What’s a pancake worth? More than $150,000 if you are talking to a Kiwanian.
After 12 years of serving pancakes to raise money for area youth, the Kiwanis Club of Maryville has raised more than $150,000 since they started the annual pancake breakfast in 1995.
For the past couple of weeks, Kiwanis club members have been asking “How many?” to friends, neighbors and business associates as they get ready for the breakfast tradition on Saturday, Nov. 10, at Maryville High School. Breakfast is served from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
The funds go to youth-oriented programs that affect youngsters and teens throughout Blount County. Regina Jennings said she and breakfast co-chair Diana Hall have been preparing for the breakfast since summer.
“We started in August getting sponsors,” she said. “This is our 13th year. Last year, we raised $18,000 to $19,000.”
Club secretary Bob Murphy said the breakfast is always a pretty well-attended event. “People come and have a good time,” he said. “Over $150,000 has been raised for the community (through the breakfast).”
Murphy said the first few years, funds came from ticket sales only and revenue was around $5,000 each year. They started getting sponsorships, and revenues jumped to between $10,000 and $12,000. In each of the last two years, the revenue has been around $20,000, he said.
“When we started asking event sponsors to help cover the cost, that boosted us to a new level of income. In early years, we raised no more than $5,000 and probably fed 500 people,” Murphy said. “Now we’re closer to $20,000 and, although the crowd varies, we’re probably feeding about 1,500.”
Jennings said funds from this breakfast as well as the annual club golf tournament support the Imagination Library project, one of the main focuses of Maryville Kiwanis. Funds also support Leadership Adventure camps and college scholarships. “We have a lot of youth-related activities, and this money all goes to those,” she said. “I think it’s real gratifying.”
Imagination Library is an effort initiated by country singer Dolly Parton in Sevier County that now has support in communities throughout the state. The purpose is to help youngsters cultivate a love of reading.
“To get children into that love of reading and to be able to see that develop, the program gives books to children from birth to age 5,” Jennings said. “They get a book a month, and can build a library of books of their very own. It’s well worth it.”
Murphy said one of the major milestones for the fundraiser was when International House of Pancakes became a co-sponsor about seven years ago. “They provided us with their pancakes and sausages and expertise in how to cook them right. That’s helped a lot,” he said.
The pancake breakfast guest also gets an added bonus with their $5 ticket, a discount on their next visit to IHOP. “It’s an extra benefit, all the pancakes you can eat at the breakfast and 20 percent off your next visit to IHOP,” Murphy said.
Children ages 10 and under eat free when accompanied by an adult. Four years ago, the breakfast organizers created a children’s area for youngsters to play and enjoy arts and crafts in a supervised environment, which Murphy said helped bring more parents to the breakfast.
“It has been very well-received,” he said. “Adults feel they can linger over another cup of coffee and visit.
Board of directors member Bob Russell said he usually works in the kitchen with the other club members and enjoys the team work, excitement and fun atmosphere, as well as “fantastic” support from IHOP.
“They provide not only the pancake mix but all of the equipment that goes along with it, including a little machine that puts the pancake on the griddle,” he said. “They bring the syrup and send a supervisor to help. It’s a fun affair that all the Kiwanians enjoy, and we’re happy it raises so much money for the youth of Blount County.”
Club member Buddy Allen said he likes seeing all the guests come to the pancake breakfast and serving them a meal.
“Everybody is happy,” he said. “It seems to be a joyful, fun day for everybody and all the Kiwanians are working and serving,” he said. “It’s a good community event.”
“It’s a fun event for us to do,” Murphy said. “It’s a fun, social thing for the members with the happy byproduct that we make money for the kids.”
Tickets are available from any Maryville Kiwanis member or at the door.