A pseudo-Elvis Presley made the ladies swoon Thursday night at the Statesboro Kiwanis Club's 51st anniversary celebration, but the star of the night was 2011 Kiwanian of the Year, Charles Stokes.
Several members were honored for different achievements, but Stokes, longtime secretary for the club, was chosen for the Kiwanian of the Year because of exemplary service, dedication, and love for the club.
"This is not an award that is handed out lightly," said club president Bede Mitchell.
Horace Harrell, who took the award last year, introduced Stokes, repeating something Stokes had been heard to say: "There's a big difference between being a member of Kiwanis and being a Kiwanian."
Harrell described Stokes as being a very active club member, who is also active in church and "loves playing solitaire on the computer."
Stokes enjoys growing flowers and vegetables, likely a result of his roots in farming. He has been described as a "superb neighbor," Harrell said. Stokes enjoys fishing and spending time with his two children and four grandchildren, he said.
Stokes was a math teacher, assistant principal and principal of Brooklet area schools, and served as councilman and mayor of Brooklet in the past.
Harrell told the group about how it is usually the club secretary's duty to order plaques for the awards, and said "I had to come up with quite a lie to explain" why he ordered the plaque instead of Stokes.
As Stokes approached the podium to accept his honor, members gave him a standing ovation.
"This is quite an honor," he said. "I love Kiwanis. I just think we can make such a difference in the community we live in. I'm humbled, very appreciative."
Other members were honored as well. "This club is so strong because of strong leadership," Mitchell said.
Four men were awarded Legion of Honor pins. A member must have been a Kiwanian for 25 years, and the award is given again at every five-year marker. George Lunch was honored for 30 years in the club; Walter Pease and Houston Costlow were each honored for 35 years membership; and Bob Dannacher was noted for 40 years in the club.
Two men were awarded George F. Hixson Fellowships. This honor "exemplifies the object of Kiwanis," Mitchell said. Mark Anderson and Bob Lanier were given this award.
A Kiwanis Wall of Honor dedication, a posthumous award, was given to charter member Wyatt Johnson. His widow, Jeanette Johnson, emotionally accepted the plaque.
Member Gary Mikell presented the award. "He truly was a founding father," he said of Johnson, who served as president of the club in 1963; Kiwanian of the Year in 1966; Hixson Award winner in 1997; and served as past fair chairman, past lieutenant governor for the region, and a member of the Georgia Association of Agricultural Fairs.
"No one had a stronger love or attachment to this club than Wyatt Johnson," Mikell said.
The evening wrapped up with a performance by local accountant Russ Lanier, whose impersonation of Elvis Presley in a black leather suit made several ladies giggle and call out requests.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at 912-489-9414.