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doing good - photo of roy reiber at kiwanis 63 years partyRoy Reiber gets ready for his best shot in the "shotput" contest at the Kiwanis birthday party.

photoThis rendering by local artist Chet Endrizzi bears the signatures of the 15 men who founded the Winthrop Kiwanis Club in 1949: Hank Dammann, R. Glenn Daugherty, Warren Badger, Joe Sutherland, M.J. Bryan, Dorrence D. Walter, Geo.L. Dibble, Jack Newell, A.J. Boesel, Paul S. Heaton, Bob Hawkins, W.R. Meredith, Vic Boesel, B. John Mandery, Dale Dibble.

Winthrop Kiwanis at 63

The Winthrop Kiwanis Club threw a birthday party for itself Saturday in Heckendorn Park to celebrate 63 years of doing good for others. Among the 50 attendees were guests from other Kiwanis clubs as far away as Canada.

The 35-member Winthrop Kiwanis Club has members from Carlton to Mazama. When the Twisp club disbanded half a dozen years ago, the Winthrop club became the only one left in the valley. Members pay annual dues of $140, about half of which remains with the local club, and meet every Tuesday morning at 6:30 a.m. in The Barn.

The rest of the time they seem to be everywhere, trying to make life a little better for the people who live here. That’s the business they’re in, after all: Kiwanis is that most American of institutions: a volunteer service club.

photoCarl Miller winds up for the lassoing contest at the party in Heckendorn Park.

Founded in 1915, Kiwanis International has 240,000 members worldwide and supports 150,000 projects a year. Internationally the organization has spearheaded such efforts as adding iodine to salt to help prevent thyroid disease. Currently the international organization, with support from its local clubs, is engaged in eradicating neonatal tetanus in Third World countries, which can be done with a vaccination that costs $1.80 per person. Already the program appears to have eradicated tetanus from three countries, according to local Kiwanian Roy Reiber.

Meanwhile, Winthrop Kiwanis members last year raised $50,000 for local community projects (54, not counting other on-going ones) and donated 1,700 hours of labor, according to Reiber, who joined the club in 1995. That meant that they ranked highest in volunteer hours of the 10 clubs in their district, he said, even though some other clubs are much larger.

While some Kiwanis clubs tend to be what are called “check-writing clubs” that raise a good deal of money and hire things done, Winthrop Kiwanians take pride in getting their hands dirty and doing stuff themselves. “Our group likes the concept of building things,” said Reiber.

“They’re a great asset to the community,” said Winthrop Kiwanis president Ken Rice of his fellow club members. Recruited by Carl Miller, Rice said he joined because it seemed “appropriate to put something back into the community.”

Miller, an ubiquitous Kiwanis presence around the valley, is the only member related to a club founder. His uncle, Hank Dammann, was among the 15 men who started the club in 1949. “Somehow my family inherited the do-gooder gene,” Miller laughed. To the surprise of no one who knows him - or anyone he’s hunted down and strong-armed into buying tickets for the Kiwanis’ Duck Race - Miller said he can’t envision belonging to a club where members only attend meetings instead of getting something done.

photoRingmaster John Owen brings the "Olympic torch" to the Kiwanis birthday games.


Kiwanis’ handiwork is everywhere in the valley: the Winthrop ball field, the town’s park, the Methow Valley Senior Center in Twisp. Among the latest projects is the new pump track for bikers in Winthrop. Thanks to the Kiwanis, kids in the summer reading program are enjoying a screened back deck at the Winthrop Library. There’s a new natural playground at the Methow Valley Elementary School. There have been wheelchair ramps for people with mobility issues. They’ve raised money for school sports uniforms, a retractable pool cover for the Wagner Memorial Pool in Twisp, and an emergency generator for The Barn. They’ve supplied thermometers for the school district’s early flu warning program and provided funding for special education programs. The list goes on and on.

“We spend a lot of effort on the school,” Reiber said. The Kiwanis do the eye tests on all 275 students in grades K-6 in one day. They identify kids who need professional checking by the school nurse, saving her from having to test every child herself. They also help conduct student hearing tests. And Reiber added, “We keep an eye on seniors.”

Reiber, a retired Liberty Bell High School chemistry and biology teacher, said one of his favorite programs is leadership development in the Kiwanis-sponsored Key Club at the high school and Liberty Bell Builders Club at the junior high where members learn what’s involved in public service. “We get a lot of work out of those kids,” he said.

Of the club’s 35 members, six are women. There was a bit of a dustup a few years ago when women decided they wanted to join, Reiber conceded. But Wendy Braden, who joined the group in December at Reiber’s urging, said, “I definitely have felt welcome.” She added that she was pleased when a man told her that he initially had been one of those who objected to including women in the club but now wanted her to know that he had changed his mind.

The thing she really likes about Kiwanis, Braden told Grist, is that “They are go-getters.”  She’s been put in charge of the club’s whimsical annual Labor Day fund-raiser, the Duck Race. Another big-ticket fund raiser for the club is the annual March Bite of the Methow in The Barn. The food lines are long and it resembles “organized chaos,” said Braden. But people are patient, she added, because “Everybody knows the money goes to the community.”


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