Photo: Pictured above, Joyce Morris (left), Laniyah Williams (center) and Erica Williams smile for a photo after enjoying delicious pancakes at Gadsden Kiwanis Club’s 62nd annual Pancake Day held on Feb. 15 at The Venue at Coosa Landing.
By Katie Bohannon, Staff Writer
The Gadsden Kiwanis Club’s 62nd annual Pancake Day was held on Feb. 15 at The Venue at Coosa Landing. From 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., families, friends and pancake-lovers poured in, enjoying a delicious meal and supporting their community one bite at a time.
Gadsden’s largest social event of the year began in the 1950s with a man named Nelson Thomas. As Kiwanis president, Thomas imagined that selling tickets for a Pancake Day could serve as a fundraiser. Together with 13 other Kiwanis members, Thomas dodged obstacles like blowing fuses with electric skillets and poor cooking skills to raise about $900. Today, Gadsden’s Pancake Day averages between $40,000 and $50,000.
All Pancake Day proceeds donated by community members are directly invested back into Etowah County youth programs. The Gadsden Kiwanis chapter focuses on helping students from senior age-level and below, partnering with charities and organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, Boy and Girl Scouts, Big Brothers Big Sisters and YMCA programs. Each year, Pancake Day promotes Kiwanis passion for protecting children’s dreams and nurturing successful, positive growth throughout Etowah County.
Kiwanis member Glen Williams became involved with Kiwanis during high school, when he joined Key Club. He then participated in Circle K in college. After graduation, he became a member of Kiwanis for several years, but could not participate due to travel. Fourteen years ago, Williams rejoined Kiwanis and returned to an organization dear to his heart.
“I have a heart for children,” said Williams. “I hate to see a child suffer. I like to see children who have the ability to accomplish something to excel. So many times there are teenagers and young people who get overlooked because they’re not the leader in the class, they’re not the most athletic or they don’t have the most personality, but there is a way to find out what they’re good at. We have a knack for that in Kiwanis with our scholarship program. But we also have K-Kids in elementary school that we sponsor, Builders Clubs in middle schools that we sponsor, Key Clubs and Circle K. In Builders Clubs, those kids get inspired. We meet them and we get to know them. They come and help us, and that opens the door for us to help them.”
From city councilmen to doctors to educators, locals involved in all facets of the community participated in Pancake Day, contributing to future generations of leaders and professionals. Volunteers from several Etowah County and Gadsden City Schools served Pancake Day guests, delivering carry-out orders, cleaning up plates and assisting children with toppings.
Abby Terry and Kaleigh Wester from Southside worked the Kid’s Topping Table with Westbrook Christian’s Gracie Hyphled. Inspired by her love for helping others, Terry has worked Pancake Day for three years. Though 2020 is Wester’s first year participating in Pancake Day, her first experience volunteering opened her eyes to a significant reality: helping others is not always an easy task.
“I’ve only been here a couple hours, and I’ve already learned that it’s a lot of work,” said Wester. “But [helping others] is fun; I enjoy helping out the community.”
Williams expressed his gratitude to Etowah County for its support and participation in an event that strives to change lives. The mission behind Pancake Day is more than a warm breakfast or a pleasant morning—Pancake Day represents what is possible when communities work together and when people recognize a need and become determined to enact positive change. Despite the strenuous labors required to ensure such a massive fundraiser operates smoothly, Williams understands that the end result is always worth the effort.
“[I’ve learned] that hard work pays off, not only in your career but in your community,” said Williams. “I’ve learned how to have a love for the community and if you get involved, it’s very rewarding.”