For three decades, members of the community have been attending the annual pancake breakfast to fill not only their bellies, but the shopping carts of local school children. All proceeds from the breakfast benefit the Kiwanis Club’s “Back-to-School Shopping Spree,” which gives 100-125 area students the opportunity to buy shoes, clothing and school supplies, encouraging them to stay in school and be successful.
Former Kiwanis Club president Bill Hagler, an avid member of the organization since 1974, has been greeting patrons from the event's ticket booth every year since the breakfast debuted in 1984. Hagler said he can’t recall exactly how many pancakes were sold that day, but the breakfasts’s importance is a memory that will never fade.
The problem was first brought to light by the late Alvin Gibbs, a former superintendent of education and the fundraiser’s founder. Gibbs saw a growing problem in the school system: Embarrassed by their lack of proper clothing, more and more children were reluctant to start or go back to school each year. When they were finally forced by law to return, they were often so far behind in their studies it was nearly impossible to catch up. As a result many of these students dropped out as soon as they were old enough, creating a problem for both themselves and society.
"Gibbs challenged our club to do something to help with the problem," said Hagler, "and that's how the pancake breakfast got started."
Kiwanian volunteers have been flipping flapjacks ever since.
"The event has continued to grow each year," said Hagler, "which is great because the more people we serve, the more money we can put back into the community."
With this year’s ticket sales running close to those in years past, the Kiwanians are expecting serve at least 3,500 people Saturday. Multiply that number by three pancakes and two sausage patties equals quite an undertaking, says Hagler. Volunteers start setting up for the event the day before and arrive as early as 3 a.m. Saturday to start cooking.
"It takes quite a number of people and hours to get everything ready and going, though I think we have it pretty well oiled by now," he said.
Hagler contributes the success of this "well-oiled machine" to club members’ dedication and the community's love of this 30-year tradition.
"It's become almost a tradition here. You get to see friends from last year and make new friends this year," Hagler continued. "You may be sitting with someone you don't know when you get here, but I promise you will know them by the time you leave."
But to Hagler, the shopping trip it funds is a brand-new experience each year.
"Some of these kids have never even had a new outfit before. It's a heartwarming experience to be able to do this, and to see the expressions on their faces,” he said. “It's incredible.”
IF YOU GO…
WHAT: 30th annual Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast
WHEN: March 1, 6 a.m.-1 p.m.
WHERE: Anniston City Meeting Center, 1615 Noble St., Anniston
TICKETS: $5 in advance, $6 at the door
INFO: Email firstname.lastname@example.org