The last few years have been rocky for the Stevensville Civic Club, with declining membership and volunteer burnout, but a group of community volunteers has stepped up in an attempt to rekindle the involvement that has made the club so successful in the past. A meeting has been called for Tuesday, March 26 at 6:30 p.m. upstairs at the Stevensville Town Hall (access from outside stairs in alley) and any and every person interested in joining in this effort is invited to attend.
In the last decade, the club has focused almost solely on putting on the Creamery Picnic, a huge annual festival that occurs the first weekend in August. But over the decades, the club has sponsored and organized many projects to benefit the greater Stevensville community.
Records compiled by Darlene Grove indicate that the club was first organized in the late 1940’s and one of the first projects was raising funds for a town swimming pool. Another big project was helping with restoration of Fort Owen State Monument (now Fort Owen State Park).
The club has met for a monthly luncheon meeting throughout most of its existence. The regular meetings provided a forum for members to discuss and decide on which community improvement projects they would pursue. Over the years, the results have been impressive. The sale of the property that is now the Stevensville River Park was halted after Civic Club members mounted a campaign to keep the land in public ownership, and later efforts helped organize and fund improvements at the park. The property that is now the Creamery Garden Pocket Park downtown was purchased and developed by the Civic Club and then handed over to the Town of Stevensville for public use. The River Trail along the Cutoff Road was built. A Walkable Communities project initiated by the club resulted in the extension of the River Trail all the way to Hwy 93. Over the years, the Civic Club has contributed financially to numerous projects, including Bear Mountain Playground, the Stevensville Skatepark, holiday lights on Main Street, and so many more.
In addition, the club functioned as an umbrella organization from which many other organizations spun off, including the Stevensville Historical Museum, Pantry Partners Food Bank, the Stevensville Community Foundation, the Stevensville Main Street Association and the Sharing Tree.
The Civic Club also hosts the annual 4th of July Pignic, a free potluck picnic held at Lewis & Clark Park and open to all, and the Parade of Lights celebration on the first Friday in December. But the biggest event the club is responsible for is the Creamery Picnic, a festival that has on some years attracted more than 5,000 people to town for the two-day celebration. This is the club’s major fundraiser and all proceeds are reinvested in the community for the benefit of all. Citing a lack of volunteers, the Civic Club board attempted to cancel the Creamery Picnic, but the community outcry, followed by a surge of citizen volunteerism, ensured that the 106th annual event took place.
After holding only one meeting since last August, a Civic Club meeting was held on March 12 at which the board stepped down en masse. That board was Ken Scrivner, president, Kim French, secretary, and Tonya Eckert, treasurer. They later issued an email statement that said, in part, “It has been our pleasure serving this town for the last 7 years. It is our time to step down as new members and new blood thrive and flourish.”
An interim board was elected. The new board is Joan Prather, president, Brandon Dewey, vice president, Cheryl Burgmeier, secretary, and Victoria Howell, treasurer. The interim board is launching an effort to revitalize the club and increase the membership. Annual memberships are $20 and you can contact Victoria at 777-3928 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for a membership form or more information.
“It seems as though many people nowadays don’t want to sit through meetings,” said Prather. “And that’s okay. We just want to identify the folks who might be interested and then we can utilize their skills when needed. They can participate as little or as much as they want, but we do need them to become members and share their input and ideas; which, could be very beneficial to the community. Great community projects have happened in the past and they will continue with people, ideas and partnerships all working together to make our community the best it can be.”