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Kiwanis Club celebrates 95th anniversary

Community members run to find Easter Eggs and candy during the annual Kiwanis Club Easter Egg hunt many years ago. (Submitted photo)1 / 2
Members of the Kiwanis Club of New Richmond ride down the street during a parade in New Richmond many years ago. (Submitted photo)2 / 2

In November 1919, the Kiwanis Club of New Richmond was born when the newly formed group elected temporary officials. Now, 95 years later, Kiwanis has become a fixture of the New Richmond community and still runs many programs that serve the community and those who live in it.

“The clubs mission is to support youth,” said Club President Gina Knutson. “While supporting local and international youth, we get to make great friends and do wonderful things in our community. Being a part of a club that supports our local youth is the prominent reason for me to be a member.”

When the group began, Kiwanis wasn’t sure if the New Richmond community could sustain a Kiwanis Club given that the population was only around 2,100 people at the time. However, the club has thrived for many years since then and currently has 35 members, with 16 of those members being with the group for more than 20 years.

“I joined the club for two reasons, first being the fact that the club had been around for a while and I had known a few members for a long time who I had a lot of respect for,” said club member Joel Pederson. “I also liked the fact that the clubs focus was on children in our community. I was aware of all the good things the club had done and were doing.”

Since its inception, the Kiwanis Club of New Richmond has been actively involved with the advancement of the community, including helping to bring Friday Canning Company to New Richmond and helping with the construction of Holy Family Hospital (now Westfields) as well as helping with the construction of shelters in Mary Park, early installation of lights on Main Street and pushing for the city to develop a plan to pave community streets.

“There is a sense of pride that being a member of this group brings to me and other members,” Rickard said. “A group of people came together because they wanted to make their community a better place to live. When the club met, they discussed and shared idea about what they could do as a group and how to make it happen.”

Governor’s visit

In November, the Kiwanis Club of New Richmond hosted its 95th anniversary celebration at R&D Catering and Banquet Facility, and members were honored with a visit from the Wisconsin - Upper Michigan District governor. Club Members from Barron, Bruce, Eau Claire Clearwater, Hudson and Indianhead Eau Claire traveled to New Richmond to join the festivities.

“I feel absolutely honored to be part of a club that has been around as long as this one has,” Knutson said. “There is no greater feeling than to say I’m part of one of the oldest Kiwanis Clubs that is only five years younger than the organization itself.”

On display during the celebration was a Wall of History which included newspaper articles and memorabilia for each decade of the New Richmond club’s existence beginning in November 1919. A DVD presentation of past and current club members and activities was also shown during the event which brought back many memories. A memorial table included pictures of long time Kiwanis Members Bob Heebink and Dick Newman who passed away earlier this year.  These men were very active club members and are greatly missed by the club.

“I am proud to be a part of this Kiwanis Club for many reasons, first of those being all the great and caring people I have met over the years,” said Club Historian Bob Peirson. “The second thing is being part of all the wonderful and rewarding things Kiwanis does at all levels. And the last is the history of the Kiwanis Club. In 2019, we will celebrate our 100-year anniversary and we hope to have a great event.”

The Club has sponsored the local Key Club and Boy Scout Troop 460 for more than 50 years and also sponsors Cub Scouts and the Venturing Crew.  Current projects and activities include scholarships, Annual Honors Banquet, Service Learning Day sponsor, Annual Easter Egg Hunt, sponsor students for Leadership Training, BackPack Program, volunteer at Five Loaves Food Shelf, Peanut Day, Bnaakwii Giizis Event, Holiday Home Lighting Contest among others.      

“Easter Egg hunt seems to be something that the community can relate to for Kiwanis work, almost a branding of our club mission,” said Kiwanis Club member Jeff Byron. “I believe this project gives us an edge over other nonprofit organizations in the community, this is something we may want to grow or improve slightly on going forward.”

The Kiwanis Club of New Richmond meets on Mondays at 6 p.m. For more information on the club, visit kiwanisofnewrichmond.org, find the group on Facebook or contact Gina Knutson (651-491-0043) or Debbie Rickard (715-246-5884).

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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