Donor Profile

Seeing is believing. In 2011, Mary Langdon witnessed UNICEF in action during her site visit to Sierra Leone with other Kiwanians and Kiwanis staff. A multi-division coordinator for The Eliminate Project, Mary saw firsthand how great the need is for the elimination of maternal and neonatal tetanus. She also saw how great—and how detailed—the effort is.

“I have all the faith in the world in UNICEF,” she says. “They know where every vial is, who’s been vaccinated and who hasn’t—they keep track of everything. The record-keeping blew me away.”

And it’s not just Mary whose confidence has grown with firsthand experience of the organization’s work.

“Any time people saw the UNICEF truck, they would stop and wave,” she says. “It’s amazing they could garner all that support. And people were so grateful to us for the funding—we’d say, ‘Kiwanis,’ and they would hug us and give us root vegetables, their own food.

“I thought we’d go in and hold some babies and leave,” Mary adds. “But we were genuinely touched. It was an experience I’ll never forget.”

After such moving encouragement about the happiness made possible by donors’ gifts, she’s inspired to spread the word.

Low cost, big impact

That inspiration began at home. Mary’s husband, Richard, says her enthusiasm was apparent right away. Her stories from the field and the printed materials she brought home helped motivate him too.

But most of all, it was the low cost of a big impact that made a great impression on both of them.

“I learned a lot from the information Mary brought with her, especially the fact that just 60 cents per shot could protect a life,” Richard says. “If you can save lives with that little expense, it’s really worth doing.”

The Langdons decided to maximize their own impact by becoming Lead Gift donors. It was also a way of providing leadership to the fundraising campaign in its early stages.

“We thought it might inspire others to give as much as they felt comfortable giving to a cause that’s as good as any you can think of,” Richard says.

Telling the story

In addition to their leadership as donors, Richard and Mary are dedicated advocates of The Eliminate Project, both within their own club—the Kiwanis Club of West Des Moines, Iowa—and beyond. For instance, Mary was the keynote speaker at the midyear convention for the Nebraska-Iowa District.

“I got videos, I got photos, I got displays,” she says. “I love telling the story. We’re clearly making a difference.”

The opportunity to share stories and provide information is a key part of the Langdons’ contribution to the campaign. “Without education, people won’t give,” Richard says. “The very fact that there’s a connection between a mother and child, and that they both benefit from the shots—it’s very inspiring.”

A unifying influence

As Mary’s experience in Sierra Leone proves, a member of the Kiwanis family can have a direct, positive impact on families who are a world away. Bridging that gap also offers a lesson for Kiwanis-family clubs.

“I really feel that a worldwide project is a benefit in uniting clubs,” Richard says. “Clubs from California or Alaska can work with a club in Iowa to support a major cause.”

And that club-level excitement will have a lasting effect—on the mothers and children Kiwanians are protecting, and on Kiwanis itself.

“By the time The Eliminate Project is completed, Kiwanis clubs will have a sense of ownership in the success,” Mary says. “It gets people excited, gets them thinking outside the box, so we can do other things. We are a global organization.”

Photo (below): Mary's firsthand experience of UNICEF's impact in Sierra Leone inspired her and Richard to spread the word about The Eliminate Project.

Donor Profiles


Club: West Des Moines, Iowa; Nebraska-Iowa District

Member since: Richard: 2000; Mary: 1991

Kiwanis moment: Richard: Each year our club in conjunction with West Des Moines Human Services, the police and fire departments host a Christmas party for underprivileged children 3-5 years of age. Our club provides pizza and pop, as well as entertainment and hospitality. I used to enjoy the smiles my children had on their faces when opening their numerous Christmas gifts. But seeing these young children and the joy in their faces as they open the one and only gift they may receive on Christmas, the one and only item they had asked for, is priceless. It brings back the power of children being our priority one.

Other causes supported: Des Moines Kiwanis Miracle League, Wildwood Ranch for foster children, Habitat for Humanity, Des Moines Consistory and University of Iowa