Madras Key Club Serves 900 Youth

This ROPnet is a special feature! Read on for an update from Jefferson County human dignity group, Madras Key Club, written by Erika Olivera, ROP’s summer intern!

Madras Key Club Organizes Jefferson County Fair’s First Ever Free and Culturally Inclusive Craft Booth, Serving 900 Kids in 4 Days!

By Erika Olivera

Many kids in Jefferson County are low-income and the Madras Key Club wanted to do something to make sure that every kid at the county fair was able to take something home. A vision to offer free kids’ crafts to create a culture of inclusivity for all in Jefferson County was brought to light and turned into a reality. Without the free kid’s crafts booth, there would have been many kids who would go home with no special memento from the fair. One devoted advisor, two college students, and five high school Key Club organizers were able to serve over 900 kids in four days during the 2022 Jefferson County Fair. 

The Madras Key Club is more than a community service club at Madras High School; it’s a multicultural group that wanted to make sure every kid felt welcomed and included in the Jefferson County fair. The club has been working on increasing free, culturally inclusive fun for years through organizing community-wide cultural celebrations and Operation Rudolph which is a program that gives Christmas gifts to local kids who may have gone without one. 

Children and adults gathered outside in front of a White tent with banner "free kid's crafts"

Madras Key Club had a vision for a free kids’ crafts day at the Jefferson County Fair as they saw a need for an affordable event for kids since all the other activities at the fair cost money to participate in. Many children in Jefferson County grow up with low-income status and are not always posed with the privilege to go on the carnival rides and play the games due to lack of money. Key Club wanted this year to be different for the kids so they proposed the idea of having free kids crafts. The Key Club fair booth consisted of four days of free arts and crafts for kids in Jefferson County to engage in during the Jefferson County fair. Our mission as Key Club was to offer free kids crafts to create a culture of inclusivity for all.

Funding is always the biggest barrier for clubs and organizations who want to do positive community-building events in their community. One way that Key Club was able to get funding to provide over 900 kids with various arts and crafts activities was by applying for a grant that was presented by the Jefferson County Fair Board. Kim Schmith, who is on the fair board, learned that people who operate the rides and the games were being paid hundreds of dollars for their service. Learning that, Key Club thought it was only fair–no pun intended–to ask for funds for a free kids craft booth that would give hundreds of kids a chance to take a special item home from the fair as well as the opportunity to engage in arts and crafts. Kim also saw it as an opportunity for parents to take a break from the hecticness and be able to buy food while their kids did a craft. This would not only benefit the kids but also the vendors and other businesses at the fair. This was a rock-solid plan because it was a win-win situation. All of the kids in the county would have access to the kids’ crafts booth while parents got to take a break and grab a bite and check out the other booths which would bring more business to the fair. After hearing this proposal the fair board agreed to buy all of the supplies which was about $2,000 for Key Club to put on such an impactful and fun event!

Once she was able to solidify the proper amount of funds to be able to put on such a big event she was on the hunt for local leaders who could help lead the booth as she was busy tending to other things during the fair. She knew she could not pull such an event off all by herself, so she sought out the help of two local Key Club alumni who also happen to be well-recognized community leaders. Kim reached out to my sister Kelsey and me who are both college students at home for the summer and asked us to help facilitate this event. We had prior experience working with youth from Key Club cultural youth days. Which led us to be able to now lead and mentor younger key clubbers. Mentoring the younger key clubbers consisted of teaching them how to properly do the activities so that they were comfortable enough to be able to teach the kids. As well as supporting them to interact well with the kids and families who would be at the fair. Not only were the high school key clubbers able to handle the wrath of 900 kids, but they were also polite to everyone no matter their race or ethnicity further creating a culture of inclusivity in Jefferson County. 

We understand that there are many diverse cultures in Jefferson County. Key Club wanted to make sure that all of the ethnic communities in our county were represented by offering various cultural crafts for the kids to engage in. For example, the kids had an opportunity to make maracas which is a Latin craft. As a Latina growing up in Jefferson county I have grown to recognize that we have a diverse population of different cultures. My sister and I thought it would be a great idea to share this craft with the kids in our community who may also have a similar background. We also had a button maker that the kids had the option to choose a flag that they thought represented their culture. The key clubbers chose a few flags including from the US, Mexico, Peru, El Salvador, and China. We thought these flags represented the diverse ethnicities in our community. By sneaking these simple yet vital cultural crafts into our various activities we were able to help kids and families feel seen for who they are thus creating even more inclusivity in a time of great divide. 

Adult and three children outside under a tree doing crafts at a table

You would think that the impact of serving 900 kids was a great accomplishment in itself, however, the impact was greater than that. Kim shares a moment that she believes truly created a more inclusive Jefferson County for all. She said, “Erika and Kelsey can handle the cultural differences in the community. Which not many people let alone our youth can handle. One moment I believe created a more inclusive environment for all was when a latine parent or guardian would come to our booth with their kids shy at first but after being greeted with a smile and their familiar language you could see their faces light up when Erika, Kelsey or another key clubber would speak to them in Spanish. This is what makes their work in the community so special.” We must empower more young latines to pursue projects like this in their community because they have a special connection with the latine community in counties where these diverse cultures are present.

Four youth standing at a craft table under a white tent making art projects

No matter how old or the level of experience, anyone can be an organizer. One devoted advisor and two college students with the help of five high school Key Club volunteers were able to serve over 900 kids in four days. What ideas do you have when it comes to organizing an event in your community? What can you do as an advisor? Do you want to organize an event but don’t have the funding for it? Start by searching for organizations that offer grants to be able to pay the costs for your event, such as fair boards, Kiwanis Club, Rotary Club, and many more. Your next move would be to make a plan and proposal to present to these community-building-based groups. Key Club made it their mission to make sure their community is doing events that are inclusive for everyone. What are you doing, or what will you do to make sure the same is happening in your community? Reach out to ROP at emma@rop.org to let us know or for support in getting started!

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