PORTAGEVILLE - Some things are just too good to let end.
When Shirley Patton heard the Portageville Kiwanis Club planned to disband, she wondered who would take on the activities the club's members had supported for the past 60 years. What would become of the Boy Scouts, the Little League football program, Key Club scholarships and the Christmas food baskets? Would there be community activities for her boys - now age 2 and 6 - as they became older?
Worried about these same things was Don Hawkins, a 25-year-member of the Kiwanis Club, who had worked hard to keep the group going.
"Some of the things that Kiwanis was doing we didn't want to go by the wayside," recalled Patton. "So we formed a new club that would pick up and do those activities.
In August the Portageville Citizens For a Better Tomorrow organized and its eight initial members, including Patton and Hawkins, went to work. They agreed their efforts would stay local - the money raised would stay in the community and the activities would be designed for local residents, in particular the families of Portageville.
"Our goal is to unite families. We are trying to organize events that will encourage family togetherness. We are trying to encourage families to spend time together and to better our community by that," explained Patton.
It is all about kids and community, agreed Hawkins.
The first few months were busy. The Portageville Citizens for a Better Tomorrow conducted fund-raisers for their local Boy Scouts, sponsored the town's Little League football program, hosted a debate by the three candidates seeking to represent the community in the Missouri Legislature, built a float for the Soybean Festival and inaugurated a walking program in the local park to encourage families to exercise together.
Most recently they hosted an Oktoberfest in Meatte Park. Patton described the event as "an old-fashion fair" featuring family-oriented games and activities such as an egg toss, three-legged race, volleyball and frisbee toss, craft and food booths, and entertainment by local performers. As part of the event, the group marked the 50th anniversary of their local park and honored the children of the family who originally donated the land.
"It was a beautiful day," said Patton. "The turnout was really good and there has been a lot of positive response about it. Someone even suggested we try to do another in the spring."
To provide some visual recognition for their new group, they conducted a logo contest involving the local high school students. Liza Wilson designed the winning logo which is a circle with a paw print in the middle representing the school's Bulldog mascot, a soybean pod on one side and a cotton bloom on the other side with the group's name emblazoned in the circle.
Although the group has logged several successes, the Portageville Citizens for a Better Tomorrow still face challenges.
First there is funding. The members have received the support of local merchants and have conducted fund-raisers. During the Oktoberfest they sold barbecue with the proceeds covering the cost of the day's activities and from Nov. 20-22, they will sell sittings for portraits designed with an antique look.
According to Hawkins the group has applied for its non-profit status as well.
And while their membership is slowly climbing and ranges from thirtysomething to retirees, Patton estimated only about 11 people are active on a regular basis.
"But the 11 are very community-oriented. They are an awesome group of people to work with," said Patton. "Others have voiced interest so it is just a matter of time. As long as people see we are being active and doing things for the community, I think we will grow."
For Hawkins, the fact that men and women are working together to improve their community enables Portageville Citizens for a Better Tomorrow to accomplish even more. But, he continued, there is room for many more members.
"We can get stuff accomplished but we need more people," he said. "There are no dues, all we want is a little of your time and talent."