Kiwanis Club of Palmer’s 70th Anniversary
Contributed by Eva Cohnen-Brown
It is with great pleasure that the Kiwanis Club of Palmer is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. The Mat-Su Valley has been blessed by the steady, consistent volunteer efforts put forth by the club since its inception.
Sig Restad has the distinction of being the longest-serving member of the club, having joined it in 1963. In a recent interview, Restad gave some background to the club’s beginnings. It was originally founded by federal agriculture researchers working in Palmer in August of 1949. Numerous members since then have been associated with the ag community, though many other careers are represented as well. The common thread all members have is a strong commitment to serve the area’s youth.
The very first project began with the establishment of a baseball park - Hermon Brothers Field - which is still used by the Mat-Su Miners and Little League teams. Lucas-Kiwanis City Park was also established in the early days of the club and is a haven with playgrounds for families to enjoy time together.
Projects undertaken by Kiwanis have varied over the years, depending on the needs of the community, club membership, and availability of skills. One highlight from years past was the annual snow machine race from Palmer up to Hatcher Pass. The livestock auction at the Alaska State Fair was also initiated by the club, Restad recalls.
Fast forward to the present, and there are numerous projects sponsored by the club:
Eighth grade awards have been offered since the club’s beginning. These awards are given to the outstanding boy and girl in each middle school’s 8th grade, based on scholarship and citizenship.
Scholarships awarded to high school seniors in the following categories:
Music – based on scholarship, music activities, and the candidate’s intention of making music a career.
Key Club – based on leadership, community service, and scholastic standing.
Service clubs under the auspices of Kiwanis are geared for youth, and include:
Key Club – at Colony High School and Palmer High School
K-Kids – at Sherrod Elementary School
Dictionaries for all 3rd grade students in the school district: About 1,500 dictionaries are distributed annually, depending on school enrollment. This program has been active since 2012, and a total of 16,872 have been distributed since then.
Community support for the annual Palmer Clean Up Day
A.B.A.T.E. scholarships – for motorcycle safety training course
Voting Assistance with Alaska State Fair Board at its annual meeting
Bike Helmets for youth – purchased for children and fitted during Colony Days. On average, 220 helmets are donated each year.
Donations to vital community groups, including My House, Little League, and Arctic Paws for Service (service dogs for autistic children).
Fleece Fandango - assemble and donate fleece blankets to The Children’s Place, a child advocacy center.
Kiwanis has enjoyed helping the community in all these ways and more for these many decades, and looks forward to helping out for many more.
Happy Anniversary, Kiwanis Club of Palmer!
Meetings are held weekly on Tuesdays at Turkey Red Restaurant in the Event Room, at 550 S. Alaska Street, Palmer. We have a variety of interesting speakers, representing local volunteer and business groups. The first few Tuesdays of each month are lunch meetings, from 12:00-1:00 pm. The last two Tuesdays of each month are evening meetings, from 6:00-7:00 pm. All are welcome, and you don’t have to be a member to attend. For more information, please check out our Facebook site - Kiwanis Club of Palmer Alaska - and the Kiwanis homepage at http://www.kiwanis.org.
Note: The author wishes to share a special thank you to Kiwanians Sig Restad and Sandra Garley for their invaluable assistance in providing information for this article.
6-17-19 – Kiwanis Interview with Sig Restad at Cooperative Extension Palmer office
1963 – membership in Kiwanis began when Sig moved from Fairbanks to Palmer
The Palmer Kiwanis chapter began in 1949 with federal agriculture researchers. The chapter has been ag oriented since then, with an emphasis on serving youth.
Helped initiate the livestock auction at the State Fair
Sig has been Kiwanis president 6 times!
Various Kiwanis fundraisers in the past:
Fond memory of the Hatcher Pass snow machine race in the ‘70s, which was a fundraiser for the club. The race went from downtown Palmer to Willow, and ended at the Willow Winter Festival. Because of private property issue, the race route was later changed to go through the Whitaker farm, from Scott Road to Willow.
“Mat-Su Motor Muscles”
Rat Race at the State Fair – a fundraiser
Golf Tournament – began slowly (ask Jonathan Rockey)
Parking lot fee collection at old site of State Fair
Project in the past:
Lucas-Kiwanis City Park (was initially a city park)
Maintenance at old Valley Hospital
After the 1964 earthquake, Kiwanis provided funds to; $7,000… reimbursed to the club (Zentner)
When I asked what Sig recommended for the future of the club, he suggested coordinating with other clubs to take on larger projects. “Farmers Home Administration” (now USDA Rural Development) had been part of Kiwanis mutual cooperation in years past.