Courtesy of Times Mail

All for YOUTH

Times-Mail / RICH JANZARUKMITCHELL — Jody Blackburn, left, and Becky Mason have a laugh as they each blame each other for the lopsided distribution of the mayonnaise on a tenderloin sandwich in the Mitchell Varsity Club tent at the Persimmon Festival Wednesday night.

MITCHELL — Volunteers with the Mitchell Varsity Club are still serving up the original hand-dipped corn dog that has greeted Persimmon Festival attendees for nearly 40 years.

“There was a time when we sold 1,200 to 1,500 of those a week during the festival,” said Steve Burton, who is one of the longest active members of the Varsity Club. “I don’t think people are aware we still serve up the same hand-dipped corn dog we always have.”

The Varsity Club operates a food stand in the blue and white striped tent in the northwest corner of Sixth and Main streets during the week-long Persimmon Festival. The menu features hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fried bologna, tenderloins, Monk’s Corn Dogs and the staple persimmon pudding.

All proceeds from the food sold during the Persimmon Festival are used to help children in need in the community.

“We help kids; that’s what we do,” Burton said.

Operating the food stand is hard work with only about 10 active Varsity Club members on the roster. This year, the club is employing the use of Student Council and Art Club members to wait on customers while club volunteers man the kitchen.

“We do it because it means something to us,” said Brad Powell, president and treasurer of the Varsity Club. “We have fun doing it because it’s a good cause. It’s a blessing for all of us to be able to do this for the kids.”

The Varsity Club was started as the Mitchell Exchange Club, then became the Mitchell-Orleans Exchange Club. Members then gave up the Exchange Club charter and morphed the organization into the current Varsity Club format several years ago when they decided they were “just a bunch of guys who just wanted to raise money to help kids,” Burton said.

The group was the first to organize the clothe-a-child effort for Mitchell students, thanks to a vision established by Bob Edwards. And those efforts continue today, only on a smaller scale.

“There were four guys who were the heart of this for many years — Bud Root, Monk Clemons, Skinner Hardwick and Walter Reynolds,” Powell said. “Those were good guys and kept this going all those years. They were a lot of fun, and we miss them.”

“At one time, we’d raise upwards of $12,000 and clothe more than 200 kids,” Burton said.

Today, the Varsity Club takes referrals through the Mitchell schools. If a child needs a coat, shoes or a pair of glasses, the school staff may contact the Varsity Club for assistance.

“All of the money we raise goes to help the kids,” Powell said. “We start each September with a zero balance because we spend what we make. At Christmas, we’ll take 50 to 75 kids shopping, and we’ll spend a great deal of money on each child because they are the heart of what we do.”

The food stand started as a trailer on Main Street in 1980. Food was served out of that trailer until members built a stand in the mid-1990s, Powell said. When the big food tent came open, the club took it, capitalizing on the opportunity to help more children. The food tent is the club’s only fundraiser.

“We have fun,” Powell said. “We are just a bunch of guys who have a lot of fun together, while helping the kids of our community. Not only do we have a blast, but we’re doing this for a good cause. That’s why we do it and will continue to do it.”

Contact Times-Mail Staff Writer Krystal Shetler at 277-7264 or by email at kshetler@tmnews.com.

Investing where you live

Courtesy of Times Mail

Persimmon parade preview

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

Where: The parade begins at Lehigh field, travels west on Main Street to Seventh Street, turns north on Seventh to Warren Street, then goes west to Eighth Street. The parade will go north on Eighth Street, ending near Bishop Boulevard and Hancock Avenue.

Lineup: So far, there are 151 entries registered for the 2014 parade, making it among the largest in recent history.

Info: Gary Rayhill, parade chairman, 797-0427.

 

MITCHELL — Investing where you live. Those are the words used repeatedly by business owners as they discussed the importance of local business to the Mitchell community.

This week, during the 68th annual Persimmon Festival, Mitchell’s businesses are taking the limelight. Christina Lambton, general chairwoman of this year’s event, dedicated the festival to the businesses that have long supported the local community. This year’s theme is “Shop Local … Buy Mitchell.”

“I wanted to salute our local businesses because, in a small town, our local businesses are vital,” Lambton said. “They sponsor sports teams, support our fundraisers, employ our people, and they’re your friends and neighbors.”

The theme doesn’t single out small businesses or locally owned businesses because, as Lambton points out, Lehigh Cement Co. is as important to Mitchell as Holmes Hardware.

“I feel that our local businesses are the heart of our community,” she said.

On Saturday, local businesses will be represented en masse on the grand marshal parade float. Representatives will be: Dana, Brenda and Dwight Dunbar of D&P Foods and Dunbar & Co.; Larry Caudell of Lehigh; Elizabeth Freeman of Chastain Funeral Home and Cremation Services; Don Caudell of Holmes Hardware; and Marvin and Suzanne Patton of ACE Hardware/Ben Franklin.

Dana Dunbar traces his insurance business roots in the Mitchell community back to 1972. Forty-two years later, he believes the importance of small business to the community can’t be overstated.

“Wherever you place your corporate headquarters, the community is always going to benefit,” said Dunbar, who operates Dunbar & Co. Insurance and founded D&P Foods, the parent company of Arby’s in Bedford and Mitchell, that he continues to operate with his wife Brenda, brother Dwight and shareholders Danny and Debbie Pearcy.

“All business is welcomed in all communities, but local businesses have more influence because that’s where you live, it’s where your children go to school and it’s where you are born and raised. You want your community to thrive, so you invest in it.”

Don Caudell, owner and operator of Holmes Hardware, which traces its Mitchell roots back to 1887, when it started as a grocery and general store, has been involved in the hardware store his entire life. His ancestors started the store in the same location it still occupies, and his family has been involved in its operation ever since.

“We’ve always believed that, while we make our living here, we need to support the community,” said Caudell, who will be joined in the parade with his three granddaughters. “One of the things I’ve always been proud about is that, when the first Little League was organized for the kids, we were an original sponsor, us and Lehigh, and we’re still sponsoring those teams.

“It’s not just a job because your whole life is in the community.”

ACE Hardware/Ben Franklin was started in 1976 by Sam and Sandy Carnell. The business is now operated by their daughter, Suzanne Patton, and her husband Marvin. The Pattons enjoy doing business in a small town, where they know 90 percent of their customers by name.

“We love our customers, love our town and our employees,” Suzanne said. “The beauty of it is that, most of the time, when you walk in here, we recognize your face.”

Marvin agreed, saying, “The personal touch is the way we like to do business. We live here and shop here, just like our customers.”

And doing business in the small town where you live is a privilege — one that isn’t taken lightly, said Elizabeth Freeman, who operates Chastain Funeral Home along with her brother James Freeman and Albert and Jenny Chastain.

“As a funeral director in my hometown, I find it a privilege to be able to serve the local community,” Elizabeth Freeman said. “Through this role, I am able to help the many friends and families that I have known my entire life, during their time of need. Being a part of a local business that cares for the people of this community brings me great pride.”

For the past 112 years, Lehigh has been a building block of the Mitchell community, employing hundreds of men and women. One of those employees — Larry Caudell — has worked for the company for 41 years and plans to retire at the end of this year.

Sandi Wyborny, human resource manager for the Mitchell plant, said Caudell was chosen to represent Lehigh in Saturday’s parade because of his long history with the company and his involvement in Mitchell.

“For 11 decades, the Mitchell plant has been a stable presence in the community, employing thousands of hard-working people, many multiple family members and generations,” Wyborny said. “Lehigh takes pride in producing a quality product and is equally proud of working together to build our community.

“Larry Caudell is a life-long resident of Mitchell. He has been active in the Mitchell community, serving as a volunteer fireman for 32 years, including the role of fire chief from 1984 to 2006. … Larry has been a dedicated employee with a strong work ethic and will be missed. We would all like to wish him a happy and healthy retirement.”

Contact Times-Mail Staff Writer Krystal Shetler at 277-7264 or by email at kshetler@tmnews.com.

Queens Crowned

In the three Persimmon Festival pageants for younger girls, the winners were:

Mini Miss: McKenzie Radcliff

Other pageant winners chosen

 

Miss Congeniality: Marissa Blais

Princesses: Alyviah Haste, Bella Morrow, Cadie Haley, Ellie Maple, Mackenna Tegarden and Sophia McCarty

Little Miss: Riley Ritchison

Other pageant winners chosen

Miss Congeniality: Daisey Blais

Princesses: Abby Brothers, Emily Johnson, Jaida Blais, Lillian Zeeks, Taylar Baker and Thailee Dalton

Junior Miss: Hanna Pugh

Other pageant winners chosen

Miss Congeniality: Ashton Tredway

Princesses: Shelby Pruett, Madison Williams, London Brooking, Callison Blais, Hailey Ritchison and Addison Myers