By JOHN KIENER
Every once in a while someone has an idea, someone else adds to it, and then another and another and so on,” said Lowie van Staveren, President Jonesborough Kiwanis Club, on Thursday, December 13, as he spoke to the Washington County Board of Education. This “idea” came to fruition at the meeting when the Kiwanis Club presented a check for $8,000 targeted at purchasing Chromebooks for the classrooms of the Washington County schools.
Chromebooks are laptop-type computers which, when combined with educational software, are used by students in their classroom activities. There are over 6,500 Chromebook computers in the county schools and the goal is to have enough Chromebooks to provide one for every student.
The Thursday night presentation was the culmination of a seed idea which began last summer in which a Dinner, Dance and Silent Auction was proposed to raise funds to support technology improvements in the county schools. The program included a catered dinner, a dance, and a silent auction to raise the funds, 100 percent of which would be given to the school for Chromebook computers.
The event was held in the McKinney Center. Kiwanis members worked diligently on decorations, planning and, set-up. DNA Catering provided the meal and Big Time Entertainment provided the music. Nearly 30 members of the Kiwanis Builders Clubs and Key Clubs from the High and Middle Schools assisted as servers, waiting on tables and helping where needed. Many of the nearly 100 people who attended said they were impressed with the way the students worked to make the evening special and successful.
The Jonesborough Kiwanis Club has been serving Tennessee’s Oldest Town and Washington County continuously since 1925. Initially a business networking organization, the club has morphed into a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization committed to helping children.
In 2018, for example, the club has contributed over $14,000 to county schools and an additional $13,000 to community organizations focused on children. Members have also worked hundreds of hours volunteering in schools, town events, and various civic and town committees.
In addition to the new dinner/dance event, Jonesborough Kiwanis members raise money through three other main fundraisers – the Annual Spaghetti Dinner, the Annual Golf Tournament, and managing parking for Storytelling. These club activities are designed to build community spirit while raising funds needed to provide financial support to local organizations.
One of the most popular traditional fundraisers has been the Annual Spaghetti Dinner, held on the last Saturday in February. This event enjoyed its 50th anniversary last year. However, club member Randy Smythe noted “this was our third 50th anniversary,” mainly because nobody remembers when it actually started. Therefore 2019 will be the 51st for the spaghetti dinner.
The meal costs $10 for adults and $5 for children. It includes all you can eat salad, spaghetti with meat sauce (or meatless sauce), noodles (regular or gluten free), dessert, and drinks. Guests are able to dine-in or take out. It is held at the Jonesborough Middle School from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.
On the day of the dinner, Kiwanis members start making the secret sauce and noodles at about 8 a.m. The “noodle man,” Pat Wolfe, said he “prepares 125 pounds of noodles” and noted that other club members prepare 80 gallons of sauce. Add to that the salad “fixins” and deserts donated by the club members, along with gallons of drinks, and you have the essence of the meals.
During the day various club members arrive to make the salads, plate the desserts, and prepare the building for the event. The volunteers’ day goes from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Builders Club and Key Club members arrive at 4 p.m. and assist in cleaning the tables and helping guests.
Much of the food is donated by local markets and businesses. Missing from the meal description is the recipe for the secret sauce. For many years attorney Jud Thornton was the “head cook” for the group and developed the “special sauce”. When he passed away, Lloyd Fleenor took over and became the Spaghetti Chef.
Van Zandt noted that the club appreciates the full cooperation of the Jonesborough Middle School staff for allowing the club the full use of their cafeteria facilities. They school is an ideal venue and a key component of the success of this fundraiser.
The club also partners with the Jonesborough Civitan in a Golf Tournament in early April. This event provides a lunch and a round of golf at the Crossings Golf Course. Money is raised through sponsorships by businesses and individuals.
The schools are a large beneficiary of Kiwanis fundraising efforts through direct donations to the classrooms, support of school programs and organizations, and scholarships to graduates of the high schools. Members also volunteer in the classrooms during the week to assist students in reading, math, and science, assist in monitoring testing and support the “On My Own” program – an exercise in real world finances.
Other funds go to organizations that support children. These include “Bags of Love” help children removed from harmful drug homes. Little League, Soccer, and “Girls On The Run” help children develop athletic skills. Safe Passage, CASA, and other programs support children and women needing assistance. “Shop with a Cop,” established with the Jonesborough Department of Public Safety, provides Christmas gifts and food for families in need, and builds a positive relationship between the police, first responders and the children.
Kiwanis also sponsors auxiliary clubs for students. This includes Builder’s Clubs in the Middle Schools at Grandview, Jonesborough, and Lamar, and Key Clubs at David Crockett and Daniel Boone high schools. These clubs provide a real world environment where students form and manage their own service organizations, electing officers, encouraging membership, creating and implementing service projects, and growing club membership. Their organizations are overseen and led by teachers who volunteer their own time to teach important life lessons. The Kiwanis club offers a $1,000.00 scholarship each year to each Key Club based on the sponsoring teacher’s recommendation.
Kiwanis members come from a variety of backgrounds including medical professionals, an Air Traffic Controller, educators, consultants, and others. The men and women are focused on helping children and work as a team to complete various projects and help with town events such as At Home with Santa, Easter Eggtravaganza and Halloween Haunts and Happenings.
Member Pat Wolfe noted he joined Kiwanis in 1997. “My first contact with the Club was in June 1966. I was back from Vietnam. My military service was in the Central Highlands. There was an orphanage that took our fatigues and washed them. There were lots of small children there. I was asked by Charlie Hartman from Jonesborough Kiwanis to give a program on Vietnam. I showed (club members) slides that included the children. They took up a collection that day and collected money to send to the orphanage. When returned, I got a job in Jonesborough at the Bank of Tennessee, and I joined the club.”
Van Zandt said he “was invited by a neighbor and since the club was focused on helping children, I decided to join. It is a great club.” John Tomko said “I was new to the area. The postmaster, Richard Knight, asked me to join.”
Fondly remembered by the group were past members Bernard Kaiman, Lee Halburg, John Palese, Jud Thornton, Conrad Crow, Earnest McKinney, and other members who helped make a difference in the club and community.
Today, the club meets at the Fellowship Hall at the Jonesborough United Methodist Church at noon each Wednesday. Lunch is catered by DNA Catering (Dawn Heaton). Club dues are $180.00 per year. Officers of the group are President, Lowie van Staveren; Vice-President, Michelle Shelton-Stewart; Treasurer, Jack Van Zandt and Secretary Noah Beeber. The President-Elect, who will take office in September 2019, is Mike Floyd. Randy Smythe maintains the club Facebook page “Kiwanis Club of Jonesborough.” For additional information about Kiwanis, Jack Van Zandt can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.