Sad endings can bring new beginnings, and the now-defunct Yankton Community Forum will help make many new beginnings by the donation of its treasury to the Yankton School District’s scholarship fund.
The age-55-and-up group has been meeting the first three Tuesdays of every month for the last 14 years — that is, until the COVID-19 pandemic made such gatherings a danger to senior adults.
“When this coronavirus thing came along, we shut down in the first part of March and we could foresee down the line that it was time to dissolve the membership,” Lorraine Slade, 2020 president of the Yankton Community Forum, told the Press & Dakotan. “Flu season was coming up in winter, the age of our group was advancing, our numbers were getting smaller and we just couldn’t seem to recruit new members.”
Slade called a meeting of the club’s officers and board to ask if it was time to dissolve the group, she said.
“We met in June or July out in the garage where we could be spaced apart,” Slade said. “I said, ‘You’re my mouthpieces. What do you want to do?’”
They drew up a resolution to dissolve the group and mailed a copy of that with a ballot for every member to vote.
“Within two weeks, I had every member’s ballot back, and every ballot was to dissolve, with one opposing,” Slade said. “It was a painful thing to do, because we were a group that loved to get together, visit and just have time together.”
According to the Yankton Community Forum’s bylaws, if the group was ever to dissolve, any money left in the treasury was to go to the scholarship fund of the Yankton School District (YSD), she said. “So we met with Dr. (Wayne) Kindle and presented him a check for $5,000.”
The Yankton Community Forum was a great group of folks who appreciated and valued the importance of education in the community, YSD Superintendent Wayne Kindle told the Press & Dakotan.
“I always enjoyed an invitation to visit and speak with this group of people and will miss their words of wisdom,” he said. “On behalf of the Yankton School District, I want to sincerely thank them for their donation to be used toward scholarships at Yankton High School.
“The scholarship fund will be named after the Yankton Community Forum. The school district hopes to award a $500 scholarship each year for the next 10 years,” Kindle said.
Under other names, the Yankton Community Forum has been around much longer than 14 years. Prior to becoming the Yankton Community Forum, it was called the Golden K, and was a branch of the Kiwanis Club. The Yankton Community Forum was founded by members of the Golden K, led by Darwin Tessier, when that group stopped meeting.
Most of the group’s members were former educators or were involved with education in their careers, Slade said, and their meetings reflected that.
“We started off those mornings having coffee and rolls, and from there, we said the Pledge of Allegiance and sang ‘My Country ‘Tis of Thee’ and had a prayer,” Slade said. “Different members took turns finding a speaker from within Yankton or the surrounding area to give us an update.”
The updates were educational and community based, she said. “The school, for example, we’d have an update on what was going on there, or the Parks Department. But we never got into anything that was political,” Slade said. “That was in our bylaws. The speech was to inform us of what was happening within our community.
“We never professed to go out and do community service,” she added. “This was a fellowship group.”