Irvine-Ravenna Kiwanis Club celebrates 90th birthday at Cedar Village
A member for more than 65 years, Charles Vanhuss compiled this history of the Irvine-Ravenna Club which he read at the 90th birthday celebration at Cedar Village Thursday night.
Remembering Kiwanis in Irvine, Ravenna and related events
For a period of time from 1915 until the early 1920’s the L & N Railroad was engaged in building a switching yard and repair complex for engines and cars at a site near what is now Ravenna, Kentucky. Ravenna was a town with mud streets and buildings/houses in various stages of construction.
Irvine was a town of horses and wagons/buggies with its roots firmly planted in rural America. However, 20th Century America was emerging and vast changes were on the way that would forever effect Irvine, Ravenna and Estill County.
On April 19, 1922, fifty-two men met in the old Wallace Hotel in Irvine to organize the Irvine-Ravenna Kiwanis Club and to breathe new life into the community. The club was among the first in the nation to be organized and it has been in continuous service for 90 years. The club has survived war and depression, good times and bad, and it has surmounted the ups and downs that seem to be the lot of any civic organization. It received its charter on November 24, 1922 having been sponsored by the Winchester, Kentucky club. It’s chief objective was to bring industry and business to the county but over the years, it’s scope has widened to include all manners of civic activity. Many can remember the queen in the story of Alice in Wonderland. She advised Alice to dream impossible dreams every day, and it seems that the Irvine-Ravenna Kiwanis Club has borrowed a page from the queen’s advice. However, it is an established fact that dreams do not come to fruition without dedicated leadership and sound direction and our club has been blessed with a fair share of committed and able men (and women) all through the nine decades of it’s history. That is the primary reason for the striking successes of the many programs of the Irvine-Ravenna Kiwanis Club.
It is well known that agriculture is a prime economic resource for our county and it has frequently been the focus of the Irvine-Ravenna Kiwanis Club programs down through the years. In the early years, the club championed and fought for the issuance of county road bonds. Those bonds were sorely needed in order to help get farmers out of the mud, in which they were entrapped, and into cities where they could market their produce. The club was successful in this effort and the county road program was established. The Irvine-Ravenna Kiwanis Club also sponsored corn shows and it spearheaded the movement to bring the first county agent to Estill County in 1924. Every county agent since that time has worked closely with the Club on programs to improve the lot of agriculture in the area. During the 1950’s, it was decided that the beef herd in the county needed to be upgraded both in quality and quantity. The Irvine-Ravenna Kiwanis Club was called upon for help and became the primary factor in introducing the first pure bred bull into the Estill County stock line. Some years ago, it became apparent that Estill County farmers had little or no market for the milk that they produced and the situation had become a financial drag on tight farm budgets. The club was approached and took the lead in organizing and establishing a local dairy. Many meetings were held and many obstacles were overcome in putting this program together. The dairy functioned for several years and was later sold to private interests. It has also become somewhat of a tradition for the club to sponsor a dinner during Farm-City Week and have farmers attend a meeting as the Club’s guests. This has become a popular event and has created much enthusiasm. Enthusiasm, like measles and the common cold can be very contagious. By talking to one another and working together on projects, our farmers, businessmen and professional people have developed/shared concerns and the desire to strive toward common goals together. One night in 1949 at a cookout in the Kiwanis Park, the Club endorsed a plan to sponsor and promote a horse show project for the county. A committee met with Clark County horseman and auctioneer, Bud Hamilton and soon the project became a reality. The show was held on the Irvine High School grounds, advertisements were bought by sponsors, programs were printed, booths were arranged and goodly crowds attended the event. These shows were continued annually through the year of 1954 and then were discontinued because of the fear of financial loss in case of rain or other adverse conditions. Later on, the horse show was taken up by the Estill County Fair Board and continues today.
During the late 1950’s the community became concerned to an ever increasing degree about the dearth of quality healthy care for all its citizens. Agreement was reached that hospital facilities were sorely needed to alleviate the situation. About that same time, congress passed the Hill-Burton Act that made federal funds available to small towns and rural areas that needed hospital services. The Irvine-Ravenna Kiwanis Club took up this challenge but not without some trepidation because the project was going to be a monumental one which would require a large investment of time and talent. However, it stuck to its’ guns and paved the way for the establishment of the Estill County Hospital which is known as the Marcum-Wallace Memorial Hospital today. John W. Walker, a Kiwanian and local attorney, handled all the legal matters for the project and they were immense to put it mildly. Forms for the bond issue had to be prepared and deeds had to be researched and obtained. A multitude of details had to be worked out and differences resolved. There were hundreds of routine matters that called for the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Job. All of these things were done and the hospital has been a blessing to this county and surrounding areas since that time. Who can say how many lives have been saved and how many more will be spared because of the availability of this wonderful facility.
Let us look now at a somewhat different sphere of operation in which the Irvine-Ravenna Kiwanis Club was involved for period of some thirty years. From 1941 until about 1971, the club sponsored Troop 144 of the Boy Scouts of America. During this time period approximately 600 boys passed through the troop on the way to their life experiences. Sixty of these boys attained the rank of Eagle Scout which is the highest rank in the scouting program. Many were accepted into the Order of the Arrow, a scouting honorary camping society and others received the God and Country Award which is a church/religious award sponsored by the scouting program. Five leaders were honored with the Silver Beaver Award for distinguished service and the troop was the recipient of numerous recognitions by the Blue Grass Council and the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Several governors and three presidents of the United States awarded the Troop Citation for Outstanding Service and it was represented at three National Jamborees and one World Jamboree. In 1948 and 1961 the unit attended Scouting National Wilderness area at Cimeron, New Mexico. Many former scouts of Troop 144 hold positions of prominence across the nation and nearly all have become contributing citizens to their respective communities. Their testimonies are a witness to the leadership development, character building, and citizenship training that they received during their scouting years.
During the late 1920’s and all through the 1930’s and early 1940’s, the nation was involved in troubled economic times. Programs to aid the unfortunate were either non-existent or in their infancy and many people were hurting. Off and on during this trying period, the Irvine-Ravenna Kiwanis Club conducted an emergency relief program known as Associated Charities. Many people were in need of food, fuel and medicine and their situation was often desperate. The Associated Charities program proved to be a life saver in that it enabled people to get through a tough spot in life until they could find a job or secure help from friends or family.
For the past several years, the Irvine-Ravenna Kiwanis Club has been the agent of distribution for the W. R. Prewitt Memorial Fund and hundreds of dollars has been distributed to needy persons and public service groups. The programs assisted through this fund has touched the lives of many persons and has had a salutary effect on the entire community.
At one time, club members put together food baskets for the needy at Christmas season but later transferred that program to Troop 144 who distributed over one hundred baskets every year. Many families would have had a bleak Christmas indeed if this program had not been in place. There is more hunger out in these hills and valleys than one would want to believe. In recent years the Irvine-Ravenna Kiwanis Club has once again assumed the project of Christmas basket distribution as well as provided a Christmas Holiday Parade on the first Saturday in December.
Probably the largest project that the Irvine-Ravenna Kiwanis Club has sponsored for the past 60 years has been the summer baseball program. Beginning in the mid 1950’s and continuing on this 90th Anniversary of the Club, countless boys and girls have participated in the Little League, Mighty Mite, Pony League, and Softball programs. The facilities were originally located at the Kiwanis Park on the Irvine School grounds. They were moved to the Estill County Fair grounds for a few years in the late 1970’s through most of the 1980’s and were then moved to the new Kiwanis Park facilities in Ravenna, KY. This park was created when the club bought 40+ acres of land and subsequently developed it into four baseball/softball fields. The park has since been expanded to five fields and serves more than 400 young people each summer in addition to a church league and also provides the public schools extra space when necessary.
Other projects that come to mind with which the Irvine-Ravenna Kiwanis Club has been involved include but are not limited to:The Joe Ohr Kiwanis Scholarships,The Estill County High School Key Club, Sponsorship of a dental service through the National Health Service Corp., Summer maintenance of the old Irvine Cemetery, The Estill County Ministerial Association SHARE program, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, The Estill County Library summer reading program, The Elizabeth Witt Christmas Party, Relay for Life, GED testing fees for needy adults, Highway cleanup, Readers and books for the early childhood centers of the Estill County Schools, The Academic Teams of Estill County Middle and High Schools, The Mountain Mushroom Festival, The Salvation Army (serving as bell ringers), The Foster Children program, The Estill County Food Bank, West Care drug rehabilitation program. Hospice Care and numerous other programs