis family stands for.”
Many of the club’s members say they feel more connected to the community after joining.
“I’ve been in 4-H ever since I was 7 years old and that’s also an organzation that’s based on developing the community and serving others, so I kind of wanted to look for something similar when I came here,” said Kitzmiller. “One of my friends here said, ‘Hey, you should come check out Circle K,’ and I was like, ‘What the heck is that? Isn’t that a gas station?’ I came to a few meetings, and it felt really right. The fact that we could play a role in the community of Johnson City and make a difference somehow, especially on campus, kind of kept me going.”
Annie Bouton, the current secretary of CKI, said the events feel more like fun than work.
“I really wanted to get involved in something that would help me connect on a community level because we do WASH, but we also have a lot of connections on a personal basis like habitat for humanity,” said Bouton. “It has honestly just been really fun. I came to some of the meetings, and the volunteer work we do is honestly like a big social event. You don’t even feel like you’re volunteering. You connect with the people you’re helping and others who want to serve their community.”
CKI eventually wants to become the top service organization on campus. One of their biggest goals is to be well-known for their service projects throughout the community.
“Being able to be recognized as playing a part in the Johnson City community is really one of our focusing goals,” said Brianna Biederman, CKI’s vice president of membership. “We want to be known as an organization that helps and not as an organization that is just there. We don’t just want to be another club at ETSU.”
Chelsea Thomas, the district service chair of CKI, says teaming up with other organizations on campus is another goal CKI has for the future.
“We worked with the EcoNuts this past weekend, and it was just really nice to know that you can do things to help the community with other groups that you don’t have to be a part of,” said Thomas.
CKI is open to all students and meets weekly in Rogers-Stout Hall. While ETSU’s Circle K International chapter is still growing, the current members hold “live to serve, love to serve” close to their hearts.
“I just kind of clicked with everybody, and I found my place,” said Kitzmiller. “I just remember going on one service project, and I clicked into gear. I just felt like I had a place I could feel comfortable and make a difference, and I was happy with what I was doing.”