Public groups are still lending a hand

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 3, 2006

Although my children are grown, I was already reaching for my wallet when I went through the door of the day care center.

It was part of a ritual that goes on in every community. I’d read in the local paper that it was again time for the Kiwanis Club’s annual pancake breakfast, and I figured I’d save Peggy Bullard a telephone call by stopping in to buy my tickets.

Peggy was in her office, just inside the door.

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“I need two tickets,” I told her.

“I’ve got to get some. Where can I meet you later today?”

It would be easier if she just left the tickets in an envelope with my name on it at the chamber of commerce office, I told her. I could pick them up some time before the breakfast. Meanwhile, I’d go ahead and pay for them while I was there.

“That’ll be $14,” Peggy said.

“How much?”

“The chicken plates are $7 a piece,” Peggy said.

“No, I need tickets for the pancake breakfast. We got tickets for the chicken plates from Mollie last night.” Mollie is our neighbor and a softball player. The chicken plates are a fundraiser for the softball team.

All across the country, people join together to accomplish some worthwhile purpose. It is a process as old as the republic, and it is about as American as you can get.

Alexis de Tocqueville took note of that facet of American character in his book Democracy in America. A 26-year-old French aristocrat, he spent only nine months (May 11, 1831 to Feb. 20, 1832) in the young United States. Yet many of his acute insights are valid today.

Tocqueville called such groups public associations, and he wrote, “…I have often admired the extreme skill with which the inhabitants of the United States succeed in proposing a common object for exertions of a great many men and in inducing them voluntarily to pursue it.” (The term “men” is archaic; that skill obviously includes women.)

Pursuing worthwhile goals usually requires money. Although many join the effort, in most small towns, there seems to be one person who is willing to spearhead the effort.

In our town it is Peggy.

On that particular day, I could have gotten from Peggy tickets for the Kiwanis pancake breakfast or the softball team’s chicken plates, or I could buy a bag of peanuts – I think those are to raise money for the tennis courts that the Kiwanis Club is building at the high school.

On another day, I could be buying tickets for the chamber of commerce’s annual banquet or the birthday/anniversary calendars that the chamber issues. I’m sure there are other fund raising efforts that I’m forgetting.

We contributed to fund raising efforts when we lived in cities, too, but in small towns, the exercise is a lot more personal.

We will know people at the pancake breakfast. We know young women who play on the softball team. Most of the people at a chamber banquet will be people we know. We will recognize many of the names on the birthday/anniversary calendar and will see those people to congratulate them.

For many years, Peggy and Wylodene White worked together raising money for the community’s good causes. I once told Wylodene that it might be easier if I just gave her a check at the beginning of the year and let her deduct for the Vidalia onions for this cause, smoked Boston butts for another, calendars and tickets and everything else.

Since Wylodene’s death, Peggy has carried the banner.

Tocqueville probably would be gratified to know that Americans still form public associations to achieve goals.

And I’ll bet that people like Peggy could sell him a ticket for a fund raiser.

-Bill Brown can be contacted at 377 Quail Hollow Drive, Dadeville AL 36853 or by e-mail at