Group has long been key part of AustinPublished 10:39am Friday, March 16, 2012
When the Herald published its annual Progress Edition at the end of last month, we were rather pleased with how it turned out. But pride, as the old saying has it, goeth before a fall. Last week, we learned that the Progress Edition page which listed Austin service clubs had some up short: We left out the Kiwanis.norms
As a listing of service clubs, this was a major oversight because the Kiwanis have been part of the Austin community since the spring of 1922 and have done a lot of good during those 90 years, dedicating the majority of their extensive fund-raising proceeds to youth and children’s causes.
As I was checking around for information on the Kiwanis, Noon club member Laura Tjomsland brought me a copy of “The First 75 Years,” a club history that long-time Kiwanian Gene Roden wrote in 1997.
Roden’s history refers to project after project and donation after donation that flowed from the Kiwanis, from gifts of a few dollars to major support for construction of a swimming pool.
That’s a tradition that has continued in more recent years. The Noon Kiwanis’ projects have included Neveln School playground equipment, St. Augustine School playground equipment, college scholarships for Austin students, playground equipment for Woodson School, contributions to 4-H, Pacelli After-Prom… it’s a long list.
And that is just the Noon club. The Early Risers who, as their name suggests, meet on Wednesday mornings, likewise raise funds to support children’s causes and scholarships for the Austin community.
As dry as the subject material might sound, the Noon club history made for an interesting read, not least because of Roden’s dry sense of humor. Of the club’s 1969 activities he wrote, “As a fundraiser the club attempted selling petunias. 2,870 boxes were left after advance sale. Most Kiwanians are not great salesmen.” The history of 1976 was particularly brief because Roden could find meeting minutes for only a few months. “One wonders whether the club was growing complacent.”
Apparently it was not, because much more complete records exist for later years, details that give glimpses into some of major historical events in Austin and the nation.
In the early 1980s, for instance, many organizations that had admitted only men or only women as members were pressured to change their policies. Roden’s concise summary makes it clear how difficult the change was. One local employer quit paying employees’ dues for clubs that didn’t admit both genders. In 1984 Noon club members split on whether to support a national rule change that would admit women. In 1987, a Supreme Court ruling forced Rotary to admit women and the Kiwanis, like most organizations, followed suit.
From the days shortly after World War I until past the dawn of the Internet, Roden’s history paints a picture of how the Kiwanis evolved, changed and continued to serve the community. Like many other service organizations, they’ve been a big part of Austin’s community fabric.
The Noon club, by the way, meets on Wednesdays at the Hormel Historic Home. The Early Risers Club, which also meets on Wednesdays, is 7 a.m. at the Eagles.
It is not too soon to get 7 p.m., Tuesday, April 24 on your calendar. Dr. Mark Seele, the well-known Minnesota climatologist and meteorologist, is the featured presenter at a program sponsored by the Friends of the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center and the Austin Audubon.
If spring continues its early pattern for another month, temperatures might well be in the 90s by April 24, so Seele’s presentation after this remarkably mild winter is likely to be particularly interesting.