Snubbed by the Kinsmen Club. Why?

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It came to our attention over the last couple of months that more than one caring citizen in Sault Ste. Marie had applied to the Kinsmen Club and been rejected.

For no apparent reason.

Key word… apparent.

For those of you who don’t know, Kinsmen Canada Clubs exist across the nation. It was founded in 1920 by Hal Rogers, and is the nations’ largest of all Canadian service club organizations.

In terms of what they do, their website states, ‘Kinsmen, Kinette, and Kin clubs play a vital role in Canadian society by raising funds for worthy causes, undertaking community projects and providing leadership, training, and networking opportunities for our members.’

It goes on to say, ‘Kinsmen, Kinette, and Kin clubs across the country work to better their communities, enhance the well-being of Canadians, and improve the environment. The Association boasts a proud history dedicated to fostering life-long friendships while ‘Serving the Community’s Greatest Needs.’

(More on their mandate and organizational values can be found here).

While these are great mission statements to live by, they are a little elusive in terms of what kind of work is actually done.

kinsmen club
The call to action on the Kinsmen Club of Sault Ste. Marie’s web page which appealed to both Trombello and Kochanowski. Since their applications went in, this image has been taken down. Screenshot provided by Kochanowski.

Despite this, the call to action for volunteers resonated with two local Saultites, who were looking for the perfect organization to devote their time, dedication, and passion for the outdoors and of our local community to.

David Kochanowski and Jack Trombello are two citizens who wanted to give back to the community, particularly in terms of nature and improving the leisurely activities available to children and families in the Sault.

Kochanowski, a Firefighter with the Sault Ste. Marie Fire Services, father of two young children, and avid volunteer with the SSM Professional Firefighter Association charity events, saw the Kinsmen Club as the perfect fit because of his interest in strengthening the community and the countless hours he has spent between Hiawatha and Kinsmen Park.

Likewise, Trombello and his whole family are very outdoors-y, regardless of time of year. A stay at home dad with two kids, he is very passionate about mountain-biking, hiking, and giving back to the community.

Both men believed they could offer input of value when making decisions on how to better the Kinsmen property and improve trails to increase tourism, sports, and general enjoyment in the Sault.

Both found themselves perusing the Sault Ste. Marie Kinsmen Club web page to find answers to questions like, How can I join? How can I help? What can we do?

While there is a map of the trails and some photos on the web page, as well as some of the organization information as listed on the Kins Canada page, there was very little information on what the Kinsmen Club actually does in the Sault.

Trombello and Kochanowski’s natural instincts were to contact the Kinsmen Club and find out.

Well, when you hit ‘Contact’ on the web page, you get a ‘404 page not found.’

Turning to Google, they found a 211 lookup which gave an e-mail and a phone number to contact.

The lack of visibility though, is concerning.

Especially when considering the fact that the Kinsmen Club owns the land use agreement for Kinsmen Park, giving them control over how the park space is utilized.

That same land owner use agreement covers Redpine loop in the Hiawatha Highlands as well, a very popular spot for mountain biking.

Both Kochanowski and Trombello applied, outlining their experience as community-oriented, outdoorsmen, and after multiple e-mail correspondences with delayed, elusive, vague, and somewhat short responses by the Kinsmen representatives, John Myles and Rod Lehto, were both denied.

The responses to both men by Kinsmen representatives include lines such as, “A member has volunteered to make contact if his time allows to determine if we can accommodate your request.  There has been an unusual number of similar requests lately and they will be dealt with as time allows. I make no assurance that you will be contacted or if so that you will attain membership in the club.”

And

“The club has spent the last four meetings to discuss your application. We, The Kinsmen of Sault Ste. Marie voted on the motion to bring you in as a prospective member. The result was that your application was voted down to become a Kinsmen of Sault Ste Marie.”

These decisions were made without meeting either individual in person, making contact on the phone, or seeing an official resume.

Kochanowski also posed the following questions to president Rod Lehto, with whom he was e-mailing,

‘Can you please provide me the reason behind your decision?

You mentioned your club is undergoing some changes to your membership, would you be able to elaborate on what that entails?

Would you be able to provide me with a list of current and executive members as well as general members?’

The Kinsmen Club responded by saying, “After four meetings of discussion we voted. I did not have to vote because there was not a tie. I do not know why each voted the way they did, and I do not want to question a member about their vote.”

Kochanowski responded by asking specifically how the vote works, what the decisions are based off of, what the criteria is, or if it is just a personal stance.

Lehto did not respond.

It has been radio silence ever since.

Kochanowski then reached out to Kathy McFarlane, District Club Support Director, who said,

“Good afternoon David, I’m actually out for the afternoon and evening but saw your email. To say that I’m completely shocked is an understatement. I will certainly follow up with John and other members of the Kinsmen club. His response in no way reflects who we are as an organization.

Please allow me to investigate further and get back to you.

Best regards
Kathy McFarlane
District Club Support Director”

However, after further investigation, she claimed that “Each club has their own set of House Rules and can include any rule they wish so long as they are not in contravention of our National By-Laws which allows them to set their own procedures for accepting new members into the club.”

Research showed us at SaultOnline that, while Kinsmen Clubs across the province and country have Facebook pages – where they can be easily contacted and share photos and information regarding member work and donations – one for Sault Ste. Marie was absolutely nowhere to be found.

Our research into the Kinsmen Club and their process led us to a young college student who applied to be a Kinsmen (Kinette) this past March.

She applied and was invited to attend a meeting, whereby a vote on whether or not to accept her as a member would follow, with a pleasant response from Lehto, and a form to fill out.

The message reads as follows,

“The next meeting is the April 16th at 6:30 for dinner which we have for fellowship and the meeting starts around 7:15 I will pay for your first dinner.

Hope you can make it.

Attached is the form which needs to be filled out as requested by Kin Canada.

Hope it is not a problem, and send it to me before the meeting.”

This form, which is essentially a formal application with spots to fill in references, past experience, and sign off on agreeing to member rules, was not shown, offered, or even mentioned to either Kochanowski or Trombello.

The offer to attend a Kinsmen meeting to get introduced to everyone prior to a vote was also not extended to Kochanowski or Trombello.

They were simply rejected and ignored.

SaultOnline sent an e-mail inquiring about how one would go about joining the Kinsmen Club of Sault Ste. Marie, as we have heard from more than one person that they have been rejected with no explanation.

This gave our local Kinsmen branch the opportunity to explain their process and justify the reason for rejection.

SaultOnline gave them a week, and received no response from the Kinsmen.

This has left both Kochanowski and Trombello asking, “where is the accountability to the community?”

Trombello commented, “When you have great ideas and people that are progressive in the community, and then you have people who hold permits that decide whether you can allow it or not, and they aren’t progressive, the community suffers.”

Likewise, Kochanowski stated, “There are endless opportunities in Southern Ontario, which is great, and I realize the Sault is different, however, when you look at communities – even small ones like Marquette – they are very community driven and they really seem to be able to come together regardless if you are this club or that club to benefit the community as a whole.

So, y’know my wife and I are raising two children here, and we want opportunities to be available to them, yet we continually run into these groups and close-minded people.”

They both more or less agreed that it appears as though only those with like minded values are allowed to access membership to this organization, although there is no criteria publicized that suggests that is needed.

How can balance ever be created if groups are only made up of people who think a specific way? Both men have been speculating.

One would think that becoming part of a community-oriented volunteer organization is based on the desire to do so, not some unknown, unbalanced formula as the discrepancy in applications described here appear to demonstrate.

So now SaultOnline is asking you, what are your thoughts?

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Riley Smith
Riley Smith is an enthusiastic and versatile critical thinker who has been with SaultOnline since January 2018. She holds a double Honours Degree in History and Political Science from Algoma University, and a Postgraduate Certificate in Public Relations and Event Management from Sault College. In addition to obtaining her Google Marketing Fundamentals certification, she is also working towards a Certificate in Diversity and Intercultural Relations. She has hands-on experience in social media marketing, media relations, public relations and news writing, event planning, and stakeholder relations, developed through experience as the First Nations and Stakeholder Engagement Coordinator for the Missanabie Cree First Nation. When she's not reporting, you can find her reading, working out, spending time with her basset hound, Douggie, or seeing the world, one breathtaking view at a time.

17 COMMENTS

  1. If the intent of this article was to educate then it has failed our community. Reading back on the comments above, it is increasingly disappointing that people use articles like this one to point fingers and condemn others, none of which is constructive to our community. The Kinsman are land owners in the beautiful area of Algoma and they open their property to mountain bikers, skiers, dog walkers, photographers, birders, … and the list goes on. I personally would like to thank them for that and I’m grateful for the work they do to ensure the safety and well being of everyone who uses this park. I would beg everyone invested in our community to reflect on their intentions, take action in an appropriate way, and remember that we need to live here together, respect each other and work together to make it a better place.

  2. Why is it so difficult to grow in the Soo. There is obviously more to this than stated. The other side of the story. Let’s all work together for similar a goal ?

  3. Kin Canada
    1920 Rodgers Drive, box 3460
    Cambridge, ON NH 5th
    1-800-742-5546

    That is the head office. Any inquiries about individual clubs and/or their conduct, or practices can be directed there. Having -myself- some experience with this organization, I can state that it IS a private service club, and membership is gained through a MAJORITY VOTE, just like in political elections. Much like other fraternal service clubs such a the Masonic Order here in town, a potential member is usually be sponsored by a member for a vote into full membership.

    I’m more interested to know why these two individuals felt so butt hurt over “not getting in” that they thought the media needed to be involved… Is Kinsmen even a relevant organization in Sault Ste. Marie these days?

      • If the Kinsmen Club accepts donations from the public, they should be open and transparent about how the money is spent and any financial statements should be
        available for the public to see if so desired. I’m having a “dejavu” at the moment!!

  4. Quite surprised to read this story without a doubt.
    This is to David and Jack. The Kiwanis Club of Lakeshore is very interested in new members and would welcome energetic, young, hardworking individuals like yourselves. Everything that Kiwanis does is for children and we would love to invite you to our lunch meeting (on us of course) at the Marconi and tell you a little bit more about Kiwanis, our club and what we do for our community. We meet every Wednesday at the Marconi at 12:00 noon and if you are interested please give me a call and we can talk more.
    Most recently we partnered with the City and donated $10,000 last year for the Disc Golf Course and this year donated $85,000 to the new Splash Pad to erect the Pavilion, as an example. There are many other projects that we have and would love to share with you.
    David Shier – Membership Chair – Kiwanis Cub of Lakeshore
    Email: lakeshorekiwanisssm@gmail.com, http://www.lakeshorekiwanis.com or give me a call at 705-946-9775.

  5. I feel like there is no input in this piece from the Kinsmen at all? I’d be interested in hearing their reasoning. This article is very one sided in it’s reporting.

    • Hi Mandy,
      We reached out to the Kinsmen for comment on Tuesday April 17th regarding the application process and the concerns of the individuals in the story, giving them the opportunity to explain their perspective and membership criteria. We received no response after two weeks and so we proceeded with the story. We would be more than happy to hear out the Kinsmen and report on their decision-making process should they choose to reach out.

  6. In the past, I was involved with the Kinsmen in the operation of their park. At the time, they were desperately in need of new members. I’m sure they still have a need, and wonder why they didn’t entertain these applications further. That being said, there are two things the community needs to respect. The first is that they are not accountable to anyone except their governing body for how they run their club and manage their property. The second is that they are most likely very careful choosing new members to ensure that in the future,
    the vision they have for the future of their park remains. Kinsmen Park is private property, and is open to the public only at the pleasure of the Kinsmen. I am grateful for their vision. I don’t know either of the two applicants in the article, but I do know their reputation for hard work precedes them. I hope the Kinsmen reconsider.

  7. I’m not very sure that this is a full account of even one side of the story. they hint at ‘people who think differently’ ‘they have ideas’ others have closeed minds and 404 errors implying conspiracy. They want names and numbers and transparency. lol

  8. This is very sad and a clear case of “high school is over guys/girls, get on with it” scenario.
    Upon my first visit to Hiawatha I was taken back at the beauty. Many years later I am again disappointed at the mass amounts of resistance towards growing the Community at all levels in the Sault area . This one really hits home because I choose to spend countless hours riding my bikes up there.
    Here we are forced to travel to use Marquette and its area for some great riding that so easily can be developed here.
    I support David and Jack. Both great humans as much of the mountain bike community is.
    Shame on you Kinsmen

  9. I find this very disturbing that a “service club” in our city, took 4 meetings to decide if 2 new members that wanted to donate time and energy could join their club, and voted them down. Really, how can any service club vote against two new members? Requesting a list of executive members along with a general membership should be available to anyone thinking about joining a club. That is, unless there is more to this than the club would like us to know. I think transparency and accountability is imperative for any service club period!!
    John Myles and Rod Lehto have a lot to learn about transparency and they owe an apology to Mr. Trombello and Mr. Kochanowski . I would also like to see a list of the members and the executive.
    Mr. Myles and Mr. Lehoro, will you provide that publicly?

  10. How sad that 2 fine gentlemen are not allowed to help. I hope they find an avenue to something that will allow their expertise to flourish.

  11. Very typical of SSM and the backwards attitudes frequently found here.
    One of the reasons that I am leaving the Sault for good.

    • Narrow minded, backward and insensitive comes to mind ..Hardly a description for a Service Club made up of volunteers, not the Cosa Nostra ..but in Sault Ste Marie it is obviously all you can expect. Perhaps the two gentlemen dodged a bullet and would be better advised to accept David Shier’s invite.

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