GLADSTONE - In 2004, Bill Roberts had an idea for a good outreach program for Grace Church in Gladstone.
"When I joined the church six years ago, I approached the senior pastor (Steve Patrick) about starting a kayaking club," said Roberts. "He thought it was a good idea and we've been doing it (kayaking) ever since."
Grace Church Kayak Club is about to begin its sixth season and welcomes all current and future kayakers regardless of church affiliation.
"We have club members who go to our church and members who don't attend our worship services," Roberts said. "Our outings on average range from five to 25 people."
The club has only a few simple requirements paddlers are expected to follow: they must wear a floatation device, no alcoholic beverages or illegal drugs are allowed and they must sign a "hold harmless" document.
"That's just in case somebody gets injured during an event, we're (the club) not held responsible," explained Roberts. "It's basically paddle at your own risk."
There are no club dues. Members have ranged from four to 69 years of age with some of the younger ones doubling up with a parent or guardian. Paddling events normally begin in May and run through September on rivers, inland lakes and Lake Michigan, although Roberts is undecided when the first event will be this year.
"May is awfully busy with church activities so we'll probably hold off until the early part of June," he said. "For the first event, I like to go someplace which isn't too difficult, such as the Escanaba River near Pioneer Trail Park, because we often get kayakers who are less experienced."
According to Roberts, Sunday has been the best day for club members to kayak. "We tried Saturday, but that didn't work too well," he said. "Sundays are better because when we get done with church, we have a quick lunch and head out to wherever we're kayaking that day."
How many kayaking events the club holds depends not only on church activities, but also the weather.
"We try to do an event every two to three weeks if we can, but you never know what Mother Nature might have in store," said Roberts.
"Kayaking gives you the opportunity to interact with other people," he added. "You also get real close to wildlife and waterfowl."
Roberts adds the average kayak, a 12 to 14 footer, will run from $350 to $700.
Interested kayakers may contact Roberts (906-446-3261 or email@example.com) or club co-coordinators Dale and Linda Plouff (906-420-8155) or Sherry Myers (906-420-8168).