At a recent meeting of the Skyview High School Key Club, Sherlynn Stewart talked to club members about her work at the Western Heritage Center in downtown Billings, where she is the development director.
She told them that her Key Club adviser in Miles City was one of the most influential people in her life, and that she came to Skyview because she was looking for help at an upcoming event at the Western Heritage Center.
“I always go to the Key Clubs whenever I need any youth volunteers,” she said.
No wonder. At Skyview, the 30 or so club members organize the school’s Twirp dance, work with the March of Dimes, UNICEF and the Children’s Miracle Network, help with elementary school carnivals, clean up the grounds around Skyview, run the school’s Saturday Live booth and gather donations for the Dress a Child project.
“We stay pretty busy,” said club treasurer Tanner Nidiffer, a junior.
The club also donated $1,000 to the Bench Cares Account at Bench Elementary School. The Skyview club, which is affiliated with the Kiwanis Club, works closely with Bench because it has Billings’ only grade-school Kiwanis club — known as K-Kids at that level.
The money came from a successful Twirp dance last fall. The club voted to give the bulk of the profits from the dance directly to Bench Elementary, which used the money to buy snow boots, mittens, hats and other supplies for needy students at the school.
Jessica Martin, a junior and president of the Skyview club this year, said the donation was well-timed, “especially with the harsh weather we’re having this winter.”
Joe Walsh, the Bench School counselor and adviser to the K-Kids there, said the Bench Cares account typically contains $200 or so, mostly in the form of donations from Heights residents and businesses. The donation from the Skyview Key Club, made at the suggestion of a Kiwanis member, was a big shot in the arm.
“Needless to say, the money from the Key Club is just instrumental in keeping that fund going,” he said.
In addition to clothing supplies, the fund has been used to help a Bench family whose mobile home burnt down and to help with the moving expenses of other Bench families.
The K-Kids Club has about 60 members, Walsh said, and their projects have included organizing the lost and found, decorating the gym for a Christmas program and cleaning up school grounds.
The club has about 60 members, Walsh said, and the only thing standing in the way of taking on larger projects has been a lack of funding. The club hopes to remedy that with its first-ever fundraiser this Saturday, a pancake breakfast from 7 to 10:30 a.m. in the Bench Elementary gym.
The event will also be a good demonstration of cooperation among the various branches of the Kiwanis family. Walsh said volunteers at the breakfast will represent the Heights Kiwanis Club; the Circle K Club, which is the college-level group and includes students from Rocky Mountain College and Montana State University Billings; the Builders Club from Castle Rock Middle School; and the Skyview Key Club.
Russ Myers, a Heights Kiwanis member, has been an adviser to the Skyview club for 14 years. Members used to pass a key around the table at Kiwanis luncheons and whoever got it that day attended the next meeting of the high school club, but Myers took the key and has yet to relinquish it.
“These are good kids,” he said. “They’re really the cream of the crop.”
Martin, the Skyview club president, said joining the group is a great way to get involved in meaningful projects. It also gives students a chance to travel to state and national conventions and to obtain college scholarships. It’s also a good way to find a way to fit in at a big school like Skyview.
“It kind of invites you in, so it’s very beneficial,” she said.
Wendy Tyree, the Skyview Key Club adviser, graduated in 2001 from Red Lodge High School and was active in Key Club, at one point serving as statewide lieutenant governor.
She said the club was more active in Red Lodge than the one she oversees at Skyview, but that’s probably because there are so many more activities to choose from at Skyview.
At any rate, she said, “it’s still the kids who want to better themselves and who have a big picture of the world.”
Nidiffer, the club treasurer at Skyview, got a chance to see the big picture when he attended an international Key Club convention in Texas last summer.
“It changed my life because I’ve seen how much we changed around the world,” he said.