Recollections: Kiwanis continues community service
By Thom Gerretsen
I have no doubt that Marshfield remains better than most in helping its people and getting things done. It’s virtually demanded by the high quality of our talented residents who work at our medical complex, university, etc. And it’s still true that when you expect more, you most often get it.
That’s why I’m proud to serve in the city’s Kiwanis Club. Despite losing more than half its members in the last two decades, Marshfield’s Kiwanis still runs virtually all of the programs and projects the club has conducted since 2000 when I joined. And, we’re doing it with only 20 members, compared to 45 who were in the club 18 years ago.
Much has been written about the decades-long decline of service clubs and their roles in community life. It’s often said that today’s Americans are willing to help larger areas of their general passions, which may or may not improve the places where they live. But the fact remains that a community’s future is very much dependent on today’s children. And as Marshfield’s Roger Krogstad puts it, “Kiwanis still has a great message — improving the world one child and one community at a time.” He sees what a lot of places are doing as a leader in the organization’s Wisconsin-Upper Michigan District. It includes 165 local clubs, and Krogstad will be the district’s governor starting in 2019.
I thought a lot about our club’s 62-year-old past — and its future — during our annual member recognition banquet Oct. 17. New officers were installed; Doug Wendlandt is now the Kiwanis president for the year ending next Sept. 30. He told the other 10 members who attended the noon-hour banquet that he plans to “reach out to other service clubs — Rotary, Lions — about what they’re doing and how we can share, help and cooperate among our lesser memberships for the good of the community.”
I served as our club’s secretary for 12 years until 2014, when I decided that I needed to do more to serve my church, Faith Lutheran. Now that I’m retired from journalism, I finally have the time to do that. But for the life of me, I cannot let go of Kiwanis.
Even though I’m attending fewer meetings, I can’t bring myself to stop being a part of some of our club’s greatest and most fun service projects. They include KEEP (Kiwanis Enormous Equipment Playground), where more than 1,100 kids and their parents had fun on Oct. 7 at the Marshfield Fairgrounds. They learned how to do small building projects, and they climbed aboard large construction and service equipment. It has always been larger than what our club can handle by itself — other youth groups have helped. For leading the project, Donna Martin was honored as our Kiwanian of the Year.
After taking a year off, I hope they’ll let me return as the “replay official” for the Marshfield School District’s Spelling Bee in early 2019. The young contestants are so talented, and watching their intense competition is a great time in itself!
Lyman Boson led the club’s youth basketball program for more than 25 years before the school district took it over. My favorite task was keeping score — and watching the adult coaches from our area’s elementary schools be so passionate in leading their young players. Don’t be surprised if it comes back!
At our banquet, Wendlandt’s wife Susan — an accomplished artist — took her best photograph of the 11 Kiwanians who attended. Of those, six have been club presidents — and Doug Wendlandt is embarking on his second one-year stint. We’re led by dedicated, seasoned veterans – but like many groups in Marshfield, we could use some younger blood!
It will happen, but the big question is “How?” As Millennials become the majority of our workforce, what will be their structure for serving the next generation who lives within their midst? And how will they shape those efforts to serve Marshfield, whose 20,000 residents have expected and received better for a city its size.
Stacey Schultz, who ended her term as Kiwanis president at the end of last month, agreed that “service organizations will change. But the purposes of Kiwanis will always be present.”