The Angel Guild’s Ann Larson and Dee Van Vleck join Jessica Smeall, Key Pen Parks recreational coordinator, right, in a ribbon-cutting ceremony last month at 360 Trails park. The guild donated funds to the park district for a bench at the popular park near Wauna. Photo by Ed Johnson, KP News

Ten years ago, Angel Guild donated a bench to Key Peninsula Parks in celebration of the guild’s 25th anniversary. A bench was installed at Volunteer Park in Lakebay in honor of the organization’s founding members.

Treasurer Ann Larson was sitting on the bench at the Home Park in 2003 watching her granddaughter play and thought it would be a good idea to donate another bench for the 35th anniversary.

She discussed it with current president Dee Van Vleck, and together with other members, they decided it was a good idea. They wanted to let the park district choose the best location.

Van Vleck and Larson contacted Key Pen Parks Executive Director Scott Gallacher and discussed the proposal.

The park district selected a site at 360 Trails for the placement of the new bench. It is located about a half mile up the trail from the parking area in Wauna. The dedication ceremony took place Dec. 18.

The start

Back in the ‘70s, when nurse practitioner Jean Brodsack, from Home, examined George Rickert in Longbranch, she realized the need for medical services on the Key Peninsula, where residents had to go off the peninsula to see a doctor. She and retired military nurses Nat Knox and Judy Wilson began coming to the social hall of the Longbranch Church to take blood pressure and provide other basic medical services. Rickert brought his wife, Minnie, to the free clinic.

Marge (Rickert) Radonich remembers the nurses asking her father, George, about his wife. He told them he was married to an angel. Marge and her sister, Shirley (Rickert) Olson, formed Angel Guild in honor of their mother to support the free health clinic. Nurses provided care until Dr. William Roes volunteered and later purchased the practice, eventually moving it to Key Center.

Shirley Olson became the first president of Angel Guild assisted by Radonich, who took over the helm some years later.

“My mother, Shirley, managed Angel Guild, for at least 15 years,” Claudia Loy said.

Vickie Henschel became the youngest member in 1978 following the death of her husband. She played an active role in running the organization and became the second president. She is still a member, but no longer has time to volunteer.

Continued growth

The focus of Angel Guild turned to other areas of need in the community. They worked to help the homeless and the poor. “Hippies lived all around the KP in the ‘70s,” Radonich said. “And they paid 25 cents for a bath and people started donating clothes for them.”

Olson located a shed in Parkland. The little unpainted building was moved to the Olson farm where Sunnycrest Nursery stands now. In 1983, the sorting shed was relocated across the Key Peninsula Highway to its present site on land leased from Doug Favre.

The first thrift store was up front in the KC Corral in the space now occupied by Goin’ Postal. When the physical therapy business moved out, Angel Guild moved to fill the space where it still operates, Olson said.

Last year, the guild celebrated 35 years of service.

Organizers say that funds not used for operational expenses are given away, often up to $10,000 a month. Qualified groups must be on the Key Peninsula and are required to submit a grant application. Political and religious organizations are not considered.

Schools in Fire District 16, scholarships for kids, Kiwanis Club, Peninsula Light, Camp Easter Seal, seniors, library, food bank and transportation are among the recipients.

Only two employees receive a salary, and the guild relies heavily on volunteers.

Of the 60 members, about 40 are still actively volunteering.

The Angel Guild is seeking more volunteers. For information, call (253) 884-9333.

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