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Community is key

Golden Kiwanis member Don Felmlee speaks to Key Club members at Minnesota Correctional Facility-Red Wing during a ceremony this week making the group official. This is the community’s second Key Club; the first is at Red Wing High School. (Photo courtesy Minnesota Department of Corrections)

A new group at Minnesota Correctional Facility-Red Wing is giving residents a chance to help the community while also feeling its support.

A Key Club for youth there became official during a ceremony Wednesday where its members and Red Wing Golden Kiwanis representatives celebrated the achievement.

“This is exciting for all of us to reach this point,” Golden Kiwanis president Jack Strobel said. “It’s been a long road.”

The idea for the group has been around for a few years, and it was a one-year pilot project before officially becoming chartered, said Elise Goebel, one of the advisers. She said there are only a handful of Key Clubs in correctional facilities throughout the country — they are usually organized at high schools — so it took a little extra time to get the logistics figured out.

But that has given the group time to work on many community projects and events, from bringing in a speaker about drunken driving and organizing a Black History Month event to helping the United Way with a mass mailing, working on the CROP Walk and creating a monthly newsletter for the campus.

“I think they’ve gained a lot of skills, organization and leadership,” Goebel said.

The members run the meetings, which are twice a month, she said. They make motions, take votes and come up with ideas for projects.

The club is supported by Red Wing Golden Kiwanis. Member Don Felmlee said while Golden K members can’t be as involved with this Key Club as Kiwanis often is due to access and restrictions, they will help as much as possible.

Felmlee said he has worked with many Key Club groups and this one, while unique, has the same principals and dedication.

“I see the enthusiasm of those Key Club members … and it’s no different here,” he said.

The support from Golden K has meant a lot to the Key Club members, Goebel said.

“It’s so good for these guys to know there’s people in the community that care,” she said, a sentiment echoed by the residents during the ceremony, who thanked the Golden Kiwanis members for their support.

Some of the Key Club members spoke about the importance of the group in their lives. They said it has taught them to serve others and given them an opportunity to give back to the community.

Minnesota Department of Corrections Commissioner Tom Roy said that connection is significant.

“The involvement of the community in these guys’ lives is really important,” he said during the ceremony.

The Kiwanis members serve as role models for the residents, Goebel said, and many of them volunteer in other capacities at the facility.

There is a 10-member limit on the Key Club, and participants have to apply and be accepted to the group, Goebel said.

“It builds their self-esteem and character” to be part of such a selective group that helps the community, she said. “It’s not taken for granted.”

While a lot of work went into chartering the Key Club, “this is just the beginning,” Strobel said Wednesday. “Each of us has potential and each of us is in charge of how that potential is used to serve other people.”

And participation in the club can help residents focus on that, Goebel said. “I think this is going to change these guys’ outcome in life.” 

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

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