Mount Forest Kin Club disbands after 50 years of service

The Kin Club here is no more.

The handful of members left in the once-robust service organization announced on Nov. 29 that the club is disbanding.

The Mount Forest Kinsmen Club was chartered in 1963 with the mandate of “serving the community’s greatest need.” Two years later the Mount Forest Kinette Club, composed of Kin wives, was chartered.

The two groups merged into the Mount Forest Kin Club in 2010.

“We’re going out with a bang,” an emotional past president Lynn Williamson said last week prior to presenting cheques to numerous Mount Forest and Wellington North organizations.

“We want to share the wealth, so to speak, and prove that we do serve our community’s greatest needs.

“We have money, we just don’t have members.”

Last week the club gave cheques ranging from $500 to $1,000 to the Mount Forest and District Christmas Bureau, Wellington Heights Secondary School’s bursary program, the MountForest Foodbank, the breakfast/snack programs at St. Mary’s and Victoria Cross schools, the Saugeen Valley Nursing Centre blanket warming station fundraiser, the Royal Canadian Legion Poppy Fund, Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Wellington and Cancer Patient Services.

The organization also presented an oversized cheque to the Louise Marshall Hospital Foundation, fulfilling its commitment to raise $18,500 for the current redevelopment project at the hospital.

At one time Mount Forest Kinsmen and Kinettes boasted dozens and dozens of members who were relentless when it came to fundraising for both cystic fibrosis research and community projects.

Murray Calder, who joined the Kinsmen in 1975, said lessons learned with the club paved his way to Ottawa as the area’s Member of Parliament. He was Deputy Governor of Zone B, overseeing 13 clubs, and was first runner up nationally for public speaking.

“I still think Kinsmen was the best Dale Carnegie course a person can take,” Calder said.

He explained he joined the service organization because he got “to the point in life, I was 24, thinking there had to be something better than going to the hotel every weekend.”

The late Alex Wilson took him to a meeting “and I looked, listened and liked what I saw, so I joined,” said Calder.

In 1976 he attended his first Kinsmen convention where he met children suffering from cystic fibrosis.  By the time the convention rolled around the next year, two of the children had died as a result of the disease.

“Over 52 years, over $50,000 was raised for cystic fibrosis research,” said Gord Trecartin, who joined the club in 1979.

“I started with Kinsmen because, being self-employed, I wanted something to do besides working.”

Trecartin went on to serve as Deputy Governor of Zone B three times, was elected District Governor in 1995 and was a national board member at the same time.

In 1995 District 1, with clubs throughout southern Ontario, raised a record $450,000 for research into cystic fibrosis. The record still stands. Trecartin was nominated to run for national president in 2010.

Alex Wilson was, however, the first to step beyond the Mount Forest Kinsmen Club as District 1 Coordinator. His wife Sharon, a member of the Mount Forest Kinettes, served as District Coordinator with a team of Mount Forest ladies.

Trecartin has been named Mount Forest’s Citizen of the Year, Kinette Donna McFarlane was volunteer of the year (she went on to excel as a supporter of the Me to We program) and her husband, Bob McFarlane, received a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for his volunteer work, including his time as a Kinsmen member.

“Kin gave us all the basic knowledge and that’s what we did with it,” Calder said.

Members also addressed the “greatest needs” in and around Mount Forest.

“We looked at what the need of the community was, or what the community wanted,” Calder said.

In addition to supporting the Louise Marshall Hospital Foundation emergency room expansion and the current re-development project, the Kinsmen were responsible for actually building the Kinsmen ball diamond in Mount Forest.

“We got together as Kin families with tractors and rakes and built the diamond,” Calder says.

Trecartin added, “And a couple of years ago when the recreation committee didn’t have money to do it, we refurbished it and put a new roof on the concession stand there.”

Developing Murphy Park and the adjacent wetlands was one of the biggest projects the club undertook,  with the Kinsmen spending $80,000 on the project.

The Kinsmen Club was “the push” behind community walking trails – with sponsors and partners – contributing $20,000 with members doing much of the work themselves.

The club purchased for $10,500 an inflatable fire safety house for the fire department, a project for which it received provincial recognition.

The club has also, for about 15 years, organized a mammoth car show that is now an integral part of the annual award-winning Mount Forest Fireworks Festival.

“For the first 10 years it cost us money to do (bring the car show to Mount Forest), but we wanted to help the merchants in town,” said Trecartin.

Last year there were more than 700 cars on display in Mount Forest during the festival and a spin-off in recent year is the motorcycle show and shine held at the Legion. Last year there were 150 motorcycles registered and another 250 just stopping by.

“A few (Kin) members are going to work with the fireworks festival committee when it comes to the car show again this year,” Trecartin says.

Added Calder, “We’ll probably dust off our red (Kin) shirts once a year to ensure we have two miles of metal in Mount Forest.”

Another club highlight over the past 50-plus years is the “Portraits of Honour” project, with which Trecartin was heavily involved.

The oil painting – it measures 40 feet wide by 10 feet high and features the 158 Canadian soldiers, sailors and air crew who lost their lives in Afghanistan – was toured across Canada.

The list goes on and on.

“It’s a hard chapter to close,” Williamson said last week. “There will be another Kin or Kinsmen Club in Mount Forest down the road and we will be there to guide them.”