By Sherrie Norris
Deep Gap Ruritan Club is moving forward into 2022 with renewed energy and excitement with several special events making their way to the calendar.
With 2021 and its roadblocks in the rearview mirror, club president, Leslie Gentry told High Country Press that the club is working diligently to lay out a full slate of events, including fundraising activities, celebrations and community service and involvement.
“This year marks the 30th year that the club has worked hard to serve the Deep Gap Community,” said Gentry. “We hope to make this the best and busiest year that the club has ever had with increased community service, membership growth and fundraising.”
As the club begins to plan a community-wide celebration in late July to honor its 30th anniversary —with Ruritan National and other local dignitaries present — Gentry said the club also hopes to bring back its annual fundraising steak dinner in June, which has been vital to the club’s success for many years. Other smaller fundraisers, including raffles and a pinto bean supper, have helped, as well, he said, especially in the past two years, when the pandemic forced the club to cancel the dinner, which has always been its major source of funding.
“Without the community’s help, we cannot, in turn, help others who need us year-round,” Gentry added. He listed numerous ways the club assists its neighbors in need, including helping with heating and oil bills, medical needs, groceries, home repairs, education, holiday meals, children’s Christmas gifts, helping other nonprofit organizations with their mission, and more.
“Over the past 30 years, our club has put almost $300,000 back into the community,” Gentry said. “Of that, approximately $55,000 was in scholarships to help local high school graduates with college.”
The club is “outstanding,” Gentry described, as he talks about how it has been been recognized on regional, state and national levels through the years.
During the club’s January meeting, Gentry said, he and the board of directors outlined some exciting plans for the first part of the year, which includes the celebration and fundraising dinner mentioned above, as well as sending their youth members to camp for the first time.
“For each decade of its existence, our club has provided an impressive report, and with each 10-year interval, the success of the club has been something to be proud of,” Gentry added. “We want to make sure that continues.”
Currently with 40 members — “and always room for more,” he said, Deep Gap Ruritan has been leading the district membership for four years. “This club is made up of some outstanding people who are always willing to go the extra mile to help others. That’s what Ruritan is all about, and I think we have the best club in the district. Our members are always trying to find way to improve our community through a wide range of service acts, from helping financially, to picking up trash on the roadsides and everything in between. We’re all volunteers, nobody gets anything in return, except for the satisfaction of helping others.”
Gentry gave special mention to the club’s four youth members, saying they represent the future of the club and bring energy and enthusiasm to the group. “They often remind their parents of the meeting date and are always ready to do whatever we need them to do. We are very fortunate to have them showing interest at such an early age.”
Deep Gap Ruritan was again recently recognized, as it has been for several years, by Western North Carolina Communities in Asheville. The financial award the club receives always comes in the late fall, and was used in 2021to sponsor five students at Parkway School for Christmas.
Attending the club’s December meeting, Ruritan’s Western North Carolina District Governor Gary Barger presided over the annual installation of new officers. Current leadership of the Deep Gap club includes Leslie Gentry, president; Jeff Stewart, vice-president, Gretchen Baldwin, treasurer, Kathy Idol, secretary, and board members Bencita Brooks, Loretta Gentry and Marie Greene.
Upon passing her duties to Baldwin, Elaine Davis received a plaque of appreciation for her 10 years as treasurer.
Gentry, who has served as president for a total of five years in two separate terms, also served six years as zone governor, two years as district governor and is now in his second year as the district’s growth and development director.
“We are very proud of Deep Gap Ruritan and all it has done and continues to do,” Gentry said. “But without the community and the support we receive from local sponsors and donations, we could not do what we do. We appreciate all the help that we receive, so that we can, in turn, help others.”
Deep Gap Ruritan meets, weather permitting, at 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month at Deep Gap Fire Department. A covered-dish meal is followed by a business meeting during which community needs are identified and discussed.
Those with interest in joining the club are invited to attend at your convenience.