cLoughlin High School Key Club completed a variety of community service projects over the school year that positively affected students and area residents, according to adviser Jennifer Hammer.
Last summer, members attended weekly farmer’s markets to raffle off items such as a basket of gardening supplies, coupons to Wildhorse Resort and Silverwood and more. They divided the proceeds between their district convention fund; and their club’s general fund, which was tapped into throughout the year.
“More than once this year, we have helped Mac-Hi students with serious illnesses with some of their medical expenses. If you have ever wondered where your donations, ticket sales and carwash money goes, it goes straight back into our community,” Jennifer said.
In August they tackled their signature Fill A Backpack, Make A Smile project, which provides local kids with school supplies. A generous grant from Milton-Freewater Elks Lodgehelped the program that has been in place for several years.
“We are grateful for (the Elks) support and the partnership we have with them. Last year we delivered over 250 backpacks,” she said.
Already looking ahead to August, the group will have days for parents and guardians to pick up filled backpacks. This is a change from home deliveries, the logistics of which became too difficult, she said.
Twice in fall and twice in spring Key clubbers participate in the Adopt-A-Highway program through the Oregon Department of Transportation. Wearing reflective vests, they pick up litter on the stretch of Highway 11 from Appleton to Stateline roads.
A fall baked potato feed continues the group’s partnership with Milton-Freewater Elks. Fundraising from the student group make possible the Christmas food baskets Elks members provide to local families in need.
Using old T-shirts, Key Club members made doggy chew toys and helped Blue Mountain Humane Society with an adoption event held in the fall. And Key Club officers handed out flowers to folks to brighten their day, Jennifer said.
During Halloween club members trick-or-treated door to door for UNICEF, a Key Club international initiative, and the group handed out candy at the Milton-Freewater downtown safe trick-or-treat.
Reciprocating the many years of support the Milton-Freewater American Legion has given the club, the youths helped served Veteran’s Day breakfast at the Legion hall, as in years past. Key members also participated in the Veteran’s Day parade.
The group teamed with the parent Milton-Freewater Kiwanis Club, city of Milton-Freewater and Missy Miller to host the club’s second annual Breakfast With Santa in December. Funds from that went into the district convention and regular account funds.
Jennifer said Missy runs a cookie decorating station and has a small “no adults allowed” store in which kids shop for Christmas gifts.
Their first Walk For Warmth walk-a-thon in January raised money to help those in need with electrical bills. “The purpose of having it in the middle of winter is to have the walkers get a feel for how miserable it is without heat,” Jennifer said.
More than 50 walkers “and an incredibly generous community” raised $3,074, matched by the city of Milton-Freewater.
With that partnership they donated $6,148 to The Salvation Army in Walla Walla for its program specifically for Milton-Freewater residents needing assistance with utility bills.
“We were so blown away by the awesome support from our community that we intend to make the Walk for Warmth an annual event,” Jennifer said.
Ten Key clubbers went to Seattle in March for the Pacific Northwest Key Club district convention. Members could participate in sessions about developing leadership skills, advancing club membership, service project ideas and more.
“It is a tremendous opportunity to meet other Key clubs from all over the Pacific Northwest,” she said.
At DCON the Milton-Freewater group received the Single Service Award — Silver Division in recognition of the success of its Walk for Warmth project.
Key Club President Megan Norton secured a grant from Key Club International to make lap blankets for local nursing home residents.
In mid-May, the club helped community member Lee Anders with his vision of cleaning up the Milton-Freewater Cemetery.
“We had quite the brigade at the cemetery and all the work made quite a difference,” Jennifer said. “There is still more to be done, but we certainly made a dent. Many of the headstones looked really nice when we were out the Saturday of Memorial Day to put flags out.”
Along the way, the club volunteered at Frazier Farmstead Museum’s fall festival and at Gib Olinger Elementary’s math, science and art nights.
Their three-year-old Friday Food Bag program served more than 40 students this year, up from 22 last year. “With this grant-funded program, we provide small bags of food (average cost $5 a bag) for students who may not have food at home over the weekends.”
The club won a grant from Nickelodeon, which showcased their Food Bag program throughout December.
Jennifer said the club’s departing president worked hard to build the club and its presence in the community. “Megan has such an incredible passion for service, she’s become a role model to me. She is teeming with great ideas and ways to help her hometown.”
Megan is enrolled at George Fox University in Newberg, Ore.,to major in business.
“She intends to return to Milton-Freewater and head up her own nonprofit. So many items on this list of what we have accomplished could not have been done without her at the helm. Keep your eye on this kid, she’s going to do great things,” Jennifer said.
Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or afternoons at 526-8313.