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Bernardston Kiwanis Club founders honored

The senior members of the Bernardston Kiwanis Club, at rear, were taken by surprise Tuesday when the club recognized their combined 355 years of service at the club's weekly dinner at Kiwanis Park. From left: Bill Pratt, George Milton, Bob Deane, Charlie Deane, Byron Beckwith, Russ Deane, Bud Streeter and Bob Messer. Bob Deane, Messer and Milton joined 40 years ago, and the rest are founding members from 1967.
(Recorder/David Rainville)

The senior members of the Bernardston Kiwanis Club, at rear, were taken by surprise Tuesday when the club recognized their combined 355 years of service at the club's weekly dinner at Kiwanis Park. From left: Bill Pratt, George Milton, Bob Deane, Charlie Deane, Byron Beckwith, Russ Deane, Bud Streeter and Bob Messer. Bob Deane, Messer and Milton joined 40 years ago, and the rest are founding members from 1967. (Recorder/David Rainville) Purchase photo reprints »

BERNARDSTON — Nearly 50 years ago, a dozen Bernardston men organized the town’s chapter of the Kiwanis Club.

Five of those founding members are still active in the club after 47 years, and they were honored Tuesday at a surprise ceremony, along with three “newer” members who have been with the club for 40 years. All eight were given monogrammed Kiwanis jackets as a token of appreciation.

Founding members honored Tuesday were Russell Deane, Charlie Deane, Byron Beckwith, Bud Streeter and Bill Pratt. Forty-year members honored were Bob Deane, Bob Messer and George Milton.

They’ve given a collective 355 years of service to the club and community.

When the club was started in 1967 under the sponsorship of the Northfield Kiwanis, the only other club in town was the Men’s Club of Bernardston, more of a social organization than a service club.

Today, the Bernardston Kiwanis Club is still the only service organization in town.

Though the founding members are all senior citizens now, they formed the club to help kids, giving scholarships to local students yearly.

“We built the first playground at Bernardston Elementary School,” recalled Pratt. “Bobby and Charlie (Deane) still both contribute labor, equipment and supplies.”

Pratt said members like the Deanes, of Robert Deane Excavating, have always been willing to donate their time and talents when the club comes calling.

“The resources of our members have put us ahead of other clubs,” Pratt said proudly.

Helping the kids and the community is what got the club together and keeps its members coming back.

“For me, it’s mainly the good and the charity work that we do,” said Russ Deane when asked what he loves about the club. When people need something, they call the Kiwanis and we do what we can to help.”

Deane said he’s amazed by how much the club has been able to do for the town.

“It’s just unreal how much money we’ve raised and given back to the community,” Deane continued.

Years ago, he said, the club set out to raise enough money to build a pool and recreation area for the town. Though the Kiwanis raised $100,000, he said costs grew faster than the money came in. In the end, the club donated the money to the town’s Recreation Commission. The commission can spend 75 percent of the annual interest and can use a third of the principal if approved by a two-thirds town meeting vote.

Those funds have been instrumental in building and maintaining the park and ballfields at Pratt Field, Deane said.

In addition to doing good for the town, the club likes to have a good time and build its own community. Friendships are forged and bonds are solidified through the club’s get-togethers and charitable efforts.

“There’s a real sense of fellowship,” said Deane.

Club President David Lorenz said the Bernardston Kiwanis have about 30 active members, attending and helping out at everything from weekly dinner meetings to club events like Scarecrows in the Park, Old Home Day, the annual Christmas tree lighting and the annual senior citizens’ dinner to be held Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the park.

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