Sunday, March 24, 2013

Pancakes for a cause

Cooking for the multitude
You do the damnedest things in the name of community.  But this week it was easy -- all I had to do was make sure a couple thousand people enjoyed themselves at the Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast.

I first joined a Kiwanis Club in 1980 when I was assistant to the publisher of the Tillamook Headlight-Herald.  When the invitation came, I had no idea what a "kiwanis" was nor why I should be interested.

My boss was too the point.  "Go, it's the service club to be in here."

That was tempered by the fact that he was the only person at the paper who qualified to be in Rotary, the boss-only service club.

When I moved to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, I was at first too busy to think of Kiwanis.  But I found myself focusing too much on government, crime and mayhem instead of the vibrancy of our community.  I found another Kiwanis Club full of energy, good-hearted humor and the passion to serve.  Even in the snowbound darkness of Northern Idaho mornings, breakfast with my fellow Kiwanians was often the highlight of my life.

Pouring samples of MUple syrup
Eventually I went off to grad school and into management at  newspapers where I was expected to join that "other" service club.  Rotary was enjoyable and definitely the place to meet movers and shakers.  But "service" tended to mean digging into your wallet for another $5 "fine." (Exception:  The Pendleton Rotary poured beer at The Roundup.  We got about a penny a cup for our efforts and raked in $1,600 one year.  Do the math.)

I invited myself to a Kiwanis Club here in Columbia a couple of years after I took my position at the Missouri School of Journalism.  It was a spin on my earlier need:  I knew there had to be something in this town beyond Ph.D.s and hoary academic traditions.

The Kiwanis Club of Columbia takes the term "service" seriously.  We box groceries for the Food Bank, read to kids at a pre-school, serve lunches to kids in need and take on a community building project each year.  That's in addition to the score or so of children's programs we support.

Cooking breakfast ham
I good part of the funding for those deeds comes from the annual Pancake Breakfast we put on with the four other Kiwanis Club in Columbia (all spin-offs from our original club).  Each of us is supposed to sell at least a dozen tickets, but I usually buy them myself and give them to friends.

It's an amazing gathering.  People from all walks patiently stand in line four a couple of rather ordinary hotcakes and a slice of ham. The dining hall at Columbia College fill with happy conversations as men and women in K-emblazoned had refill their coffee cups and bus their tables.  I circulated and gave samples of the maple syrup the MU Forestry Department is now making.

But the sweet surprise for me came a few days earlier.  I had avoided an officer position in the club for years, partly because my seat on Faculty Council gave me more than enough extra duty.  But I'm leaving the council in June, so gave in and agreed to be vice president next year (then president-elect the year after and president the third year).

My Kiwanian friend Ernie Lee sent a causal note to me last week thanking me for taking the position and explaining that the Pancake Breakfast is coordinated each year by the vice presidents of the five clubs. 

And by the way, next year it's our turn to provide the chairman for the event.

Service with a smile, Clyde.  Service with a smile.

No comments: