Steamboat Kiwanis Club members, from left, Theo Dexter, Carol Baily, Bob Kauffmann, Johanna Russell and Bud Romberg are pictured with the proclamation from the city of Steamboat Springs marking the club's 65th anniversary.

Photo by Scott Franz

Steamboat Kiwanis Club members, from left, Theo Dexter, Carol Baily, Bob Kauffmann, Johanna Russell and Bud Romberg are pictured with the proclamation from the city of Steamboat Springs marking the club's 65th anniversary.

Steamboat Kiwanis Club marks 65 years of service

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Steamboat Kiwanis Club member Bob Kauffmann talks Tuesday with other club members at a meeting. The local club will mark its 65th anniversary Friday.

— The Steamboat Kiwanis Club almost didn't make it to its 65th anniversary this week.

When the club's membership dwindled below 15 volunteers last year, some members questioned whether the group could carry on.

“I was to the point of pretty much saying, 'I'm through,'” Johanna Russell, a Kiwanis member since 1993, said Tuesday at a club meeting. “I was too busy. I was getting burned out.”

But the club's leaders didn't want to see the town's longest-established service organization fade away.

The club again ordered the Christmas ornaments that have served as its biggest fundraiser for the past 31 years. Then its members made a goal of finding a way to double the membership.

Russell, and others who were on the fence, reconsidered.

“I wasn't going to be left out,” Russell said. “I decided I can't quit. This club isn't just about what we do. It's a combination of good programs and good camaraderie. If there's any way we can make it, we can make it.”

The Steamboat Kiwanis Club long has been a small group of people doing big things locally and abroad.

They've sponsored needy families at Christmastime and funded a bus that helped senior citizens run errands across town. For a while, they helped clean up miles of trails on Rabbit Ears Pass. And more recently, they hosted forums for the candidates seeking seats on the Steamboat Springs School Board and Steamboat Springs City Council.

“It's impressive what we get done with just a handful of people,” club President Bud Romberg said as he pulled out a handwritten list of projects in which the club has participated throughout the years. “We don't have a lot of money, but we support a lot of things.”

The City Council last week signed a proclamation recognizing the club's upcoming 65th birthday Friday.

At Tuesday's meeting, longtime members recalled that the club, which had younger members when it started here in 1948, grew to about 45 members in the mid-90s.

Women were allowed to join for the first time in the late '80s.

Today, there are more than 13,000 Kiwanis clubs in more than 80 countries working to support youths and seniors.

“What would really be nice at this time is if we were a much larger club and we were able to do that much more,” Romberg said. “The hours this club already has put into this community are uncountable.”

Romberg said that after the club celebrates its 65th birthday this week, members will work to try to double the membership by October.

Everyone has his or her own story about joining the club.

Theo Dexter, who joined in 2006, wanted to carry on his family's legacy of volunteerism.

“I wanted to carry on for my father, who was quite a volunteer,” Dexter said. “What I didn't realize was that I would get to know a lot of people I wouldn't normally get to know. It's not just doing good here. It's fostering communication between generations and ideologies.”

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

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