Community Connections - Crookston’s service clubs are second to none

Jess Bengtson
Crookston Times

    There’s nothing greater than a great service club and Crookston is fortunate to have many that are very visible in the community. They do great things for people in need, great things for the environment and seem to spread positivity wherever they go.

    These clubs are always volunteering for things like Home Delivered Meals (Meals on Wheels), at community clean-ups and wherever needed or asked.

    First, the Crookston Rotary Club, which celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2022, has given back and had many successes in the last 10 years. They’ve applied for and received grants for the Peace Pole Gardens at the Downtown Square and University of Minnesota Crookston, Rotary benches at the Crookston Splash Park and throughout the community, Crookston Youth Foundation’s “The Cove” youth center, and soon-to-be all abilities playground equipment at Carman Park. They’ve installed quite possibly the first public drinking fountain in downtown Crookston at their adopted green space at the Main Street Courtyard which also houses Rotary benches, flower pots and a new bicycle repair station donated and installed by the Polk County Public Health, Downtown Crookston Development Partnership, Bike Crookston and City of Crookston.

    They have roughly 30 members, host two regular meetings a month and try to complete at least one service project a month if not more. They’ve adopted a ditch to clean twice a year on Highway 75 South, continue to give out monthly scholarships to selected Crookston High School seniors and University of Minnesota Crookston students, present scholarships during the annual Triple A Banquet at CHS, hand out dictionaries to every third grader in the community annually and try to highlight special programs and careers at their meetings which are open to the public.

    When the pandemic hit, the Rotary Club led the effort alongside the New Hope Food Shelf for a food drop program for lunch and dinner every day before the public schools opened their meals to go. Rotarians volunteered for each of those food drops and applied for a special crisis grant for the food shelf to purchase more food from the food bank. They even volunteered to help load and collect more food from the food bank when the food shelf noticed it was running low due to the high demand.

    Soon thereafter the Rotary Club thought of a way to help both struggling businesses and recognize essential employees by offering gift cards from local restaurants and retailers to nominated people. They gave away many during the event timeframe which was celebrated on social media.

    Since then, the club has been meeting both over Zoom and in person and picked up right where they left off with service projects and honoring students. Their summer plans include tending to the Main Street Courtyard and Peace Pole Gardens, anxiously waiting for the all abilities playground equipment to be installed, and hosting events during Ox Cart Days in August. They’ll be running the Duck Drop raffle to raise money for community projects and scholarships and, later, they’ll be planning other fundraisers with all proceeds going back into the community - as always. They’re also looking forward to another tree lighting downtown at the courtyard over Small Business Saturday.

    Next, the Crookston Kiwanis Pioneer 100s Club began in 1979 and their mission is “Serving the Children of the World.” Kiwanis is a world wide service organization of men and women who share the challenge of community and world improvement. Kiwanis clubs take on humanitarian and civic projects that many public authorities are not prepared or able to perform. A typical Kiwanis club plans hands-on projects focusing on the special needs of the community.

    One of their accolades includes starting the Terrific Kids program for fifth graders at Highland Elementary School. Students are selected monthly by their teachers on the basis of demonstration of grades, citizenship, and a positive attitude toward schoolwork and other students. The students are then honored at a breakfast along with their families.

    Another is the very successful Helping Hands Builders Club at Crookston High School. The new club made up of seventh and eighth grade students pledges to better their school, their community, their nation and themselves. They participate in special events like the Kindness Campaign and give back to the community through service projects. They also hosted a candy give-out and pumpkin carving at the first annual Historic Halloween Candy Hunt in 2020 in downtown Crookston.

    The HH club is similar to the Crookston Lions’ Leo Club but specifically for junior high students.

    The inaugural Helping Hands club at CHS had close to 40 students signed up and started off with their first fundraiser - tulip sales. The Kiwanis have kept up with tulip sales and offer it annually as a way to brighten up the community and someone’s day during the spring.     

    The Kiwanis Club has also adopted a planter downtown to add to the beautification of the city and has maintained and decorated seasonally. It currently has rose bushes that bloom with beauty each summer.

    And for yet another annual event, Kiwanis members participate and assist in hosting the Chalk It Up art event with the Downtown Crookston Development Partnership alongside the Rotary Club.

    In 2021, Kiwanis partnered with Longtin Agency after receiving an emergency grant from the Crookston Area Community Fund for a hygiene service project for students at Washington and Highland Elementary schools and provided to-go bags with needed supplies. Additionally they held a pull-up/training pants drive for preschool-aged students, again, with a partnership through Longtin Agency.

    Later this year they hope to host additional fundraisers and special events in the community like the upcoming Golf Scramble at Minakwa Golf Course.

    And then we have the Crookston Lions Club who were chartered in 1938 and meet every Monday. Their motto is “We Serve” and, boy, do they ever. They actually changed the format of their club in 2015 after the Dawn to Dusk Lions dissolved after 40 years and members joined the Crookston Lions Club.

    Lions Club International is one of the world’s largest service organizations with over 1 million members in over 200 countries. Since 1925, when the legendary Helen Keller challenged Lions to become "Knights of the Blind", Lions world-wide have made preserving sight and aiding the visually impaired their primary goal.  Additional international focus areas  include engaging youth, relieving hunger, and protecting the environment.

    In 2015, the Crookston Lions’ signature project was raising more than $26,000 to build a portable event stage that’s used for various events in the community like the annual Ox Cart Days summer festival. Other signature projects have included the picnic shelter at Highland Park Complex (now called Ray Ecklund Park Complex) and the specialty Lions water fountain next to the Crookston Splash Park.

    Other annual projects and fundraisers include Hoops on Halloween, a 3-on-3 youth basketball tournament, the Lions Jr. Golf Tournament, annual blood drives, winter tailgate “Spud Bar” fundraiser, coordinating the Torchlight Parade every August during Ox Cart Days, and co-hosting and sponsoring scholarships for the annual Triple A Banquet.

    Service projects the Lions participate in include serving at and raising money for the Care and Share homeless shelter and food shelf, doing a spring and fall highway cleanup, bell ringing for the Salvation Army, delivering meals for Home Delivered Meals through RiverView Health, packing food boxes during the holidays, sponsoring a youth poster contest and University of Minnesota Crookston Man and Woman of the Year.

    When you think of the Crookston Lions Club you can’t not help but think about the Leo Club at Crookston High School. They’re the winningest club in the world when it comes to the international “Excellence Award” which they’ve received for at least 25 years in a row. The student club does approximately 20 projects a month and around 150 or more projects per year.

    Leo Club students pack food boxes, deliver meals to the elderly, read to young children, clean up the community and volunteer for events like the Community Halloween Party where they host a haunted house. They’re led by Lions member Linda Morgan who also works at the high school.

    During the pandemic, the Lions Club helped volunteer at the New Hope Food Shelf food drop events, delivered hundreds of meals to students who were distance learning for school from home, provided pizzas and treats to the residents of the Care and Share on Halloween, and more.

    An upcoming project for the Lions includes adding a new picnic shelter at Wildwood Park in the Woods Addition plus they’re excited to get back to hosting Rib Fest and the Torchlight Parade over Ox Cart Days with registrations open now.

Kiwanis members Cindy Braseth, Shirley Iverson and Susan Sylvester tend to their adopted planter downtown
Kiwanis member Diane Seddon stands by ECFE's Gina Gunderson and the display of pullups donated to preschoolers
Kiwanis member Susan Sylvester presents a Terrific Kids program winner with a certificate
Kiwanis members Diane Seddon and Shirley Iverson at the Tulip Sale fundraiser at Montagues Flower Shop
Lions member Steve Krueger on the Lions float at the Torchlight Parade
Lions member Duane Anderson stands with Happy Joes employee Carter Winand as they deliver pizzas to Care and Share residents on Halloween
Lions members pose at their sponsored event Rib Fest over Ox Cart Days
Lions members pose near their Lion water fountain installed a few years ago near Crookston Splash Park
Rotary member Don Cavalier delivers Meals on Wheels
Rotary members clean up their adopted ditch on Highway 75 South
Rotary members at the Main Street Courtyard they lit up for the holidays
Rotary members Mary Holz Clause (also UMN Crookston Chancellor) and Bob Magsam pose with a student scholarship recipient