By: Cale Colby
Members and guests of the local chapter of the Kiwanis Club gathered at the Margaret Jones Public Library last Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the club’s service to the Worth County Community. Reading a passage from the book, A History of Worth County, current Kiwanis President Jay Crowe stated,
“In April of 1923, a few of the leading businessmen in Sylvester realizing the great need of some sort of civic organization arranged for a banquet at the local hotel and invited all the businessmen of town to be present. It was decided at this meeting to create a Kiwanis Club, and steps were immediately taken to secure the 50 members necessary to secure a charter through Kiwanis International.”
In an invocation to proceed the meeting, long time Kiwanis member Johnny Sumner thanked the Lord “for the things this club has done in 100 years for this community, and hopefully in another hundred years, someone will be here celebrating that, and the good that has been done for our community.”
Current Kiwanis President Jay Crowe recognized the club’s current officers including Vice President Gina Connell, Secretary Jean Brooks, and Treasurer Karen Rackley. All of the current and past board members were also recognized.
Crowe explained that A History of Worth County talks about the founding of the local Kiwanis chapter. The president read a passage from the book of local history, “Probably the most outstanding organization in the last ten years has been the Kiwanis club of Sylvester… The membership is composed of substantial outstanding and patriotic businessmen joined together for the primary purpose of building up Sylvester and Worth County… There has since its organization been nothing proposed or begun that promised anything of value or benefit to the underprivileged or needy, or for the promotion of welfare for the people of the county that this club has not unanimously supported and sponsored.”
The passage went on to explain that the Kiwanis Club made it possible for the Woman’s Club to purchase the clubhouse at the intersection of Pope and Westberry Streets. And, there has always been a “beautiful spirit of cooperation” between the Woman’s Club and the Kiwanis Club. Jay Crowe also explained that the mission of the local Kiwanis Club is to support Worth County and Southwest Georgia’s youth.
When speaking of the first members of the Kiwanis Club, the president mentioned that the family names are recognizable throughout the history of Worth County. Crowe said, “I think Kiwanis Club has always been a vital part of Worth County and Sylvester, and the history of our town and county.”
Mr. Bob Monk then recounted an article in the Sylvester Local that described the first meeting of the original Kiwanis members. Mr. Monk read, “On Friday, March 9, 1923, a number of Sylvester citizens representing all walks of life gathered around banquet tables at the Bell Worth Hotel.”
After speaking with his father, Mr. Ridley Monk, Bob learned that the Bell Worth was located on the corner of Main and Kelley Streets where Uncle Bill’s Pizza currently sits. He continued quoting the Sylvester Local article, “The meeting was enlivened by several rousing talks of the needs of the city and the county.” Mr. Monk also explained that the article asked, “What is Kiwanis?” And explained, “They are builders, builders in friendship, in rightness, in business character, efficiency, and civil morality. The believe in the practical application of the Golden Rule…”
Also, Mrs. Jean Brooks and Mr. Bob Monk recognized several fellow Kiwanis members who were visiting from neighboring chapters including Cordele, Moultrie, and Albany. From Albany, Mr. Tommy Gay was in attendance. Mr. Gay served as President of the Sylvester Kiwanis Club in 1983. Mike Bertram also served as a past president of the Sylvester Kiwanis Club.
Monk also recognized Mrs. Katrina Baranko who was in attendance for the centennial celebration. Baranko has served as a past president of the Albany Kiwanis Club, a past Georgia District Governor, a past Kiwanis International Trustee, and she is the incoming Kiwanis International President to be installed in June in Minneapolis.
Bob Monk also explained that Mr. John McPhaul was one of the principal organizers of the 100 year celebration, as he was well briefed by Mr. Ridley Monk on the history of the local chapter. McPhaul’s contribution was remembered, and he was also recognized as the past president of the Sylvester Kiwanis Club.
Next, Mayor Harold Proctor offered a proclamation in honor of the Kiwanis Club. He thanked the founding members who had the vision to begin the club as well as the many members since who have maintained the vitality of the local chapter. Then he read,
“Whereas the outstanding achievement of this organization truly emphasizes the Kiwanis motto… And whereas the contributions that the members of the Kiwanis have made to the community has been made possible by the support of the members of the community. Whereas community support through churches and other philanthropists have contributed to the quality of life and made our community a better place for all to live.”
Mayor Proctor declared March 29 to be Kiwanis Day in the City of Sylvester.
At 101 years old, Mr. Ridley Monk addressed those in attendance as he recalled that he was only 20 months old when the club was first founded in Sylvester. And he remembered his mother telling him that the first meeting happened on the third floor of the only building in Sylvester with three stories. Ridley’s mother served in the Woman’s Club at the time and catered the men in attendance that day, and she bemoaned having to carry a tub of butter beans with one arm, and her baby with the other up three flights of stairs.
The elder Monk presented a 98 year old brochure from one of the first meetings in which Governor Chase Osborne spoke with WSB Atlanta. Ridley’s son Bob read the famous founder of Possum Poke’s words, “The people of Worth County are eager to have the entire world know and share in their garden of peace and plenty and health and happiness… The churches and schools in Sylvester and Worth County are among the best in America. This is indeed God’s Country, for God is here in the hearts of his own people.”
Mr. Ridley Monk went on to explain that the Boy Scout camp named after Governor Osborne would never have materialized without the Kiwanis Club. Likewise the first hospital in Sylvester was built with the help of the Kiwanis members. Monk went on to explain that youth services was the main objective of the Kiwanis Club. “We dedicated our existence to their happiness and welfare,” he said. The club started the Star Student award across the state. Mr. Monk said the Kiwanis Club literally built the football stadium in Sylvester.
Finally, Jay Crowe credited Mr. Jimmy Rouse for his work in holding the club together through the tough years. Rouse joined the club in 1969. Other than Ridley Monk, Rouse is the longest serving member of the local chapter. Finally, Crowe welcomed everyone in the community to come and attend one meeting to experience and enjoy the atmosphere.
Article Published in The Sylvester Local News – April 5, 2023