Ruritan continues to serve

Paula McCallie, East Roane County Ruritan Club member, left, and Glenda Arp, Piney Ruritan Club member, prepare sauces for Saturday’s fish fry. The Roane County club sends several members to each fish fry as additional help.

Piney Ruritan and Highland Park Ruritan clubs are both ready to get back into the community after a year of COVID-related cancellations and program shutdowns.

Steve Oody, Piney president, said the club canceled many projects over the past year.

“The Ruritan Club tries to go out into the community to some widows, some shut-ins,” Oody said. “We’ve built handicap ramps. We’ve built decks. We’ve cleaned up yards, cleaned up graveyards. We’ve had to postpone a lot of the stuff like that. We’ve had to postpone some fish fries and change our ways of that a little bit.”

The club hosted Saturday a second drive-through fish fry. After the fish fry had to be canceled last year, a member came to Oody with the idea of a drive through. The club tested the idea in the fall and brought the idea into 2021.

Oody said last year did have some “good points.”

“We started our horse show back,” he said. “That was a real good win-win for us. We had two last year, and they did real real well, real good for the community. We had a huge turnout. Probably had over 1,000 people at each one. We had a lot of participants and a lot of locals right here that has horses that loves stuff like that. Of course, we had a lot of people that was just itching to get out and do something in the open. That was good for them, too. A lot of them sat in their car. Some of them sat in the back of their truck. Some brought lawn chairs and sat around and kind of stayed distanced and stayed with their families.”

Horse shows were so successful that more are planned this year, Oody said. Adding those events will mean cutting down fish fries from four to two per year.

The shows brought in a lot of money for the club, Oody said.

Money raised goes toward materials for projects like decks and ramps. Last year, because the club brought in so much money from the horse shows, members were able to support Toys for Tots for the first time. Oody also hopes to get involved with Mile of Dimes, and he was able to bump the club’s high school scholarship from $500 to $1,000.

Piney’s building program, which typically occurs May-October, was canceled last year. Oody plans to get the program underway in May.

“It’s been challenging, but we’ve found some routes to get around, ways of doing different things you know and kindly getting the job done, too,” he said.

Highland Park members have had to lay low and not participate in the community as much as they’d like, Vonnie Myers, club president, said.

Myers said the club hasn’t had a monthly meeting since March 2020, but he hopes that will change in May.

The club’s flag program, however, has remained active. Proceeds from the program pay for the club’s scholarships. Fortunately, Myers said, the scholarship program remained active, and the club was able to donate this year.

“One thing that we had to cancel was our dictionary program for Highland Park (Elementary) School,” Myers said. “We always do that every year — give all the third-grade students a dictionary presented to them with their name in it from our club. But, of course, they haven’t allowed admittance to people outside school personnel and students. We didn’t get to do that. We usually have the pancake breakfast every year to be used for community use. We didn’t get to do that.”

Myers said the club distributed Christmas baskets to the needy, which was a highlight of the year.

The club took a substantial financial hit at the cancellation of last year’s turkey shoot.

“Our turkey shoot is our main income,” Myers said. “We’ve had our turkey shoot now for over 40 years, and it’s supposedly one of the biggest turkey shoots in the state of Tennessee. That’s our major income, so that limited us on what we could do. … We haven’t had any benefits to generate any income. We’ve had none of that. … We’ve just been laying dormant primarily.”

Myers hopes meetings resume soon so the club can assess community needs. Over the years, the club has been a large contributor to schools, especially HPES. The schools, however, have not come to the club with any needs because of strict COVID-19 policies, Myers said.

“We just hope we’ll see some semblance of normalcy to get us back to doing all we’ve done for 53 years,” he said. “… We don’t make a great deal of a difference in our community with what we do, but along with other clubs, we all work through the same goal to make our community a better place, and with all those together, it amounts to quite a bit year to year. And it just threw us a curveball that we didn’t get to do it the past year. We hope to get back to full speed ahead this year.”