De Smet’s Kiwanis chapter held its last official meeting last week. The club made two final donations of $2,000 for a new playground at Laura Ingalls Elementary School and $1,500 for new children’s books at the Hazel L. Meyer Memorial Library.
The club dissolves nearly 65 years of supporting the community. It was chartered on Nov. 16, 1953 sponsored by the Huron club which gave them an engraved bell that was rung to start meetings during the club’s entire lifetime.
The club only allowed men at the time — 41 of them. Bill Purrington was president of that first club, Ellis Day was vice president, George Krieger was treasurer and Floyd Abrahamson secretary. None of the charter members are still alive.
Otto Sckerl was the last active Kiwanian among living charter members at the time of the club’s 50th anniversary celebration. He was the last active Kiwanian charter member.
In the Nov. 17, 2003, edition of The De Smet News, Sckerl said, “It was a time when people were interested in organizations.” He said he remained a Kiwanian for all those years because “I guess I don’t change much. My obituary will say I’ve been a dues-paying member of the American Legion, but I was a faithful Kiwanian.”
It wasn’t until 1987 that women were invited to the meetings and De Smet did not have any female members until 1997 when Lavonne Williams, Linda Poppen, Audrey Penney and Betty Zell were first invited to join by then Clerk of Courts Bob Lee.
“Dennis Muser was always playing the piano,” Poppen said. “That’s why I joined, because I liked the singing.” Poppen left the club after she retired in 2015.
Williams stayed until the final meeting. During her time with Kiwanis, she joined Dr. G. Robert Bell and Otto Sckerl as one of three De Smet members to ever receive the honor of becoming a “life fellow” in Kiwanis. She said she is going to really miss the club and all its activities.
Over the years, the club has been involved in a variety of causes. They cleaned ditches, checked in livestock at 4-H Achievement Days, made floats for the Old Settler’s Day parade, sponsored Heartland United Way and contributed money to both the recently completed De Smet Event & Wellness Center and the newly remodeled hospital. They also collected aluminum cans and newspaper for recycling
But much of the club’s focus was on helping the local schools. They were regular contributors to the yearly community scholarship. They hosted a monthly “Student of the Month.” They sponsored school geography bees, academic decathlon, student travel for HOBY leadership conferences, Camp Invention and Safety Town. One of their favorite ways to help was to provide children with books. They participated in the Reading is Fundamental program and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library
Williams said she and several other club members have been left with various pieces of club memorabilia they are trying to figure out what to do with. She has the club’s banner and thinks it should maybe go in the city museum. She said the national club asked to have it back, but both she and Poppen said they don’t understand why it shouldn’t stay in De Smet. The banner is heavily customized and has patches sewn on it by Anitra Schardin representing many of the activities the De Smet chapter has involved itself with over the years. Williams also has the club’s original charter.
She said that the De Smet Parent Teacher Organization has agreed to take over the sales of Christmas greens for which Kiwanis was famous in De Smet. The Make a Wish Foundation will take over collections of aluminum cans.
Posted on 04-26-2018
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