Gold Cuppers at the Alisal


“It amazes me that people only think of us as the folks on the Viking ship rolling down the street for Danish Days or Fourth of July,” Richard Kline, current Chief of the Vikings of Solvang, says about his organization. “We are so much more.”

That becomes particularly clear if one checks out the Vikings’ website—the header of every page proudly displays the total amount of donations the group, a 501(c)3 organization, has raised since 1974. That figure is over $3.14 million. With that money, the Vikings provide grants for medical needs for anyone in Santa Barbara County.
Kline says those donations cover a spectrum of needs, from cancer-related issues to autoimmune conditions to loss of hearing. Given that another of their most notable events is an annual Christmas party for special-needs children, it’s not surprising someone recently told Kline, “I thought you only do things for people with special needs.” Kline replied, “In a sense we do, but in a very broad sense—all special medical needs.”

It helps that the group, currently close to 200 members, is all volunteer, so there are no overhead costs. Every cent of donations goes to services.

The Vikings wisely began an endowment in 1999; they average its value over the most recent three years and spend 5% of it annually. This year that means over $90,000 in grants. Through well-chosen, conservative investing—and more and more donations—the fund continues to grow. That’s fortunate because Kline admits, “With each passing year there’s a greater need and demand for what we do,” from covering insurance deductibles to helping people afford prosthetic limbs.
And no, one doesn’t have to have a drop of Scandinavian blood to be a Viking! One doesn’t even have to be from Solvang. Members live throughout the county, from Carpinteria to Santa Maria. Members’ ages range from the late 20s to mid-90s, and the only membership requirements are that one must be recommended by a current member, be willing to facilitate further good fellowship, and be able to pony up an annual membership of $300.
Once a Viking, members can take part in as much or as little of the philanthropic work of the group as they choose, which is accomplished largely through committee work. And while there is no Viking Hall for these do-gooders (who deserve a Valhalla—for the living, of course), there is a membership dinner once a month that’s generally held at the Alisal Guest Ranch’s Sycamore Room.

While the Solvang chapter is currently the largest of the three Vikings chapters, it was the third to be formed. The Los Angeles chapter began in 1950 when a group of men who would hang out at Sam Amundsen’s Finlandia Finnish Baths on the Sunset Strip and then head across the street to Ken Hansen’s famous Scandia Restaurant came up with the idea of founding a philanthropic fellowship. Over the years the L.A. chapter included illustrious members such as Nipsey Russell, Broderick Crawford, Barry Goldwater, and Walter Cronkite.

An Orange County chapter followed, and then the Vikings of Solvang—where better to have a chapter formed in 1974. “We keep in loose touch, as we have the same mission,” Kline points out. “But I think ours is the most broad-based and aggressive of any Vikings chapter.”

Take that Christmas party for special-needs children as just one example. The first year the Vikings of Solvang held such an event, they had 30 attendees. In 2019 there were 850: 600 children along with 250 caregivers and teachers. While the children chomped down hamburgers and fries, sat in Santa’s lap, and were personally greeted by over 100 Vikings bearing buckets of cookies, the teachers got Amazon gift certificates to stock their classrooms. Kline says, “It’s such an inspiration to us to see how those kids respond.”

Food might be one of the other common themes for the group’s kindnesses. They regularly dish up dinners at local senior centers with the food coming from Solvang’s beloved Olsen’s Bakery; Bent Olsen is a longtime Viking member. Kline also says there’s a barbecue team that helps other organizations run their barbecue events. All the receiving group has to do is make a donation to the Vikings to keep funding those grants.

There are also annual blood drives, the last one finishing right as the COVID-19 pandemic roared across the globe this March. Kline says about the record-breaking event, “Once again, people in the Santa Ynez Valley showed their true spirit, taking the time to give the gift of life to people they may never meet.” Working with Vitalant (formerly United Blood Services), the Vikings collected 161 units of blood and plasma. “We’ve been hosting blood drives for decades, and this is the best response we’ve ever had,” he said.

It’s interesting that Kline himself came north from Los Angeles just like the group he now leads as Chief (that just means he’s president for this year). He and his wife purchased a home in the Valley in 1988 and were part-timers until he retired from his career in communications and public affairs in L.A. in 2013.

He joined the Vikings of Solvang immediately at the urging of other members. “Part of what makes the group so fun is it gives such a great perspective,” he asserts. “We’ve got doctors, lawyers, horseshoers, roofers, bartenders… You name it, we’ve got people doing it.”

The group makes quite a sight at their fellowship meetings each month, each gentleman in a blue blazer with a Viking patch on its breast. Some members also wear a special Tusind pin—that’s the word for a thousand in Danish, so you can guess how much they’ve given to the Vikings’ endowment. Spot a little diamond or ruby, and you know who has given five or ten thousand. Kline suggests, “It’s a pleasant, low-key way to encourage people to donate.”

Those donations and the grants they make possible will no doubt be even more necessary during the current coronavirus pandemic. “The virus really fits the focus of Vikings—to be there whenever we can for people’s medical needs, in good times or bad,” Kline says. “We are here to help.”


The article above can be found in the online “Inside the Santa Ynez Valley Magazine” on pages 48-51.
Visit “www.insidesyv.com” to view the article.
Special thanks to Connie Cody, Editor and Vice Chief Max Hanberg. Without their
dedication and attention to detail, this article wouldn’t have been possible.

Fallen Vikings Tribute

The Vikings of Solvang paid tribute to four fallen brothers with the Viking Ship navigating the streets of Solvang followed by at least a hundred cars. They drove past the families of the fallen who gathered at Solvang park. The line of cars proceeded to the Vet’s Hall where the BBQ Crew had prepared a dinner for two and a bottle of wine for each passing vehicle. Volunteer servers wearing masks and gloves delivered the meals. Later that night, each Viking family made a toast to their fallen friends.  

LiteGate

Lompoc MTU Supervising Therapist Heather Bouvier shows from left, Vikings Chief Richard Kline, Vice Chief Max Hanberg and Secretary Mike Peterson, the LiteGate she purchased with their donation.

Photo curtesy of Paul Matthies.

Therapeutic Riding Program


The Vikings of Solvang donated funds to the Santa Ynez Valley Therapeutic Riding Program for required COVID-19 supplies. Now they can continue their program.

Pictured from left to right are Amy Melone (Certified PATH Instructor), Marie Stoll (Student and Board Member) atop Hawk (Therapy Horse), Shelly Stolpman (Program Assistant), Viking Chief Richard Kline, Viking Secretary Mike Peterson, Robin Serritslev (Executive Director), and Viking Treasurer Rick Krost.

Photo courtesy of Viking Photographer Paul Matthies.

Vikings of Solvang donate $5,000 to the Buellton Senior Center

Presenting the Vikings donation to Executive Director Pam Gnekow, second from right, at the Buellton Senior Center are, from left, Chief Richard Kline, Charity Committee Chairman Max Hanberg, and Treasurer Rick Krost.

Photo by Paul Mathies.

Theaterfest receives pledge from Vikings

Solvang Theaterfest Board members and staff gratefully accept a $50,000 donation from Vikings of Solvang towards the construction of a new Solvang Festival Theater wheelchair ramp.

Vikings pledge $50,000 to Solvang Theaterfest

Posed on the existing wheelchair ramp in Solvang Festival Theater box office are (L-R) Norm Anderson, Ann Foxworthy Lewellen, Chris Nielsen, Dave Bemis and Richard Kline.

Solvang Senior Center Van

The Vikings of Solvang joined forces with Wheels and Windmills to purchase a van from Vreeland Ford for the Solvang Senior Center.Solvang Cenior Center Van

Fledgling Orientation

Five Fledglings (Dr. Gary Novatt, Bob Leite, Dr. Jim Neary, David Wyatt and Ricky Payne) received their Orientation at Chomp Restaurant prior to being initiated next month.Fledgling Orientation

Therapeutic Riding Program

2015-09-10 Therapeutic Check
The Vikings and Youth Rec teamed up to provide funds for the Therapeutic Riding Program to purchase a Sure Hands electric lift system. The automatic lift will assist riders in mounting their horse.