Lately, within a period of only a couple of weeks, I have been reminded of the importance of civic groups. While attending the recent auction of the Habitat for Humanity program, I became re-acquainted with several friends and made new ones. I placed a modest bid on an item and actually won it. The auction raised several hundred dollars, and I felt good contributing even a modest amount. At the event, I saw people of all ages supporting a worthy cause of helping families who contribute their own sweat equity to help them obtain a safe and comfortable place to live.

A few days later, I was invited to attend a meeting for a little-advertised group of friends who meet for charitable purposes. Again, I had a great evening of not only visiting with those I knew but also making more new friends. This group combines social events with contributions from members. They pool their money and work with several agencies that know about unmet needs in our community, such as medical and utility needs. “We help people who otherwise would fall between the cracks,” one member said.

When I attended the Kiwanis Pancake Day, I invited family members from out of town. They saw local friends they rarely get to see. This civic club’s project raised money to provide school supplies and clothing for children whose parents or guardians do not have the means for the opening of school.

Then I was invited to speak to the Pilot Club of Heflin on March 5. Members enjoy, it seems, reading this column, and they wanted to meet me. Flattered, I accepted the invitation and enjoyed a pleasant luncheon with them.

While preparing for my speech, I researched information about the Pilot Club. This international civic group has a broad mission of “influencing positive change around the world.” They particularly encourage the formation of Anchor Clubs that provide students in high schools and middle schools with opportunities to develop leadership skills.

The signature program for Pilot Club members is focused on teaching safety to children and helping them learn how to avoid brain injuries or other problems related to the brain. They also work with adults who have head trauma or disease.

The Heflin club, made up mostly of retirees, meets monthly to hear a speaker, to strengthen their bonds, and to discuss fundraisers. Their biggest fundraiser is Breakfast with Santa each December. They also sponsor a booth at a flea market and have a couponing program with Martin’s stores in Calhoun County. The money raised at the events, along with money from other fundraisers, allows members to host a Valentine party each February for patients in local nursing facilities. Members help provide gifts at Christmastime for those in need, and they help provide scholarships for Camp ASCAA, an acronym that stands for Alabama’s Special Camp for Children and Adults. Located on Lake Martin in Talladega County, it offers camping sessions each year to those with disabilities. In addition to money from various civic groups and individuals, ASCCA is funded by Easter Seals.

In Heflin, I spoke about how even the tiniest efforts of giving to others can have a huge impact.

My own experience involves neighbors who took me to church as a youngster because my mother had three small children at home. I spoke of how I listened intently to messages my Sunday school teachers told me, and I had the privilege of being mentored by a Christian couple at the church I attended as a teen. Few of these individuals probably knew at the time how they were shaping my life.   

One book I read last year told how a single individual, in spite of the negative deeds of thousands, can change the course of history through big or small efforts.  Some Alabamians are on my all-time list of favorites. I think of the seemingly small thing that Rosa Parks did, simply sitting down on a bus in the face of those who wanted to suppress her civil right. I think of Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller who showed the world that a handicapped person could be as brilliant as any non-handicapped person who had dedicated assistance.

In Calhoun County, the late Warren Sarrell created a financially successful dental program for children, and we have dozens more examples of individuals, both past and present, who have improved others lives.

Civic clubs usually cost a little money, and most of those costs cover the price of the food served at meetings. The money to help others usually comes from fundraising projects. I encourage those who can afford it, to join one or more of the civic and service groups in our area.

They provide great social interaction, good business contacts, a sense of fulfillment when helping others, and opportunities for individuals as a collective group to have influence. Even those who cannot afford the dues can help with projects the members carry out by simply asking how they could be of service.

Thanks to all of those are altruistic, a word that means being selfish toward others; and thanks to the members of the Pilot Club of Heflin who were so gracious to me. Their kindness brightened my entire week.

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