The Lacombe Kinsmen were this year’s Lacombe and District Chamber of Commerce Not-for-Profit of the Year award recipients.
Warren Kreway, a semi-retired Kinsmen member of 40-plus years, said that what earned the Kinsmen the award, in simplest terms, is community contribution.
“This is one club that lives what they speak.”
Kreway said that the entire purpose of the Kinsmen is to promote kinship and that they do so by promoting community spirit. He said that, in the past, whatever the Kinsmen chose to do there was a feeling of camaraderie that “Radiated through the community” and promoted community spirit.
For Kreway, what is most memorable about his time with the Kinsmen is the relationships made. He said he has formed lifelong friendships through the Kinsmen.
“That long-term, steady friendship that is there for life,” said Kreway. “It never leaves.”
As with many social clubs, the Kinsmen have been around so long it’s easy to forget exactly what they do.
While they are visible in the community, it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint the specific mandate of the group.
Kreway said the Lacombe Kinsmen began as a social club for young men. Members met once a week to have fun. Eventually it evolved to give back to the community and reached out to other communities as well.
“What we were trying to do was teach young men the importance of giving back to the community,” said Kreway.
Teaching people, at any age, the importance of altruism gives them tools to become better people, said Kreway. He also said it is a skill he thinks society is losing.
As such, Kinsmen projects are more important now than they have ever been. One such project is Santa’s Anonymous, a project Kreway co-chairs.
Santa’s Anonymous is joint initiative between the Lacombe Kinsmen and Family and Community Support Services.
FCSS collects applicants from families to receive toys for Christmas and the Kinsmen collect the toys and then deliver them along with Santa Claus.
Lacombe Kinsmen have been running the Santa’s Anonymous programs since Kreway joined the club in 1975. He said he was not as involved with the project then as he is now, but it was clear at that time there was a need for the Santa’s Anonymous program in Lacombe.
“This was a need that we decided to service. We took it upon ourselves to make sure that Christmas was a memorable time for them.”
Kreway went on to say that without Santa’s Anonymous, many children would not have a Christmas most Lacombians know it. He added that, at this time of year, caring for needy families is all the more important.
Kreway said the Santa’s Anonymous program started with a ‘very local’ feel to it. Kinsmen knew the families that were in need and did what they could to help them. Now, with both the community and the Kinsmen club growing, the Santa’s Anonymous programs has grown considerably.
“We are bombarded right now,” said Kreway, who also sits on the board of directors for FCSS. “We are overloaded.”
However, Kreway said being bombarded is a good thing. It shows that the program is needed in Lacombe and gives Kinsmen and their supporters reason to continue supporting it.
As with most of Lacombe’s various charities and not-for-profits, the Lacombe Kinsmen is well supported. Kreway said there are an overwhelming number of toy donations taken for Santa’s Anonymous each year.
“One of the things that Lacombe is most proud of is the volunteering. The community backs us because they see the value of it. That is what we are trying to teach the next generation.”
Santa’s Anonymous, along with all over the other projects Kinsmen support, is not just about helping others, said Kreway. It is also about encouraging others to do the same and demonstrating that it is worthwhile.
It certainly is worthwhile for Kreway. He said that seeing the looks on children’s faces when delivering Christmas toys is more than enough reward for the work he puts in. Kreway added such initiatives have an effect that mushrooms out to the rest of the community.