Spring Valley Kiwanis Club officers are, from left, Immediate Past President Jay Webster, President Jason Runck, President-elect Rita Bezdicek, Secretary Denis Cornell, who is also the immediate past governor of the MN-DAK District, and Treasurer Lloyd Johnson.
Spring Valley Kiwanis Club officers are, from left, Immediate Past President Jay Webster, President Jason Runck, President-elect Rita Bezdicek, Secretary Denis Cornell, who is also the immediate past governor of the MN-DAK District, and Treasurer Lloyd Johnson.
The role of women in Kiwanis was featured Sept. 26 during the charter celebration and installation of officers of the Kiwanis Club of Spring Valley.

Although the Spring Valley club recognized 73 years of service to Spring Valley and the children of the world, this year marks the 25th anniversary of the decision to officially allow women to become members of the international organization. Sharon Jahn outlined the decision by providing history while Cindy Seabright sang "I am Woman," written by Helen Reddy in 1971. She was accompanied by guest Leonard Leutink.

Kiwanis began in 1914 as a service organization mostly for businessmen and professionals, noted Jahn in her talk. Spring Valley held its charter banquet on Oct. 31, 1939. Jahn said members included almost all the business owners up and down the main street along with attorneys, veterinarians, doctors, dentists and other professionals.

The local club soon gained a reputation as the singing club and, beginning in the 1940s, had a woman playing piano as an honorary member at meetings. In 1974, Mary Ann Bauler, the elementary music teacher, adjusted her schedule to she could get away from school for Kiwanis meetings to play piano.

As times changed in the United States and other places in the world, Kiwanis considered allowing women, but the first vote failed with only 27 percent support in 1985. In 1986, an amendment to allow women gained 47 percent of the vote. However, several clubs had already admitted females despite the lack of change in the rules. By 1987, the vote was overwhelmingly in favor.

On Oct. 28, 1987, Bauler became the first official female member of the Spring Valley club. Now, about 33 percent of the members of the Spring Valley club are women, a slightly higher percentage than the national total.

Kiwanis is a service organization that does many projects, including providing scholarships to students. One of those students, Bethany Groten Solum, was present to tell the club what that scholarship meant to her.

The 2003 Kingsland graduate received an academic scholarship, completed her education and found employment in the non-profit sector. She is now relocating to southeastern Minnesota as her husband is continuing his education in Winona.

Solum said that she has told others that Kiwanis chose to invest in her and she thanked the members for investing in the lives of young people through the scholarship program.

"Kiwanis members give their best to make this town the best," she told the group at the banquet.

Outgoing President Jay Webster noted that the club has accomplished a lot of things over the past year. In addition to the ongoing projects, such as student of the month recognition, Read Around the World, Food for Kidz, handyman services, the community Halloween party, Christmas in Fillmore County and bell ringing for the Salvation Army, the club undertook two new projects this past year - working with Head Start and providing 25 trauma dolls to the Spring Valley Ambulance Association.

A major project of Kiwanis International is the Eliminate Project to rid the world of maternal and neonatal tetanus. The club has raised $9,108 so far, enough to save the lives of 5,060 mothers and young children. The local goal is $28,500, said Nancy Cornell, who is heading this effort.

In other recognition, Denis Cornell, who was governor of the Minnesota-Dakota district of Kiwanis, presented a Zeller Fellowship pin to member Jim Hindt.

The club also recognized outgoing board members Steve Hadoff and Jason Runck before installing the new officers for 2012-13. They are President Runck, President-elect Rita Bezdicek, Secretary Denis Cornell, Treasurer Lloyd Johnson, Immediate Past President Webster and Immediate Past Gov. Denis Cornell.

The board of directors includes Rita Hartert, Herb Barnhart, Jahn, Mark Marburger, John Deatsch and Bill Johnson.

Kiwanis advisers for the Builders Club, a middle school organization sponsored by Kiwanis, are Nancy Cornell and Bill Rowen. Kiwanis advisers for the Kingsland High School Key Club are Marburger, Deb Zimmer and Jeff Thauwald.

Key Club officers for 2012-13 are President Courtney Marks, Vice President Valerie Earley, Secretary Jessi Kaster, Treasurer Trevor Schwartz, Publicist Sarah O'Connell and faculty adviser Linda Wangsness.