More than a century of tireless service: Celebrating Dilke Red Cross Society

By Moses Chibaya, Communications Advisor, Saskatchewan

On December 16, 1916, in the small community of Dilke, just northwest of Regina, Saskatchewan, a group of 24 men and women formed a society to help soldiers who were away at war. Little did they know this would be the beginning of a beautiful friendship that would span generations, for more than a century.

It’s a legacy of kindness and grace. The only branch across Canada to celebrate 107 years of service has borne witness to many phenomenal things that have happened during the Dilke Red Cross Society’s 107-year term.

Three women, one seated and two standing, in a kitchen smiling for the cameraThrough 1916 to 1918, the Society concentrated on the war effort: sewing, knitting, packing parcels for the boys in the armed services, then welcoming them home one by one. After the war, during the depression, the organisation revived its activities to fulfill a great service in the local community and worked hard to meet its obligations as a member of the Canadian Red Cross Society.

The annual spring bazaar, door-to-door campaigns, blood donations, swimming, and water safety, knitting socks, making blankets, helping new arrivals in the community, serving food including at funerals are among a plethora of fundraising activities the group carried out over the years. 

Frances Seidlitzh, who has volunteered for 47 years, says even during the difficult years - the Great Depression, war and, more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic, the group carried out fundraising. This past year, despite COVID, they managed to raise $2202.20 through the annual spring bazaar.

“The traditional annual bazaar continues to be a great success. It was our way of giving and helping,” explains Frances with a smile.

Dilke Red Cross Society’s success is down to its amazing tenacity, and incredible teamwork dutifully putting their energy into keeping the Canadian Red Cross moving across generations.   Four generations of Frances’ family have participated over the years.

“My grandmas, Annie Chypiska and Emma Hein, my mom Alice Hein née Chypiska, me and my sister, Bonnie Sigmeth. My daughter, Patty Morris née Seidlitz was a junior member for a short time. It was just a community thing that you got to be involved in,” adds Frances.   

Mary Ann Headford has volunteered for 35 years and says apart from teaching life skills, the group created strong and lasting bonds made over the years, which helped shape society. As Mary explains, with a smile on her face:

“I learnt how to make aprons and dolls. I have made good friends. When you help others, you give off positive vibes. It makes you feel good about yourself. I remember my grandma made socks for the Red Cross that would be sent to war. This has been an invaluable resource in that it created a culture where people cared about others in need.”

Sadly, the romance that the Dilke Red Cross Society has associated with for the last 107 years is coming to an end.

Bonnie Sigmeth, has volunteered with the group for 35 years, is sad the group is coming to an end. She says it is due to lack of members to take it forward. “It was a tough decision to reach, we are all old now and we can’t do it anymore. We wish there was a young generation that could step up to continue with the group.”

For more than a century now, Dilke has served a remarkable role in the Red Cross as a support network, beacon of hope and comfort for soldiers, friendly neighbour for newcomers and consistent supporter of fundraising efforts that support the Canadian Red Cross’ work in communities across the province.
Saskatchewan Canadian Red Cross Vice President, Luc Mullinder, hailed Dilke Red Cross Society for the service and commitment over the last 107 years:
"The Dilke volunteer and fundraising group embodies exactly what the Canadian Red Cross is about: service, commitment to community, and helping others. We can’t thank Dilke enough because they have been around as long as the Canadian Red Cross Saskatchewan has been around. They have seen the ups and they have seen our downs. I hope they know we will be there for them whenever they call us should they ever need us because they have spent more than a hundred years serving our province. We owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude." 
The idea that was hatched from the need to support soldiers in the war has turned into a mesmerizing and fascinating story of devotion and commitment, and for that, we are all truly thankful.

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