In the spring of my freshman year of high school I gave in to peer pressure, and it was one of the best things I ever did.

I joined Key Club. KEY is an acronym for “Kiwanis Educating Youth.” To be a member in good standing, you had to commit to volunteering a minimum of 50 hours a year at service projects within the school or community.

With this crew, volunteering didn’t feel like a chore, it was fun. My friends and I helped plan for and set up the very first Relay for Life at Bennett Park. We’d go to nursing homes with our pets and visit with the residents as they petted our dogs and reminisced about their lives. I have memories of old folks stroking the head of the dog seated at their feet or on their lap recalling stories of life on the farm, or their beloved pet they had either while they were growing up or while raising their own children.

We’d help haul stuff across town to set up Our Savior’s Lutheran Church’s annual White Elephant Sale and be recruited to help with so many odd jobs along the way that the only memory that remains is fun.

We were a formal organization. We had officers and an executive committee. We had to balance checkbooks and send in reports to our district secretary and governor.

We had to be responsible with money. Every fall we spent hours upon hours creating a haunted house at the Irongate Mall and charged a small admission fee to anyone brave enough to enter our maze of black plastic sheeting suspended from the ceiling. We researched and created an early version of the Hibbing Trivia game and hawked giant suckers between classes to help fund our trips to spring conventions and fall rallies.

Some kids struggled to hit that annual 50-hour minimum, but the majority of the club members easily logged 75 hours or more each year. Those of us that logged more than 100 hours of hours were awarded with a plaque.

I gave in to peer pressure that year and it was one of the best life-decisions I’ve ever made. My years in Key Club made me a volunteer for life. I’ll admit there are a few years post-high school where volunteering wasn’t really on the radar for me. I didn’t go looking for volunteer opportunities as a college student, and it took a few years to find my place in the world after college graduation.

Volunteering is once again a big part of my life, and my husband’s. With three kids, it’s a delicate balancing act of making sure we all have adequate time to work, play and give back to the community we love so much. We’re hoping to lay a solid foundation of volunteerism in our kids. Both of our boys are Cub Scouts, so this morning, you might find us in your neighborhood collecting non-perishable food items for Scouting for Food.

I’ve noticed that the City of Hibbing is in desperate need of folks to step up and join some of the many boards and commissions that make our community run. They’ve been running ads in this publication for the past few weeks.

With so many community members quick to voice their opinion on social media about what needs to be done in the city, I’m surprised at the number of vacancies on these boards. But, as I suspect, those with the strongest opinions are busy living their lives and haven’t considered that they may have the time and hold the key to making our city stronger.

Working hard without financial compensation isn’t always easy, and through my years as a volunteer, I’ve run into my share of roadblocks and headaches that make me want to pack up the towel and head to the lake. “It’s not worth it,” I tell myself. Then I consider the cause and why I got involved in the first place, and realize that it was never about me. It’s about something bigger than me and I’m just a small part of it.

It’s easy to come up with great ideas. It’s even easier to come up with excuses that would keep you from executing those ideas. The challenge comes in stepping up to volunteer for a cause you believe in.

So, Hibbing people, I’m calling you out: find a cause you are interested in and get involved.

Is there an opportunity in city government that you’re curious about? Apply for a board position. Does your kid’s school need help popping popcorn on Fridays, go for it! (Don’t forget to give the kids extra butter.) What about your spiritual life—churches are notorious for having a solid network of volunteers who always welcome an extra pair of hands. New to Hibbing and not sure how to get involved? Welcome to town! Call the Chamber of Commerce. They might have resources that can point you in the right direction.

I guarantee you’ll meet some really talented and interesting people along the way.

In closing, I want to thank Jack, Paul, Harv and all of the folks who were active in Kiwanis Club in the mid-late 1990’s. Thank you for being great advisors and mentors. As a teenager, I didn’t fully appreciate all the time you had to sacrifice to make sure that our club operated smoothly. Thank you for being present at all of our events and for driving us to and from our fall rallies and spring conventions. Sure, we may have gotten lost once or twice along the way (Jack!), but it was as much about the journey as it was the destination.

 Harv, thank you for continuing to keep Key Club a strong and thriving organization at Hibbing High School for more than 20 years, and for inspiring a countless number of kids to become volunteers for life.

And to all of you who were in Key Club with me, thanks for the memories. I hope that you are still striving to hit your 50-hours a year minimum.

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