Community tradition takes a team effort

Waiting in the Pancake Supper pickup line at the Sugar Cane Festival Building or Cyr-Gates Community Center parking area may take patience, but this year as you sit idle in the car, remember the hundreds of days, thousands of manpower hours, love, sweat and syrup it takes to sell enough pancake plates to fund thousands of dollars of annual charitable work in just one day a year. For more than 60 years, the men and women of Kiwanis in New Iberia have successfully supported more than a dozen charitable activities enjoyed by residents and visitors from toddler ages to senior citizens. Anticipation has already been voiced by baby boomer parents remembering the days of their childhood when the family headed to City Park for the Pancake Supper.

The Kiwanis have already been working diligently to get ready for this year’s fundraiser slated for Nov. 15, again at City Park. Tickets were given out at last Thursday’s weekly meeting at the Ramada Inn. The grill maintenance committee has schedule the test day to make sure the grills are in proper working order and supplies are on the way. It takes the whole community in one way or another — buy your tickets early — to support the causes funded by the Kiwanis. What a fun way to donate dollars.

Who Are The Kiwanis

Kiwanis International is a global community of clubs, members and partners dedicated to improving the lives of children one community at a time. Today, the organization stands with more than 600,000 members from K-Kids to Key Club to Kiwanis and many ages in between in more than 80 countries. Each community has different needs, and Kiwanis empowers members to pursue creative ways to serve the needs of children, such as fighting hunger, improving literacy and offering guidance.

Kiwanis clubs internationally host nearly 150,000 service projects each year. Its mission is to help kids around the world making sure kids have what they need to be secure and successful in any community. Local clubs look out for communities and the international organization takes on large-scale challenges, such as fighting disease and poverty. Kiwanis are passionate about making a difference. Helping kids grow and succeed is at the heart of everything they do. But how they do it is just as important. The Kiwanis believe neighborhoods and the world are best served when people of all ages and different backgrounds work together to share their time and talents. Through a mentoring leadership ladder, members grow together from one level of involvement to another starting as youth, through teen years and into senior adults.

As “Mr. Pancake Supper,” Andy Soileau said he made the choice of the New Iberia Kiwanis Club because he grew up with fellow members he serves with — and to undertake making tens of thousands of pancakes annually requires people you can depend upon. Although there are volunteer opportunities with various activities throughout the year, Randy Gonsoulin, recent past-president, said the Pancake Supper is one event every member is required to participate in — it takes the whole team and a lot of batter to mount a massive dinner of pancakes, sausage, milk or coffee, complete with butter and lots of Steen’s Syrup — some folks bring their own favorite brands as well.

Gonsoulin and Soileau were adamant about how much the club depends on and appreciates the efforts of the high school Key Club members. Catholic High School, New Iberia Senior High and Westgate High School will return this year to help with the assembly line and delivery of the packed plates for takeout orders. Joining them for the first time will be the new Key Club members from Highland Baptist Christian School. Still processing the national paperwork, they also will soon have a younger leadership program, the first K-Kids in New Iberia.

Kiwanis History

The oldest Kiwanis Club in Louisiana, founded in 1935, the New Iberia Club, one of two in the city, averages 70 members. They meet weekly for a business lunch and guest speaker at noon at the Ramada Inn.

Early in the life of the New Iberia chapter, paying for polio vaccines was a local mission that served the international vision. Today they annually sponsor the Louisiana Sugar Cane Festival & Fair Children’s Parade, contribute to the Boys and Girls Club, support youth through Key Club activities, participate in the World Championship Gumbo Cookoff as a Key Club team and an adult Kiwanis team as well as other educational and leadership training programs.

Originally held at the Sugar Cane Festival Building, the cooks started with one grill — they now use four custom grills — and it took a few burned pancakes to perfect the cooking and warming process. When the night is done and everyone has had their fill, any left overs are donated to the New Iberia Homeless Shelter, local 24/7 law enforcement or other immediate consumers.

Cindy Herring, president-elect and this year’s chairperson overseeing the Pancake Supper, said there have been some great men that were very valuable at this event including the late Mike Halphen, Ralph Bender and James Boutte. The responsibility for passing the baton onto a new group of energetic and committed Kiwanis is what the K-Kids and Key Clubs are all about — not just for building future Kiwanis membership, but community leaders and business owners who will have a lifetime of friends, family and memories as a result of the work that goes into making pancakes for New Iberians. Get your tickets early.

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