A Kiwanis celebration
Fort Dodge Noon club is 101 years old
Through Kiwanis, Jane Erickson met her husband, traveled the world and helped improve the lives of countless children through her work with the club.
Erickson, of Bellevue, Nebraska, eventually became international president of Kiwanis, which encompasses over 6,000 clubs in 80 nations around the world.
But before any of that happened, she was invited by Dean Clark as a guest to a Kiwanis lunch in Fort Dodge.
“When Dean Clark asked me to join Kiwanis, it was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Erickson said. “I went on to be president here. I learned so much about life through Kiwanis. It’s been amazing the things I’ve learned.”
Erickson was the keynote speaker during a 100-year celebration of the Fort Dodge Noon Kiwanis Club Tuesday evening at Tea Thyme Restaurant, 2021 Sixth Ave. S. More than 50 people attended the celebration. The Fort Dodge club has been in existence for 101 years, but was unable to celebrate 100 years in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Erickson met her husband, Gus, at a Kiwanis convention in 1994. Her husband passed away earlier this year.
“I met my husband in New Orleans at an international convention in our district hotel elevator,” Erickson recalled.
The couple would have been married 25 years in December.
“We did everything together,” Erickson said. “He was all over the world with me.”
After serving in Fort Dodge for six-and-a-half years, Erickson moved up the ranks and went on to serve the Kiwanis Children’s Fund, which is the club’s international foundation. She was on that board for seven years, serving as president in 2007. She became Kiwanis international president in 2016.
She’s grateful for her experiences.
“My husband and I have traveled in over 40 countries and nations helping kids,” Erickson said. “It’s been an amazing experience and it started right here in Fort Dodge because Dean Clark asked me to come to lunch.”
Erickson said Kiwanis has been Best in Show for 101 years in Fort Dodge.
“In order to be Best in Show, you have to be passionate, grateful and willing,” she said. “Passionate about helping kids, passionate about Fort Dodge, passionate about each other.
“Grateful for this opportunity to be here to be able to make a difference. To be able to be that powerful force in the world for helping kids. You wake up in the morning and think, ‘Yeah I can make a difference today. Kiwanis helps you do that.”
Erickson is hopeful that Kiwanis can continue to grow.
“It allows us to step up and do what we need to do to lead to help kids and help communities,” she said. “I am not seeing as much of that now because of COVID and being at home for a year-and-a-half. Now people are willing to come out and be together again. Kids need Kiwanis and Kiwanis needs kids. The world needs healthy kids right now.”
Daryl Beall, longtime Kiwanian, was the master of ceremonies for the event. He appreciated Erickson’s presence.
“We are very proud of her,” Beall said.
Beall, a past club president, said he’s been honored to be a Kiwanian for about 55 years.
“There have been a lot of memories and friends made over the last 55 years or so,” Beall said. “We take very seriously our motto of helping kids. It’s a voluntary organization.”
Beall said his proudest accomplishment was not losing the famous Vern Kramer presidential pin. Vern Kramer had been a president in the 1930s and the pin was passed down for decades after. His son, Jim Kramer, is a current Kiwanian.
“I didn’t lose it,” Beall said.
Gary Astor, the oldest and longest serving Fort Dodge Noon Kiwanian, said the pin was lost in recent years under mysterious circumstances.
Aside from that mishap, Astor said it’s been a pleasure to be a Kiwanian all these years.
“It’s been a chance to be together with other people in the community and do some community projects,” Astor said. “One of the biggest things I’ve gained out of Kiwanis is each week we meet together, socialize, but we have had outstanding programs and speakers or find out about something we need to get involved in or help with. It’s kept me going. I’ve been a member 51 years.”
Astor, a past Nebraksa-Iowa committee chairman, also held a record of 40-plus years of perfect attendance. Those records are no longer kept.
“Some people go fishing, I go to meetings,” Astor said. “In the early days, Kiwanis had a big social aspect.I think now that things have changed a little bit. We don’t have the social aspect we used to have.”
He also enjoyed visiting clubs in other communities.
“We used to do a lot of inter-club meetings where we would go to other clubs around,” Astor said. “It was also a lot of fun to go to Manson or Humboldt, go there and have lunch with them.”
Astor said the 100-year celebration was a chance to reflect.
“This has forced us to look back at things and remember what we have done,” Astor said. “We did so many things for the Fort, with the drug store and the speaker platform and belt buckles. And that was just out there. You look back and say over the years we have done a number of things and can take pride in that.”
Don Fritz, governor of the Nebraska-Iowa Kiwanis District, had a challenge for fellow Kiwanians in the audience.
Fritz spoke about what makes a good day at work or in the life of a Kiwanian.
“Not too many weeks ago I was a volunteer at the emergency food pantry in Lincoln, Nebraska,” Fritz said. “Any parent can come to this food pantry and get food no quesitons asked.
“In walked a young mother, and she had a 6-year-old and a 4-year-old,” Fritz said. “And they were first timers, we registered them. But I turned them loose in the grocery store.”
It wasn’t long before one of the children found something he liked.
“Almost immediately the child pulled something off the shelf and said, ‘Oh, this is going to be so good.'” Fritz recalled. “And a few minutes later, he grabbed something else and said, “Oh, this is going to be so good.'”
When Fritz looked over at a fellow Kiwanian he was working with at the time, she had tears in her eyes.
“That is a good day in the life of a Kiwanian,” Fritz said. “It’s not what we do, it’s why we do it. As you continue the good work, as you organize new projects and recruit new members, keep reminding yourself why we do what we do. I challenge you, new officers, I challenge you, let’s create those Kiwanis moments.”