What’s the Idiots Club?” Cofounders Danna and Denny Hiner enjoy the questioners’ intrigue, and energetically answer how this club serves the needs of Lake-area youth living in poverty rather than just being a jovial group with a unique name.
The Idiots Club came about as the couple wintered in Texas. They had previously become members of the International Idiots Club in South Padre Island, which aided marine life. “We thought that model would work here at the Lake, and it has!” exclaims Denny. The Hiners decided youth would be their focus.
Its success was fostered by the Hiners’ genuine care for students, their experienced educational backgrounds and Denny’s life-altering epiphany. In 2013, Denny amazingly survived three cardiac arrests. Surgeries, organ failures and complications were overcome during his 40 days in ICU. He wondered why God kept him here.
The Hiners had both retired from the Camdenton School District, Denny as a Middle School Counselor and Danna from Horizons, the alternative high school. They had previously had numerous discussions about hardships of some of the Camdenton students. “We decided that was why Denny was still around,” Danna shares. “So we could start the Lake of the Ozarks Idiots Club!”
Exactly one year after his cardiac arrests, the 501(c)(3) charity was officially organized. With its many valuable supporters and volunteers it has provided more than 8,400 assists. Thanks to generous discounts from more than 25 business partners and donations of items from businesses and members, the Idiots Club, in only three years, has provided goods and services with a retail value of more than $215,000.
The money is spent on items from new shoes, clothes, musical instruments, alarm clocks and buddy packs to bed bug treatments, and even a car transmission for a self-supporting high school student. “We help students build self-esteem by being able to participate in school activities, sports and community clubs,” Denny points out.
The club only works through counselors to maintain confidentiality. The 28 key Idiots Club volunteers assist the Camdenton, Climax Springs, Macks Creek and School of the Osage schools, along with numerous social service agencies to meet the critical needs of the more than 65 percent of children in the Lake area who live in poverty.
The Idiots Club has a crazy, silly name, Denny agrees. “We use our name in a goodwill manner of fun and to get attention, because we have a very serious mission that needs a lot of attention: to help children living in poverty.”
Q & A
Q. CAN YOU SHARE A BIT ABOUT YOURSELVES?
A. We’re both Iowa natives. We met while country dancing. Both of us have over 20 years’ experience in education. Lake of the Ozarks became our home in 2000 as Denny had fond memories vacationing here with his family. We have three children and five grandchildren. We enjoy time with family, floating in the Lake, wintering in south Texas, Wednesday dinners with friends and dancing.
Q. HOW DO I BECOME A MEMBER?
A. Sign up at one of our summer fundraising events and pay $5 for an annual membership! Or through our website: www.LakeoftheOzarksIdiotsClub.org The cost online is $6, to cover shipping. We post on our website and our Facebook page dates and times for fundraising events.
Q. HOW HAS THE IDIOTS CLUB HELPED AT SCHOOL OF THE OSAGE?
A. “We have changed the way we help kids in the Lake area,” says Tiffany Ash, SOTO High School counselor. “I used to feel very frustrated and defeated when students had immediate needs or issues. This club often brings items a student needs the very day we ask for them. They are helping us take obstacles out of the way of student learning. Last year a student graduated because the Idiots bought him tires, helped fix his car and helped provide for his infant son. The Idiots are making a difference in kids’ lives in a BIG way!”
Q. BESIDES THE WIDE VARIETY OF ASSISTS, EVEN SUPPLIES FOR BUILDING A GREENHOUSE, HOW DOES THE IDIOTS CLUB SUPPORT THE MACKS CREEK SCHOOL DISTRICT?
A. Superintendent Joshua Phillips replies, “The club’s generosity has also gone a long way to improving the relationships we have with our families and establishing a greater degree of trust. Families are much more willing to support decisions and work together when problems arise after they have been the recipient of so much love and kindness.”
Q. CAN YOU SHARE JUST ONE EXAMPLE OF HOW THE IDIOTS CLUB SUPPORTS CAMDENTON SCHOOLS?
A. “They assisted in providing the needed items to open a hair-cutting salon on the main campus, as well as in one of the outlying schools in Hurricane Deck,” explains Rebecca Caufield, Dogwood Elementary School Social Worker. “This has removed a large barrier for students who desperately needed a haircut, but couldn’t afford one! I could go on and on with countless stories of success! •