Words and Images Al Blanton
In 1923, T. Jeff Bailey came to Jasper to organize a local Kiwanis Club. Bailey, the Birmingham representative for Kiwanis International, had once lived in Jasper and worked in the newspaper industry before returning to town to set up the organization. His efforts proved successful, and on February 23, 1923, at a luncheon at the Collins Hotel, 40 citizens formed the Kiwanis Club of Jasper. One hundred years later, that club still stands.
Last Monday, the Kiwanis Club marked its centennial with a banquet at the Jasper High School Cafeteria. Guests enjoyed dinner provided by the Jasper High School Culinary Arts Program “Viking Rock Café” and performances by Jasper High School Phoenix of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Completely.”
After Kiwanis president Sam Bentley welcomed guests, past-secretary Jerome Wassmann offered the invocation. Debbie Sanders, who served as past-president of the club from 2021-22, provided an outline of club service, and past-president Terry Gurganus detailed the organization’s history from 1923 to the present day.
Several club members were also recognized for the “Legion of Honor” achievement for years served. These include:
- Jeff Donaldson – 50 years
- Frank Caldwell – 40 years
- Terry Gurganus – 40 years
- Jerome Wassmann – 40 years
- Jim Clark – 35 years
- Todd Thompson – 25 years
District remarks were given by Mary Hoerlein, who serves as Governor of the Alabama District of Kiwanis, and Seth Edgil, who serves as Lieutenant Governor of the Alabama District.
Throughout the years, the Kiwanis Club has focused on serving children and youth in various ways. Community projects have included CAST for Kids, Backyard Blessings, Jasper Youth Baseball, Boy Scouts, 4-H Club, and Track & Field Day (formerly Special Olympics).
“Kids need adults who care,” said Bentley. “When Kiwanis sponsors events like “Track and Field Day” we are showing the children that they are important, that they matter. One hundred percent of our grants go to programs that serve local children.”
A yearly pancake breakfast fundraiser is perhaps the club’s best-known community project.
“Since at least the 1940s, Kiwanis has been serving pancakes and sausage to raise funds to support our projects throughout the year,” Gurganus said. “Members sell tickets and sponsorships, cook the pancakes and sausage, and serve them with a smile.”
“When someone purchases a ticket to our pancake breakfast or donates to Kiwanis, that generosity makes a difference right here in Walker County. That’s our goal,” added Bentley.
Current officers of Jasper Kiwanis Club are as follows:
- Sam Bentley, President
- Dustin Whisenhunt, President-Elect
- Pauletta Windham, Vice President
- Debbie Sanders, Immediate Past-President
- Jeremy Hagood, Secretary
- Angela Harris, Treasurer
Meetings of the Kiwanis Club are held every Monday at the Bevill State Community College Cafeteria in Jasper. WL