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.

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