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Despite pandemic, Kiwanians forge ahead

Eric Fithyan looks forward to first term as district governor

PIES AND ROSES — Though the pandemic has forced the Wellsburg Kiwanis Club to change some of its activities, the group was able to continue the sale of roses and apple pies to benefit the Brooke County Salvation Army and community projects involving youth. Among Kiwanians involved with the fundraisers were, from left, Ellen Daugherty, President Eric Fithyan, who is preparing for his first year as Kiwanis district governor; and Robin Snyder. -- Warren Scott

WELLSBURG — Though they have experienced setbacks spurred by the pandemic, members of the Wellsburg Kiwanis Club have been able to forge ahead with some projects and their leader is looking forward to his first term as district governor.

In September the club merged its annual apple pie and rose sales to raise funds for the Brooke County Salvation Army and community projects involving youth.

Eric Fithyan, the club’s president, said 120 bouquets of roses were sold and 210 boxes containing four small apple pies each, a total of 840, were sold.

Normally the group sells the pies from a booth at the Wellsburg Applefest, but that event was among festivals ordered canceled by state officials in response to the pandemic, so veteran members Audrey Bryan and Bob Haas were recruited to accept telephone orders.

And the fundraiser and the club’s rose sale, usually held held in November to boost the Salvation Army’s Christmas kettle campaign were combined.

Fithyan said concerns about the spread of COVID-19 have caused the club to change the way it operates. The club’s annual chicken barbecue, a summer fundraiser in which the group usually sells nearly 1,200 chickens, was canceled.

And the group has been meeting by phone or the internet for the last several months.

But Fithyan said members are doing their best to have a positive impact on the community.

In addition to the pie and rose sales, the club has maintained youth service clubs it’s established at local schools through social media.

Over the years the club has recruited teachers and principals to oversee the clubs, which include the long-time Key Club chapter at Brooke High School, a Circle K club at Bethany College, K-Kids chapters in elementary schools and more recently, the Builders club at Brooke Middle School.

Fithyan said the club also has reached out to youth in other ways, including coloring and activity books aimed at educating them about the dangers of drug abuse.

A member of the Wellsburg club since 2012, Fithyan was first exposed to Kiwanis clubs as a member of the Brooke High School Key Club and served as a district officer for that group.

He said continuing efforts to encourage youth of all ages to engage in community service will be among his goals when he assumes he role of district governor next year.

In that capacity, Fithyan will lead 33 West Virginia clubs with 652 members and about 1,200 school groups.

He’s adopted the theme, “Laying the Tracks for Future Generations,” which was inspired by his love of trains but more importantly, reflects his desire to inspire future leaders, inform the public about the international organization’s programs and partnerships with various nonprofit groups and attract new members.

The Wellsburg club grew to 30 members in recent years through the efforts of Fithyan and others.

He noted he’s not the first Wellsburg Kiwanian to serve as district governor. That distinction is held by fellow member Robert Wall.

Fithyan added other members have served as lieutenant district governors.

But he’s looking forward to the year ahead, confident the club will adapt to whatever challenges they face while remaining active in the community.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)

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