Kiwanis Club of Mt. Pleasant celebrates 90 years with a Dolly Parton Imagination Library Walk-a-Thon

If you’ve seen patriotic flags blowing in the wind on Pickard and Mission Streets in Mt. Pleasant on Memorial Day, Flag Day, Fourth of July, or September 11, and wondered where they came from … You’re not alone in your curiosity. 

These flags are thanks to the Kiwanis Club of Mt. Pleasant

This September, the club is celebrating a milestone 90th anniversary, while their charitable efforts have continued to positively impact the youth of Isabella County for decades.  

The volunteer-led worldwide organization, Kiwanis International, got its start in Detroit in 1915. Today, the legacy continues across more than 80 countries worldwide. 

Mercia Foster, president of the Kiwanis Club of Mt. Pleasant, says the organization has a long history in the local community. 

“Kiwanis has been in Mt. Pleasant since 1933. We are just about to celebrate our 90th anniversary later this month with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Cheers on September 26,” she says. “Kiwanis is an organization of volunteers who are mostly involved with helping children, and shaping communities one child at a time.”

The local club provides service leadership programs for children of all ages, ranging from elementary-school aged to college students. 

“Our own club sponsors two high school organizations called Key Club, two elementary organizations called K-Kids, and one middle school organization called Builders Club,” Foster explains.

With their latest initiative, the Kiwanis Club invites the community to step up, put on their walking shoes, and help raise funds for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which has distributed over 200 million free books to young readers across five countries.

The program extends locally, in partnership with the Gratiot-Isabella RESD, so children five and younger living in Isabella and Gratiot counties can receive one free book each month through the program. 

The Dolly Parton Walk-a-Thon takes place Sept. 18-22, with the goal of participants and donors working together to help Kiwanis reach their $2,000 goal to support the initiative.

The event started during COVID, when the Gratiot-Isabella RESD lost the opportunity to host fundraising for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. 

“We tried to fill that gap by helping raise money to help sponsor the program,” Foster says. “We decided to do that through a Walk-a-Thon.” 

“It’s very loosely organized,” she continues. “Each member that decides to walk finds their own way of getting pledges from people, and says how far they’re going to walk during that week. We’ve been able to raise just under $2,000 to donate each year for the last three years.”

Other Kiwanis events throughout the year include sponsoring teachers, supporting Michigan Police Week, and the distribution of dictionaries to third graders in Isabella County. 

“We present those in the school, show the kids how to use them, and they’re always excited that they get to keep them,” Foster says of the popular event. 

Additionally, for nearly 50 years, the Kiwanis Club of Mt. Pleasant has sponsored a carnival for the Summer Special Olympics annually. Foster enjoys participating in Club events throughout the year, as the cause is close to her heart.

“It gives me a way to continue to help children,” she says. “I’m a retired schoolteacher so children are my focus, and working with a group of people who are like-minded and always want to do the best for children and help them in any way – that’s why I joined.”

Anyone interested in participating in the Walk-a-Thon can send a donation check for the cause, or inquire for more information via or 616-302-4048. 

There isn’t a link available to register or sign up for the event, but that’s by design, says Foster. 

“We decided not to organize through some company that organizes walk-a-thons and sets a path, because they charge money,” she says. “This way, all the money we raise goes right towards the RESD for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.”

Anyone interested in joining the Club or volunteering for events can contact David Foster at 989-400-5005.
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Read more articles by Sarah Spohn.

Sarah Spohn is a Lansing native, but every day finds a new interesting person, place, or thing in towns all over Michigan, leaving her truly smitten with the mitten. She received her degrees in journalism and professional communications and provides coverage for various publications locally, regionally, and nationally — writing stories on small businesses, arts and culture, dining, community, and anything Michigan-made. You can find her in a record shop, a local concert, or eating one too many desserts at a bakery. If by chance, she’s not at any of those places, you can contact her at