Although the Civitan Club is disbanding, the Strawberry Youth Parade will continue.
Civitan Club President Pat Pogue staved off tears when she talked about the Christmas gift project at J.S. Robinson Elementary School.
The first time she participated, she put on a red suit, in hopes the 127 students in the disabilities program would like her. But when she got to the classroom, it ended up being so much more than winning their affection. A little boy wrapped his hands around her legs in hug and looked up with scars on his face.
“Boy, that brought me to my knees,” Pogue said. “Here I was thinking I left my job for the day to come out here and do something good. And they changed my life.”
Pogue still plans to attend the Christmas parties, now in their 40th year, although it won’t be with the Civitian Club. The members felt the 61-year-old club’s time had come to an end and disbanded this month. It will be donating mementos to the Photo Archives and History Center, including scrapbooks and the meeting bell with inscriptions of the charter members.
Still, it’s legacy will continue in the Strawberry Youth Parade for the Florida Strawberry Festival, a community service project the club managed for years.
“I keep saying in my mind, ‘We’re not going to die. It lives on with the Strawberry Youth Parade,’” Pogue, who has been a member for 25 years, said.
Pogue is working with others to set up the parade as a separate nonprofit organization so youth in Plant City can continue to be recognized during the city’s biggest event, the Florida Strawberry Festival. The parade will be in its 44th year in 2017. Students in bands, JROTC, sports, clubs and more march from the State Farmers Market, down Alexander Street and to the festival grounds on Reynolds Street.
A committee will select the parade grand marshal and the application process will operate in the same way it has in the past.
If a nonprofit entity is set up, similar to Berry Fine Productions, the nonprofit that manages the Grand Parade, festival General Manager Paul Davis hopes Pogue will run it.
“Pat Pogue has done a phenomenal job with the Civitan Club for years,” Davis said. “She has a passion for young people and what she does.”
The parade is one of the Civitan Club’s most notable service projects, but it’s not the only one.
Besides the Christmas gift project, the Civitan Club also sponsored Junior Civitans at Plant City High School and Durant High School and Civinettes at Plant City High School. Charter member James C. Billings set up a scholarship program. The club assisted James Ranch and Hillsborough Community College, held award banquets for Plant City and Durant high schools and made contributions to the Smithsonian and Man on the Street sculpture exhibit.
“Yes, the Civitan Club has disbanded, but with all the stuff we’ve done, it lives on,” Pogue said.
The club started Nov. 22, 1954. Charter members included James C. Billings, who owned Quality Printing on Collins Street, Dr. Frank Chambers and Bert Davidson, the second South Florida Baptist Hospital administrator, among others.
The club has met in businesses around Plant City, including the Orange Blossom Tea Room, which is now the Photo Archives and History Center on Evers Street, Buddy Freddy’s and Porter’s.
When Pogue was first president, the club was up to 53 members.
“To get over 50 members who were active was so incredible,” Pogue said.
In recent years, active membership shrunk. But the club still remained involved in the community.
“We have a lot of history,” Pogue said. “We have so many favorite projects. You just know all the stuff you’ve done over the years, and it’s just amazing.”
Contact Amber Jurgensen at [email protected].