“To Serve the Community’s Greatest Need.” That’s the motto of the St. Albert Kinette Club, a local charitable organization that is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. In those five decades of community service, the club has more than lived up to its motto. And though the Kinettes originally formed as the female counterpart to the Kinsmen Club, it’s been clear from the very start that the Kinettes were never just a supplementary charity group—they’re a successful, charitable organization in their own right.
The St. Albert Kinette Club held its first official meeting on November 8, 1966, where its 14 members, led by Mrs. Jeanne Irwin, sat down to decide what form their club would take. Their decision? To model it after other Canadian Kinette Clubs across the country—but with a slight twist. Unlike the other Kinette Clubs that often acted as auxiliary organizations that supported the projects of their male counterparts (the Kinsmen), the St. Albert Kinettes decided they would do things differently: In addition to providing support to their husbands, they would organize and host projects on their own.
The first of these independent Kinette projects was the Christmas Food Hamper, a project that continues to run every holiday season. In their first year, the Kinettes managed to produce hampers for 35 families in need.
Other early projects included Kinette-run public speaking courses for the women of St. Albert, programs for schools and youth groups and their own regular movie night called Kincinema.
In 1970, the Kinette Club made their first sizable donation to the community. They had raised over $600 from their Kincinema project and used the money to furnish the waiting rooms of the newly built Sturgeon Hospital.
This was only the first of many collaborations the Kinettes would have with Sturgeon Hospital. In the next few years they would begin to organize blood drives and raise money for research on both cystic fibrosis and heart disease.
The 1970s also saw the Kinettes take on a much bigger role in the annual Rainmaker Rodeo, a project that was traditionally run by the Kinsmen Club of St. Albert. The Kinettes helped with the rodeo preparations, sold tickets and acted as organizers and judges of the Rainmaker Parade and Rodeo Queen contest.
While the Kinettes in St. Albert had always had their own community projects separate from those of the Kinsmen, they weren’t actually a fully independent organization. In fact, none of the Kinette Clubs in Canada were. Traditionally, to become a Kinette, a woman had to be the wife or daughter of a Kinsman. But this changed in 1988 when Kin Canada ruled that a woman’s membership did not have to be tied to that of a male relative. This ruling also granted Kinette Clubs across the country the right to manage their own finances and found new Kinette Clubs in communities without waiting for a Kinsmen Club to be founded first.
In 2002, the Kinettes expanded their annual Christmas Hamper program to include the new “Fill-A-Bus” initiative. During the first year, they managed to completely fill two city buses with food, toys, and monetary donations for families in need. In 2003, they added a third bus to ensure that there would be enough room for the incoming donations. Before long, they started using double-long, bendable buses to keep up.
Today, the St. Albert Kinette Club faces more difficult challenges than they have in the past. The economy is not what it once was, and the donations they are able to collect reflect that fact. The need for charity is up, and there aren’t as many people who can give. Nevertheless, the Kinettes dutifully continue their efforts to serve the greatest need of the community, whatever that need may be. t8n
In their first year running the Christmas Hamper, the Kinette Club managed to collect enough food to feed 35 families. These days, the Kinettes collect enough to feed between 200 and 300 local families during each holiday season.
The first Kinette Club was founded in 1942, and today, there are 146 Kinette Clubs spread across Canada. Since their creation, they and their Kinsmen counterparts have raised over 1 billion dollars for Canadian charitable causes.