It was on Nov. 9, 1910, when a group of seven women who lived on Bear Lake north of Hutchinson started an organization with the goal of spreading sunshine and cheer to all in need. These seven women were Mrs. Lem Tomlinson, Mrs. Ed Newman, Mrs. Charles Johnson, Mrs. William Bonniwell, Mrs. Walter Bonniwell, Mrs. George Oliva and Mrs. Frank Sustacek, and they called themselves the Bear Lake Sunshine Society. Amazingly, 104 years later, the Bear Lake Sunshine Society is still carrying on the tradition and now has 20 members who cheer on people with cards, fruit baskets or financial assistance.
The first officers elected in 1910 were Mrs. Ed Newman as president and Mrs. Lem Tomlinson as secretary/treasurer. The second Wednesday of the month was chosen as their monthly meeting day. Dues were set at 10 cents a month. The following motto was adopted:
Have you had a kindness shown? Pass it on. It was not given to you alone. Pass it on. Let it travel down the years. Let it wipe another’s tears, ‘Til in heaven the deed appears. Pass it on.
Through the years many greeting cards of cheer were sent to anyone who needed a lift. Fruit baskets and flowers were also delivered to those in need of cheer. They send out, on an average, 50 cards and two fruit baskets or bouquets a month. In 2010 they disbursed a total of $1,000 to organizations such as DAVA, Burns Manor Beauty Shop, Meals on Wheels, Hutchinson Library, Equul Access, Inc., Hutchinson Area Healthcare Foundation, Elks Club, Adopt a Vet program, McLeod Alliance for Victims of Domestic Abuse, The Mary Burich House, Young Mom’s United, McLeod County Salvation Army, Heart of Mn. Animal Shelter, Crow River Habitat for Humanity and Common Cup Ministries.
The current officers of the organization are Beverly Moe, president; Pearl Seales, vice president; Roxann Field and Carol Olson, treasurers; and June Beach and secretary. Beverly has been a member for seven years, Roxann and Carol for five years, June for 21 years. With a chuckle in her voice, Beverly said, “Once you become an officer you stay an officer for a long time. June has been secretary forever.” Elaine Lundeen, now deceased, was a member for nearly 70 years, and one member, Sandy Meyer is a third generation member.
The group still meets once a month on the second Wednesday, but the dues have increased to $1 per month per person. “We have a real nice time visiting with each other,” said Beverly. “Good comradery People get along well. We do fun things. We just feel we need to cheer up people. That’s the main reason.” If someone wants to join the Bear Lake Sunshine Society they can call Beverly at 320-587-2669.
In the month of May they sent out 53 cards and delivered 2 baskets. Recently the group sent out a birthday card to Rose Jergens who celebrated her 103rd birthday and Charlie Thor who turned 100. “So if you hit a milestone you will get a card,” said Beverly.
The group raises funds to pay for these cards and baskets by having a yearly rummage sale and selling cards. If you wish to help them financially you can send a donation to Bear Lake Sunshine Society, care of Beverly Moe, 18013 Common St., Hutchinson, MN 55350.
Writer’s note: I was scheduled to meet with the Bear Lake Sunshine Society on Thursday, May 8 at Beverly’s home to do this story, but I had to reschedule due to a heart attack I incurred on May 7. My daughter, Tricia, called Beverly to inform her of the news and that I had to cancel my interview appointment. To my surprise the Bear Lake Sunshine Society sent me a card wishing me well. Then they presented me with a basket of fruit when I did this interview. I think the group should adopt this song: You are my sunshine, My only sunshine. You make me happy When skies are grey. You’ll never know, dear, How much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.
Living active members in 2014: June Beach, Jane Linder,Yvonne Piker, Kethia Bomstad, Beverly Moe, Stella Rauch, Shirley Bowen, Sandy Meyer, DeDe Schaefer, Jean Carlson, Carol Notch, Pearl Seale, Lori Dahlberg, Carol Olson, Elsa Young, Marcelle Dapper, Val Pikal. Honorary members at Burns Manor: Adeline DeMuth, Roxann Field, Babette Piker. Members who have passed away since 2005: Elaine Lundeen 62-year member, Phronsie Swanson 10-year member, Deloris Wills 32-year member, Josephine O’Fallon 39-year member, Jo Gilhousen 38-year member, Janet Luedtke Schmidtz 17-year member. Special Friend: Renae Anderson 30 plus years.