By Sherrie Norris
“Ruritan is alive and well — we’re back in business,” said National President Glen Broadwater during Sunday’s 30th Anniversary Celebration of the Deep Gap Ruritan Club. “The ‘Me Era’ is over, we are back to the ‘We Era,’ and we are accomplishing great things together.”
Broadwater, joined by his wife, Linda Broadwater and others representing Ruritan on a national, district and zone level, were special guests at the celebration, visiting with and addressing an impressive group of community members who came out to recognize the club’s milestone.
The Gary Ray Community Center of the Dep Gap Fire Department was packed for the two-hour event that recognized the club’s members, as well as several charter members and others who have been responsible for the club’s success through the years.
Club President Leslie Gentry presided over the celebration with various club members participating in presentations, explaining what Ruritan is all about and what the Deep Gap Club has done for its community.
Longtime treasurer Elaine Davis shared the history of the local club from its establishment on July 16, 1991 “by a group of 18 community service minded leaders” and its original board of directors, including William Wilson – Deep Gap’s postmaster, serving as first president, Steve Greene, vice-president, Gary Hunt, secretary, Johnny Hampton, treasurer, Norman Cheek, Bob Idol and Jim Maltda as directors.
The club was originally sponsored by Mountaineer Ruritan Club in Sugar Grove, represented on Sunday by its current President, Mark Trivette.
“It was the belief of those original founding members of the Deep Gap Ruritan Club that the organization could help support and provide for the needs in the area,” Davis explained. “They believed they could be intentional in finding ways to help people who had fallen on hard times, had severe health issues, experienced sudden accidents, injury or death, had major hospital bills, house fires, heating fuel expenses impossible to pay. They wanted to help with education and with information programs in the community and at Parkway School through the backpack program, adopt a family at Christmas, and the Back to School festival.”
And so it was, Davis shared, the club began to meet every month to discuss ways to raise money as a club, conduct business and bring community needs before the group. “They supported the Deep Gap Fire Department financially before county and state tax money was available.”
The club’s first steak dinner fundraiser was held in 1994, Davis reported. “The effort and organization to put on that steak dinner — and all those since — requires dedicated and unselfish service,” she added. (The steak dinner was held every year until the recent pandemic and has been the club’s major source of funding.)
In 1996, the club received a gift of funds to set up an endowment for scholarships, investing with Cetera Securities. Long-term member Harold Eller, now deceased, was instrumental in establishing that fund. “We thank him still for that commitment,” Davis shared.
“In 2018, the Charles Rogers Scholarship fund was established in memory of a man who had been so effective and so hardworking with the club’s steak dinner fundraisers. (This fund continues to honor his memory today and is overseen by his widow, Billie Rogers, who remains actively involved with Ruritan on several levels.”
Davis reported that Deep Gap Ruritan Club has awarded scholarships to deserving academic achievers since 1994. Six scholarships were given in 2022.
“Current membership, at 42, is greater than in any other previous year,” she continued. “The long-term success of our club can be attributed to the dedication and hard work of our members, past and present. We thank each one for accomplishing work far beyond anything we might have imagined.”
Davis issued an invitation for membership to the guests, describing Ruritan as “an organization with patriotic American ideals, dedicated to creating a better country —one community at a time.”
Davis gave an overall view of Ruritan, from the national to community level, and explained some of the many benefits for which the clubs are entitled, including liability insurance for Ruritan-sponsored activities, matching funds for scholarships, awards for community service hours and more.
Davis concluded by saying, “Ruritan is a service organization made up of local clubs in urban areas and rural communities throughout the nation. Ruritan National, located in Dublin Virginia since 1928, provides guidelines for the formation and structure of new clubs.”
Among the many recipients of Deep Gap’s assistance through the years, two of the most recent families were represented at Sunday’s gathering.
Sharon Amason sent a message of gratitude on behalf of her family and in particular, her son, Aiden.
“What a blessing this club has been to our family. On December 23, 2015, my sweet son, Aiden, was diagnosed with Stage 4- Desmoplastic Small Round Blue Cell Tumors, a very rare cancer. The Deep Gap Ruritan Club was such a blessing to our family as we traveled to numerous doctors’ visits and surgeries. Their financial gifts helped with meals, gas, and all the daily necessities. You were all so loving and concerned during his ongoing treatment; you responded quickly and truly were an incredible blessing. Words cannot express our gratitude! Thank you for the impact that you have on our community. Thank you for your impact on my family! Thank you for joining us and walking with us through this journey. Our journey is not complete, but we know that one day Aiden will be cancer free! And because of your kindness- you made it possible for my son to be able to make the trips necessary to be treated!”
And, attending in person were Matthew, Trisha and Abigail Rowe, who expressed their appreciation for the club’s assistance during the recent life-threatening illness of young Abigail.
On behalf of her family, Trisha described details of her family’s journey and expressed deep gratitude for the club’s financial assistance in light of Abigail’s multi-diagnoses and complications, resulting in the need for lengthy travel, hospitalizations and procedures.
On April 6, 2022 , Abigail had an extensive surgery at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Rhode Island, after which she has received changes in meds in order to battle ongoing pain and numerous physical and occupational therapy sessions for strengthening her overall bodily functions. Much to the delight of her family and those in attendance, Abigail was able to join her family on Sunday, appearing as a healthier, active little girl.
These are just two of many situations the club has been able to help, said member, Bencita Brooks, who introduced both families and their needs to her fellow club members, and was grateful to be part of their stories on Sunday.
Club President, Leslie Gentry, said it was his honor and privilege to be leading the club at this time and to let the community it serves see and hear first-hand how nearly $300,000 has been used to help others.
In addition to Ruritan National President, Glen Broadwater and his wife, Linda, other special guests for the event included past National President (2017) Danny Privette, National Director Joe Jaynes and other district cabinet members representing neighboring clubs.
The club’s four youth members, described as “the future of Ruritan,” were also recognized for the energy and enthusiasm they bring to the club.
Other activities for the day included live entertainment, door prizes, a silent auction, goody bags and refreshments.
“I’d like to thank everyone who helped make this a wonderful celebration for Deep Gap,” said Gentry. “Our national and district leaders had a lot of positive things to say about our club. We have a lot to be proud of here in Deep Gap.”
Gentry also wished to thank the following sponsors for helping to make the event possible. They include: Andrea McDonough State Farm Insurance, Billie Rogers/Keller Williams High Country Realty, Deep Gap Storage, Dela Cruz Farms, Hampton’s Body Shop, High Country Stone, Idol’s Tire, J.W. Hampton Co., Local’s Garage, Mountain Kubota of Boone, Mountaineer Tractor, Team Chevrolet and Tractor Supply.