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A crew works one of the cooking stations during the annual Kiwanis Pancake Day breakfast benefitting programs for disadvantaged children Saturday. Thousands were served pancakes and sausage at the Anniston City Meeting Center. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)

Walking out of the Anniston Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast at 8 a.m. Saturday, Anniston resident Linda Harvey had a confession to make.

“I had breakfast before we came,” she admitted. “But it’s a nice event, and I wouldn’t miss it.”

Harvey was among thousands of local residents who spent some of their morning Saturday at the Anniston City Meeting Center, where the local Kiwanis Club served up pancakes, sausage and coffee for $5 per plate. It’s a breakfast most could easily have made at home, yet some showed up as soon as the doors opened at 6 a.m.

“It’s a good time of fellowship with people you know,” said organizer Steve Taylor. “There are some people who see each other once a year, and it’s here.”

Volunteers expected to raise about $50,000 from the event, the latest in a series of annual pancake breakfasts that goes back to at least the mid-1980s. Kiwanis volunteers will use the money to buy clothes and school supplies for kids selected by the Department of Human Resources, before the start of the next school year.

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Like the breakfast itself, that event comes with a personal touch. Kiwanis volunteers take individual kids shopping, to help them pick out what they need.

“We spend a couple of hundred dollars on each child,” Taylor said.

Still, it may take more than charity to get people out of bed early on Saturday to eat a breakfast they could have fixed for themselves at home. For many of the folks waiting in line for pancakes Saturday morning, community and tradition were just as important.

David Bean of Alexandria brought his 7-year-old son D.J. Bean this with him this year, the younger Bean’s first experience of the event.

“I wanted to teach him the value of supporting people who are helping kids,” David Bean said. “He’s just excited about getting pancakes.”

Behind Bean in line was Sam Potter of Oxford. He said he’s been coming to Pancake Day events since he was a kid, when relatives brought him to the Kiwanis Pancake Day in Gadsden.

“It’s something I’ve always done,” he said.

Gadsden Kiwanians fed several thousand people at a similar event in February, according to the Gasdsden Times. Tuscaloosa and Florence had Pancake Days lined up for this weekend. Google “Kiwanis Pancake Day” and you’ll find events in Chicago, Texarkana and other places across the country.

Interest in the event doesn’t seem to have waned over the years, and may be growing. Organizers expected around 3,500 customers this year. In 2003, the first year the Anniston Star got a count, there there were 2,800 pancake customers. Organizers say only weather makes a dent in the numbers.

“It doesn’t matter what the temperature is,” said volunteer Steve Madeley. “If the sky is blue, they’ll come out.”

Madely was among about 100 volunteers who worked the event. They spent Friday setting up tables and hanging up advertising banners around the meeting center, something Kiwanians have started doing only in recent years, to pick up more revenue. In a tent-like pavilion in the parking lot, more than a dozen volunteers on Saturday cooked pancakes on multiple grills.

Taylor, the organizer, said he couldn’t begin to estimate the number of hours he or other volunteers put into the vent.

“Our favorite sound is that click of the storage unit closing, when we’ve put it all away,” he said.

They’ll meet in about two weeks to start organizing next year’s event, he said.

Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.