Local Pilot Club members attend Vegas convention; Cullman’s Wilkerson named district governor


2017-2018 Alabama Pilot Club District Officers: left-right, Beverly Wilkerson, governor (Cullman); Mellissa King, governor-elect (Andalusia); Kay Chandler, treasurer (Decatur); and Peggy Day, secretary (Cullman) / Beverly Wilkerson

CULLMAN – You might have heard of the local Pilot Club. If you haven’t become familiar with them through their fundraising efforts or their community service, here is a little background about the organization, which was founded by Elizabeth Leonard in Macon, Georgia in 1921. The Pilot Club International has had a long tradition of "Friendship and Service," in communities all across the globe since those humble beginnings.

The Pilot International’s mission is to influence positive change in communities throughout the world. To do this, they come together in friendship and give people an outlet for service, focusing on informing the public about brain safety and health, and brain-related services.

In 1952, Pilot Clubs began to recruit youth members through the establishment of Anchor Clubs, a volunteer service organization for young people. “Locally, we have chartered Anchor Clubs in Vinemont and West Point schools, and are searching for other schools to participate in the program,” said Cullman Pilot Club President, Nan Auston.

There are more than 7,000 Anchor Club members in the Pilot organization. These junior members begin service in middle school and continue throughout high school. They receive leadership credits toward college. “Those credits can mean the difference in getting a scholarship or not,” Auston pointed out. “If everything else is equal, but there is a leadership sticker on one student’s diploma, it can make a big difference.”

Through fundraising and hands-on service work, local Pilot and Anchor Clubs provide a “little pick me up” for caregivers in their communities, “Sometimes the caregivers just need a break,” Auston explained. “We do other little things for them to show that they are appreciated.”

The Pilot International Convention’s 100th anniversary was held in Las Vegas this summer. The club members total 7,500 worldwide. About 600 of them attended the convention. “We had people there from as far away as Japan,” said Auston.

While there, the officers and other Pilot Club members attended workshops on various aspects of their mission. “We attended workshops on brain health and safety, working with BrainMinders and Anchors. BrainMinders are elementary school students, where we start with bicycle safety,” she explained.

BrainMinders and Anchors are taught the rewards of giving back to their community, and of being good citizens. At a young age, they have these values instilled in them, and can see the results of their efforts in action in their very own communities.

Cullman’s Beverly Wilkerson was installed to the International Administrative Council as district governor. She was one of 19 governors who was installed at the Las Vegas convention. Wilkerson joined the Pilot Club in 1981. She became executive director and president in 2009, then district secretary and lt. governor before assuming her current role as district governor. “It keeps me busy,” Wilkerson said.  

Wilkerson praised the efforts of Pilots and Anchors who help with programs like the ASCCA Brain Injury Camp in Jackson Gap, Alabama, the Traumatic Brain Injury Camp, and other local projects like the Pilot Fashion Show, and the Pilot Light Home, a refuge for battered and neglected children.

“The camps are amazing,” said Wilkerson. “This year we helped approximately 100 campers. These are not just for brain injuries, but for children with any disability, with some qualifications.”

To help support these projects, local members hold fundraisers and take private donations.

The club also sells pecans. “This is just around the corner,” said Auston. “We also have a huge rummage sale at Sportsman Lake Park, on October 20-21.”

The local Pilot Club also provides a cookout each year for Margret Jean Jones Center students and staff, as well as a Christmas party around the holidays.

Both ladies joined the Pilot Club because of a desire to give back to their community. “No matter where you live,” emphasized Auston. “I learned this from my own mother who was also involved in the Pilot Club in Dothan, where I’m from.”

If you would like to learn more about the Pilot Club, and what you can do to help, contact Nan Auston at 256-338-5299, or visit www.facebook.com/cullmanpilotclub.

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