The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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October 13, 2012

25 years of Civitan: thousands of dollars to local charities

MANKATO — Nekea Groskopf was just 5 years old when she tagged along to her first Civitan meeting.

That was 25 years ago.

Today she’s the president of the group that has been churning along for 25 years, quietly going about its business of doing good for the community.

But she’ll be the first to tell you she’s just the latest in a long line of people who have been part of a community service group that puts its heart and soul into the work it was set up to do. For the record, Civitan’s primary goal is helping people with developmental disabilities, but that hasn’t been the only object of their philanthropy.

“It’s fun to get involved,” Groskopf said. “It’s a great feeling. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to help your community.”

How much have they helped the community? A lot. Those little boxes of mints near the cash registers of area restaurants? Yep, those are Civitan fundraisers.

To date, people have dropped nearly $150,000 in change into those boxes. They’ve raised more than $80,000 through bowl-athons for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. And more. They volunteer. And they’re not surprised at all when they hear there are still more than a few people who have never heard of them.

“We haven’t exactly done the best job of getting the word out,” said Nancy Peterson, Groskopf’s mother and one of the original members.

They’re at 25 years now and have given out thousands of dollars to local charities. But back in the days when it was just an idea, the Minnesota Valley Civitan Club was a fledgling operation that struggled to get off the ground.

Jack Priggen of the Rochester Civitan Club came to Mankato hoping to get a Mankato chapter started. Why Mankato? Mankato State University was here and it had a program for preparing special education teachers.

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