Kiwanis Club marks six decades of volunteer service

On Friday, Oct. 26, the Kiwanis Club of Red Deer will be holding a special charter night to celebrate more than 60 years of volunteer service. The Club has a truly outstanding record of contributions to our community.

The Kiwanis Club of Red Deer was first established in October 1951.

The City at the time had a population of only 7,000. However, with Alberta’s great post-war era under way, the community was beginning to grow very rapidly.

The new club was officially sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Calgary Downtown and had a promising 24 charter members. However, the Charter Night was not without incident. The potato salad proved to be tainted. Many people went home with significant gastric and intestinal distress.

While the Kiwanis Club saw support of youth as one of its mandates, it also saw support of seniors and health care as another important area of interest. Consequently, in 1952-1953, the Club came up with the idea of creating low-cost rental accommodations for seniors.

A six-acre parcel of land was acquired on the south hill. In November 1953, the Twilight Homes Foundation was created by the Kiwanis Club to lead the initiative.

In June 1954, work began on a set of ‘cottages’ to provide housing for senior couples.

Shortly thereafter, the Kiwanis Club and Twilight Homes Foundation began work on a seniors housing complex that included support services. It was the first lodge project in Alberta and probably in all of Canada. The uniqueness of the initiative was underscored by the attendance of Premier Ernest Manning at both the sod turning ceremonies in June 1955 and the official opening on May 18, 1956.

The Twilight Lodge and Cottages proved very popular and were soon filled to capacity. Consequently, there was a great deal of additional construction of seniors’ housing over the next 25 years. As well, a second lodge, the Pines, was built in 1975.

Meanwhile, Kiwanis commenced a number of other significant projects and programs. In 1954, 80 acres were purchased at Sylvan Lake for Camp Sherbino, a wilderness style camp for Girl Guides and Rangers.

In 1964, the first Kiwanis Music Festival was staged.

It quickly became one of the leading youth musical competitions in Central Alberta. In 1986, this highly successful annual event was reorganized as the Red Deer Festival of the Performing Arts.

In 1977, Kiwanis began work on a social and recreation centre for seniors in the downtown area. The City’s first telethon raised an amazing amount of money for the project.

The Golden Circle was soon successfully completed. The popularity of the facility was such that a major addition was constructed in 1980-81.

In the spring of 2001, the Kiwanis Safety City opened on a 3.5 acre site along 30 Ave.

This remarkable facility promotes accident and injury prevention and includes a unique mini-streetscape as part of the children’s safety training programs.

In the past several years, the Twilight Homes Foundation has ended its ownership and management of seniors’ housing in Red Deer. However, it continues to be a significant donor/contributor to the community.

There is an almost endless list of projects and services either launched or supported by the Kiwanis Club/Twilight Homes Foundation. For example the Red Deer Youth and Volunteer Centre was an initiative of the Waskasoo Kiwanis Club, which had been chartered in 1964 and continued to serve the community until it merged with the Red Deer Kiwanis Club in 1994.

There has been significant support for the Red Deer Regional Hospital, Public Library, Alberta Special Olympics, Ronald MacDonald House, Red Deer Museum and Archives, Little Chief Park, Festival of Trees and the Christmas Carol Festival. Space does not allow a complete list, but support from Kiwanis Club/Twilight Homes Foundation literally totals millions of dollars over the past 60 years.