A century of working to better the community continued Sunday, as members of the Mitchell Kiwanis Club broke ground for a new set of playground equipment at Woodlot Park.

The new playground area will feature handicapped-accessible equipment that will better offer opportunities for those with accessibility issues to enjoy playing at the park, said Julie Hart Schutte, president of the Mitchell Kiwanis Club.

“We’re all about kids, so we’re going to do this inclusive park that we will be breaking ground for today,” Schutte said.

The project and groundbreaking are part of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Mitchell chapter of the organization and drew dozens of club members and community members to the park. The Mitchell Kiwanis Club was organized in 1921 by a group of local citizens interested in contributing to the betterment of Mitchell. The club was organized to promote and support programs for the youth and other various programs in the community.

Marking a century of service in the community, members of the club wanted to do a special project that would enhance Kiwanis Woodlot Park, which abuts Lake Mitchell, another Mitchell landmark in which the Kiwanis Club had a hand in developing starting in 1926.

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In particular, one former member who died in 2019 provided the inspiration for the idea.

“One of the reasons is that we had a member who was in a wheelchair. Kristi Arnold was someone who was very valued in our Kiwanis Club. She came to every meeting and helped with every event,” Schutte said. “And we knew we wanted to do a big project. We heard that Kiwanis supports inclusive parks in various places around the country, as we said let’s do that here. Let’s make an inclusive park that is accessible to everybody and everyone can play.”

Schutte said she expected that the new addition would carry Arnold's name in some form.

The club began with a fundraising goal of around $65,000, but the response from donors has been strong, and Schutte.

“We had an initial goal of about $65,000, and we are very excited about some of the support we’ve received already from different groups,” Schutte said.

A poster on display Sunday during the groundbreaking ceremony for new handicap accessible playground equipment at Woodlot Park. The poster depicts some of the ideas the Mitchell Kiwanis Club is contemplating for the addition to the park, which is expected to be completed sometime in 2022. (Erik Kaufman / Mitchell Republic)
A poster on display Sunday during the groundbreaking ceremony for new handicap accessible playground equipment at Woodlot Park. The poster depicts some of the ideas the Mitchell Kiwanis Club is contemplating for the addition to the park, which is expected to be completed sometime in 2022. (Erik Kaufman / Mitchell Republic)

The initial plans for the playground equipment included a rocking raft and see-saw, a musical activity area and a swinging bench, all of which would be handicapped-accessible via a concrete path that would stretch from the sidewalk into the playground. But the influx of donations has the group eyeing even more improvements.

“We’re going bigger. We not only want to put in that accessible equipment, but we’re also adding padded flooring,” Schutte said.

Schutte did not have an exact number on where the club is with its fundraising, but she estimated that they had a shot of raising at least twice as much as their original goal.

The Mitchell Kiwanis Club is working in conjunction with the city of Mitchell on the project, and Schutte estimates that the additions will be completed sometime in 2022. They plan to continue fundraising through at least February, but she said it’s likely they will continue accepting donations through the summer.

Several members of the Mitchell Kiwanis Club and the Mitchell Chamber of Commerce donned hardhats and plunged their ceremonial shovels into the dirt at Kiwanis Woodlot Park at just around 3 p.m., marking the official start of the special project. Supporters and fellow members looked on approvingly.

Schutte said the Mitchell Kiwanis Club isn’t done for the year yet. The organization will hold its Palace City Kiwanis Half Marathon, a major fundraiser for the group, on Oct. 3. That will again bring together members of the group, the membership of which Schutte said they are always looking to expand.

“We want more members. We went to a convention this summer and they said more hands are needed for service, and that’s what we’re about - service to kids - so we want more hands and people to join us,” Schutte said. “If they want to give back to kids, they should join Kiwanis Club.”

Schutte said anyone interested in joining or donating to Mitchell Kiwanis Club can reach out to them through one of their members or by visiting their Facebook page for more information.