The Kiwanis of the Alleghany Highlands celebrated its 100th anniversary with a social and cash bar and dinner at Glen Haven Farm, Clifton Forge, Thursday evening.
The celebration opened with the ringing of the Kiwanis bell and introductions by Bill Lanehart, President, followed by Frank Persinger, Sr., Secretary, and the oldest living member leading the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. Greg Vess gave the blessing of the food, and everyone sat down to a dinner of Chicken, Roast beef, potatoes and carrots, and a salad; catered by C.H.E.F.S. Catering Company, LLC of Lexington, VA.
After the meal, John Stone gave a 100-year club history. The Kiwanis Club of Covington was first organized on Sept. 4, 1923, with Roscoe B. Stephenson, Sr. as the first president, during the days when the “Paper Mill, the Silk Mill, and the Railroad were all doing well,” said Stone. The club was officially chartered on Nov. 30, 1923, sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Clifton Forge, which was chartered two years earlier on April 4, 1921.
This first meeting was presided over by the Clifton Forge Club, with F. W. King, President. The Club met every Friday night for dinner at 6:00 p.m. at various locations since there was no permanent meeting place. “With no Internet connection and no cell phones, I wonder how they communicated where they were going to meet but somehow, they did”, added Stone.
From the very beginning, the club largely confined its activities to work with assisting underprivileged children. “At each meeting a voluntary silver offering was received for this purpose, that’s how we got our Happy Dollars,” said Stone. He mentioned some of the early projects to include adopting a boy at the Boys Home at the cost of $200 per year; the crippled children’s clinic; playing baseball games to benefit underprivileged children; lunches; and generally helping those in need. “We played a lot of baseball,” added Stone. They also supported an annual Christmas Party for needy children, scholarships, and sportsmanship awards. In the past four years alone, seeing a real need during the pandemic, the club has donated a combined total of over $36,000 to four local pantries. “Our pledge is to have fun while making a difference in the lives of young people and to be of service to our community,” said Stone in conclusion.
Jim Oliver was at the 50th Kiwanis Reunion. “That was a gala affair at the Homestead.” He shared a story of someone standing at the podium, saying, “strike one, strike two, and strike three and you are out, and then he fell backwards.” He died right there on the spot. “It was quite a shock to see that,” said Oliver.
Persinger told the story of ladies becoming a part of the club in 1983, with a female piano player. “When women came in some of the old guys left because they wanted to keep it as an all-boys club,” said Persinger. “We survived with the ladies and if you look around this place, 90% are now women,” added Persinger to which he received a round of applause.
Curt Martin, sometime auctioneer, collected the Happy Dollars. He joined the club in 1985 and started off the first round of Happy Dollars by giving $40 and asking for matching dollars. In addition to matching his dollars: one was happy for 100 years and donated $100; one was happy for his 52 years in the club and donated $52; some gave money for the number of years they have been happily married, and one gave because she was happy to see “so many boundaries being broken to include women and people of color.”
The first round of Happy Dollars donations yielded $873. Martin’s goal was $1,000 so he conducted a second round, yielding a total of $1,050.
The Kiwanis Club of Clifton Forge and the Kiwanis Club of Covington merged on Oct. 1, 1993, and the united group became officially known as the Kiwanis Club of the Alleghany Highlands on April 17, 1997.
Their largest fundraising event is now an annual charity golf tournament held each year in October. The club is well known for its Pancake Breakfast, and they conduct an annual Food Drive soliciting monetary donations. “Above all we Kiwanians have fun! We enjoy the fellowship of working together on service projects that help make the community a better place,” read the back of their program.
The evening closed with a ringing of the bell and the large group standing together and singing a rendition of God Bless America.
Current Charter Members include Kevin Cole, Jennie Crawford, Chris Doyle, Ann Gardner, Tom Gross, Stuart Hale, Christine Hodges, Toby Jonas, Keisha Jordan, Lanehart, Louise Lipes, Curt Martin, Nick Moga, Oliver, Frank Persinger, Jr. and Sr., Wayne Pesinhger, Dave Sites, Gordon Specht, Gary Stewart, Stone, Robin Sweeney, Vess, Jackie Whitehead, John Wilson, Duane Wolfe, and Don and Dusti Woodward.