Anyone who has been to Borsch Park has seen the Valmeyer Area Jaycees’ handiwork.
That chapter of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce, a leadership training and civic service, has built restrooms, grandstands and three pavilions at the park.
“The park in general is something the Jaycees have put a lot of time into,” chapter president Kyle Kipping said. “I would say the park is one of our biggest accomplishments and biggest milestones.”
There are numerous other examples of the Valmeyer Jaycees’ efforts, and the community is honoring the organization for 50 years of service at the Valmeyer Mid-Summer Celebration this weekend.
The theme of this year’s parade is “Valmeyer Jaycees: 50 Years of Golden Memories.”
“It’s a big deal for us, especially when you look back at everybody who’s been a part of it,” Kipping, a Valmeyer resident, said. “For anything to last 50 years, I think it’s something special and should be celebrated. We’re proud of everything the Jaycees have accomplished, and we’re going to keep working toward supporting the community and doing projects for the next 50 years and more.”
The Valmeyer Area Jaycees were founded in 1969, with the Waterloo chapter serving as an extending chapter.
There were 25 charter members. Dwight Ahrens served as charter president and Faygene Rippelmeyer, Larry Mehrtens, David Ahrens, Dale Rose, Lowell Ahrens, Larry Andres and Ken Meyer filled other officer positions.
The number of members has stayed relatively consistent in the last 50 years.
“I think it was just seeing the things Waterloo did and the opportunity to give back to the community and do some good in Valmeyer,” Kipping said of why the chapter was founded.
Lowell, who now lives in Columbia, looks back fondly on his decision to be a member of the organization for about 20 years.
“I was a lot younger at the time, and it was a pretty active organization throughout different communities in southern Illinois,” he said. “I loved it. It was a lot of work at times.”
That work has involved the organization contributing labor or funds to a number of projects and causes including community CPR classes, a bike safety program, senior citizen breakfast, reconstruction of tennis courts, a shooting education/gun safety program and a voter registration campaign.
It has paid for those projects through such fundraisers as dances at the Valmeyer American Legion, turkey shoots, fish fries and more.
Even with all that, the organization may be best known for its annual fireworks display on July 4.
“It’s kind of a community event. People look forward to it ever year,” Kipping noted. “That’s a huge expense of ours every year, but it’s something that’s worth it and worth all our efforts that go into the Fourth to be able to put on that show every year.”
In its history, the Valmeyer Jaycees have also contributed more than $500,000 to programs and causes in the community, with a large portion of the money going toward work at Borsch Park.
That work has not ended, as part of the festivities at the Mid-Summer Celebration will be the dedication of a new pavilion the Jaycees built at the park to replace one built in 1969.
There will also be a ceremony prior to Sunday’s championship game of the Mid-Summer Classic baseball tournament honoring the organization and its past members.
Many of those individuals will be on hand, as the club is asking all 186 of its former members to participate in the parade.
Kipping said the celebration both honors the Jaycees’ work so far and shows why the organization is still important after half a century.
“I think with the work that’s been put in by the members over the years, people in the community recognize the contributions that the Jaycees have made,” he said. “Because of contributions that have been made, we have amazing support from the community.”
For Ahrens, who is Kipping’s grandfather and whose brother and daughter were also members, he appreciates that the organization is being honored.
“I think it’s great,” he said.
The Valmeyer Mid-Summer Celebration runs July 4-7. For more information, go to the Valmeyer Area Jaycees Facebook page.