COLUMBIA CITY — “I just feel that, some place along the line, it’s your responsibility — if you can give back — give back.”
Ken Lundquist was recently re-elected as the president of the Columbia City Tree Board, but that’s not where his service to the community ends.
Lundquist is also secretary and treasurer of the Whitley County Shrine Club, chairman of the Finance Committee of the Mizpah Shrine Temple, a Mason of the Blue Lodge and a member of the Scottish Rite of Fort Wayne and the Columbia City Elks.
Lundquist, 75, of Columbia City, began his trail of volunteering in Montague, Michigan, right after he graduated high school, volunteering for the White Lake Chamber of Commerce and selling Christmas trees in the winter.
“I remember a girl from my class came down with her two boys and they were all thin — she was wearing a real thin jacket and you know, it was cold. They were wandering around looking at these trees, kind of uncomfortable and I just couldn’t watch it longer. I went back and said, ‘Oh hey look over here,’ and this had to be a $7-10 tree, and I told her, ‘This one’s only 50 cents,’” Lundquist said. He ended up buying the tree for the family.
A few years after that, Lundquist’s time for volunteering diminished. He went to college, met his wife, got married and had his first child. He spent the following years working to support his family and finishing his degree.
Years later, Lundquist moved his family to Westville, Indiana, where he worked at Eagle Food Distributions. It was there that he joined the Lions Club and got involved with teaching classes at the Westville Correctional Facility through his work.
The prisoners worked at Eagle Food Distributions as well, and in exchange, the company had employees teach classes at the prison.
Lundquist did more than teach a class, though; he spent extra time teaching about corporate America — how to interview, how to write a resume and how the working world works.
It wasn’t until Lundquist started working at Supervalu that he settled in Columbia City, and it wasn’t until the birth of his granddaughter, Allison, that his community involvement there truly began.
On Jan. 27, 1999, Lundquist was accepting a certificate on behalf of Supervalu from the Shriners, but he had yet to realize how impactful the organization would become on his life in the next year.
His granddaughter was born with a birthmark that required services from Shriner’s Children’s Hospital, and Lundquist immediately got involved with the group.
“It’s just sort of crazy how he had already been interacting with the Shriners, just from the corporate side of it, before he even joined,” said Lundquist’s daughter, Liane.
After joining the organization in 2000, Lundquist took on leadership positions in the local chapter of the Shriners, becoming president by 2004.
He was third vice president, second vice president, first vice president, president, secretary and treasurer. He’s chairman of the Finance Committee at the Mizpah Shrine.
There are two different lines of Shriners, the local and the Mizpah, both of which Lundquist is involved.
Lundquist remembers when a member called and asked him to start in the vice president succession at the local chapter. To the member’s surprise, Lundquist immediately accepted.
“I didn’t join the club to be name-only,” Lundquist said.
Years later, Lundquist has done the “line” several times in the local chapter.
Currently, he is in his second five-year term as chairman of the finance committee at the Fort Wayne Mizpah Shrine Temple and holds the offices of secretary and treasurer in the local chapter.
In addition to his involvement in the Shriners, Lundquist has been president of the tree board in Columbia City for about 10 years.
As president, he gives annual Arbor Day presentations to students at Mary Raber Elementary School, gives progress presentations to the council, works to obtain grants for the organization, works with Davey Resources to decide what trees need removed down and answers citizens’ concerns and questions.
Lundquist also donated a tree on behalf of his wife Nancy and himself, but “nobody really knows that.”
Lundquist’s community involvement does not stop at official organizations.
When his daughter worked at the former Columbia City Nursing Home, he would visit and provide entertainment for the patients.
As the years have gone on, Lundquist has transferred his entertainment from nursing homes to churches, singing and playing guitar at least once a month at the Columbia City United Methodist Church’s midweek meals.
Lundquist has spent 19 years giving back to Columbia City because, “Columbia City has been good to us.”
“You hit a certain age and you think, ‘There’s got to be more to this than what there is,’ and I just felt there was — community-wise and everything else. Community’s good to you, why can’t you give something back? That’s the way I look at it,” Lundquist said.
Columbia City’s Common Council unanimously approved re-appointing Lundquist as the tree board president for another four-year term at a meeting earlier this month.
“I think he’s a fantastic addition,” Councilwoman Jennifer Romano said.