|The Founder of Kin|
If the Rotary Club hadn't turned down Hal Roger's membership application back in 1919 because his father was a member and the club forbids two from the same profession, the Kinsmen Club might never have been started.
Hal had just come back from the First World War to his hometown of Hamilton, Ontario and he missed the companionship of his Army buddies. Born in London, Ontario Hal had been in Hamilton selling plumbing supplies from his father's store for only a short time when war broke out.
"I never made many friends in Hamilton and felt quite lonely.”I talked to a fellow named Harold Phillips whom I'd seen in church and we both agreed what the city needed was a club where young men could meet and participate in club activities. Harold had been in Hamilton a little over a year and he had only met a few people too."
With two others: Trevor Thompson and H. L. "Link" Brace, plans were made to start the new club, but only Hal and Trevor Thompson stayed on, and on February 20, 1920 the first Chapter Night for the Kinsmen Club was held in the Nanking Cafe of 65 1/2 King Street East in Hamilton. Now there are over 600 Kinsmen Clubs in Canada and over 500,000 young men and women have shared the dream that Hal Rogers began. Until recently the age limit for membership was 40 years. In 1987 it was increased to 45.
Hal has resisted all attempts to make the Kinsmen Club an international organization like Rotary or Lions. He maintains that Kinsmen and the wive's Kinette Clubs should remain uniquely Canadian. (They do, however, have affiliation with other clubs worldwide.)
Over the years, the club has raised millions of dollars for community projects. Canada's Prime Minister during the Second World War, William Lyon Mackenzie King, paid tribute to the club for its service to the community:
"In time of peace, the Association gave many years of generous and unselfish service for the relief of distress in the communities where its clubs were organized. During the war years, it has created a truly splendid re
cord, above all in the magnificent work it has done in shipping more than 50
million quarts of milk for the children in Britain."
Serious as some of their projects are, Kinsmen are not without a sense of humour. At their 1963 National Convention held that year in Hamilton, an elderly Chinese man was brought onto the stage and introduced as the owner of the cafe where the first Kinsmen met. He bowed and waved and smiled and left the hall to a standing ovation and cheers. Afterwards it was revealed that the man was just someone who agreed to play the role of the old cafe proprietor.
In January 1963 I was brought to a Hamilton Kinsmen meeting by Kin member Fel De Marchi. Fel was manager of Beaver Lumber; I was an advertising salesperson. I tried to sell him radio advertising; he tried to sell me membership in Kin. I'm happy to report we both succeeded. I was impressed by their enthusiasm and commitment to service. After several meetings I joined and still keep in touch as a Life Member of the Association.
The greatest thrill of my Kin life came on August 23, 1990 when I was invited to deliver the keynote address at their National Convention in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Hal Rogers, a hale and hearty 92 lives in retirement in Toronto. He leaves the running of the Association he founded to younger people. However, he still crosses Canada several times each year attending Association functions.
"I only go when they ask me”, and they ask him often. Hal enjoys telling this story of the time he attended a Kinsmen Convention: His name badge appropriately identified him as "Hal Rogers-Founder". He was brought down from any feeling of self importance he may have had when he was asked by a younger member, "Who are you, and where's Founder?"
As often as I've heard him tell that story I never tire of it because no story can describe the honesty of Hal Rogers better than that one.
Over the years Kinsmen and Kinette Clubs have touched, in some way or another, every community in Canada. In 1964 they took on the challenge of finding a cure for Cystic Fibrosis; since then they have raised over 16 million dollars for research. Mila Mulroney is National Chairperson for Cystic Fibrosis and works hand in hand with Kin.
Kinsmen and Kinettes, a distinctly Canadian organization that grew out of the idea that service and companionship can lead to success and happiness. Hal Rogers, another Canadian Achiever.
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