service dinner

An empty chair at the Service Appreciation Dinner represents service members who lost their lives serving the country and the community. The lemon on the plate represents their bitter end. The overturned wine glass represents the toast those at the dinner had in their honor.

Allison Hurtado

Service clubs in Ahwatukee Foothills are busy year-round working on projects to help kids and families in the community but one project, honoring first responders, was big enough to bring all of them together.

The Kiwanis Club of Ahwatukee, the Ahwatukee Lions Club, and the Rotary Club of Ahwatukee Foothills combined efforts to put on a Service Appreciation Dinner on Tuesday, Feb. 19. The event, at Foothills Golf Club, included dinner and a presentation from Ahwatukee resident Anthony Ameen, founder of Wings for Warriors.

The service clubs hosted their first service appreciation dinner in the fall of 2011. The idea was to put on an event in honor of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and honor all first responders. Representatives from each club also participate in a local nonprofit called Connecting to Serve, which encourages community leaders to work together to accomplish goals. They decided to come together and make it more of a community event.

“We really felt like it was something that would further the mission of bringing the community leaders together and show the solidarity of the service groups,” said Pam Hahn, president of the Ahwatukee Lions Club. “It ended up being this amazing thing. We got such a response from people who know what the general dynamic of service clubs is. They were surprised we were able to do this.”

Though the clubs are all service-driven and often work toward similar goals, they admit there’s some competition for members.

“We’re all small,” said Liane Rouzand, president of the Ahwatukee Rotary. “We felt like we would be stronger together. Membership in service clubs has been decreasing ... it’s different than it was 20 or 30 years ago. We were able to collaborate on this.”

This event puts all competition aside to honor those who sacrifice for our community.

“I think sometimes we take our first responders for granted,” said Bill Clark, president of the Ahwatukee Kiwanis. “We certainly recognize the importance of their service. They protect our property, our freedoms. I think we need to be more grateful for that and show that. The dinner is a small way for us to recognize their service and the importance of it.”

The dinner honored not only local firefighters and police, but those in the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Luke Air Force Base, and the American Legion.

Jodi Erwin, a member of the Ahwatukee Lions Club, said she was inspired to make the dinner great because of her own experience dealing with first responders. Her husband was hit by a car while on his bicycle in Ahwatukee a few years back. She got a call from a social worker at the hospital telling her where her husband was and as she tried to piece together what had happened, the responding officer took time on his day off to sit with her and explain what he had seen.

“I felt a really huge debt of gratitude to them,” Erwin said. “That was my inspiration to really want to say thank you to them… In their line of duty they take on such great risk as part of their everyday job and they do it so we can be safe.”

Last year, there was an estimated 80 people in attendance. This year there was more than 125. The dinner was pushed back to February this year so it would be after the holidays, but the groups all plan to make it an annual event.

The dinner is not a fundraiser for any one of the clubs but they were able to raise more than $1,000 for Wings for Warriors.

The Ahwatukee Lions Club meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at noon at the Foothills Golf Club, 2201 E. Clubhouse Drive. The Kiwanis Club of Ahwatukee meets every Thursday at 7:15 a.m. at Biscuits, 4623 E. Elliot Road. The Rotary Club of Ahwatukee Foothills meets every Tuesday at 6:15 p.m. at Grace Inn, 10851 S. 51st St.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914. or

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