Pilot Club of Jacksonville celebrates 70 years

  • Members gather in Community Park
  • Volunteering is a huge part of the Pilot Club’s actions and beliefs.
  • Volunteering is a huge part of the Pilot Club’s actions and beliefs.
  • Concerts in the Park are free events put on by the Pilot Club of Jacksonville. Open to the public, they feature local musical talent.
  • Members participate in a ceremony.

by Eric A. Thomas
Photos/Submitted to The Source

With a focus on influencing positive change in communities throughout the world, Pilot International began its mission 100 years ago.

The local chapter of Pilot Club began April 14, 1951; thus, it has now been 70 years that the women of Pilot have had the mission to be a positive influence in the community of Jacksonville. Their friendship among members only strengthens their ability to provide an outlet to serve others. There are no criteria for eligibility to join. Currently, the local club has 31 members.

The name “Pilot” was inspired by the mighty riverboat pilots a century ago who represented leadership and guidance. Also, the emblem that has become synonymous with the organization is the ship’s wheel used by the riverboat pilots. Pilot Club of Jacksonville is one of eight clubs in the Pilot International Midwest District. The district is made up of Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois.

Some examples of their local involvement include presenting the “Concerts in the Park” series, held every Sunday evening at 6 p.m. during the summer months of June through August. These concerts feature area talent and are free to the public. The location is the main bandstand gazebo in Community Park. Other community involvement includes being a Business Education Partner through the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce, where they provide reading to children at Eisenhower Elementary School and help provide much needed classroom supplies. They also help to beautify City of Jacksonville parks, ring bells for The Salvation Army, decorate a tree for Pathway Services Festival of Trees, provide volunteers for Kiwanis Pancake and Sausage Day, fund a child through Camp Courage, participates in the Chamber’s annual Wellness Fair held at Community Park, provide special treats to employees at area nursing homes and participate in Chamber’s Education Appreciation reception.

In addition to those examples, they purchased Care Trac Project Lifesaver, stationed at the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office. This program is designed to help find autistic children or adults who may have wandered from their home. They also go out to local schools to present their brain safety and health program called BrainMinders to kindergarteners. These programs are presented through their Pilot Anchor Club, a division that is a youth service group for 13- to 17-year-olds.

The Pilot Club hosts many fundraisers throughout the year to help them financially support many local causes. The pandemic put a hold on these events, but they look forward to resuming them when appropriate. Noteworthy has been the 35-year tradition of the Holiday Home Tour and Tea, a favorite of the Christmas season. Another seasonal favorite has been the holiday cheeseball sale. Also popular are the Applebee’s pancake breakfasts, Pilot Trivia Nights and Pilot Quarter Auctions.

Some of the local groups and causes they support are: Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Jacksonville Food Bank, Pathway Services, The Salvation Army for the new Citadel, Educational Day Center, First Baptist Church personal needs pantry, United Way, Congregational Church for their weekend bag lunch program, Jacksonville Area Baseball, Chiari Malformation Awareness, Lions Club Avenue of Flags, Diapers Bags to Backpacks, Passavant Lifeline, Relay for Life, Grounds of Grace, Mia Ware Foundation, Jacksonville 4th of July Blast, Spirit of Faith Soup Kitchen, Jacksonville Symphony Youth Concert, Jacksonville Main Street and the Morgan County Health Department’s Ready, Set, Grow program.

Shelle Allen, a six-year member of the Pilot Club of Jacksonville, has been named Pilot International Midwest District governor. This is the highest honor one can receive at the district level and she was installed April 17 into that position.

Pilot Club of Jacksonville celebrated their 70th anniversary at their monthly meeting on April 28. They meet the fourth Wednesday of each month at Hamilton’s, 110 North East St. in Jacksonville at 6 p.m. Meetings consist of dinner, followed by a program and regular business meeting. Pilot International will be celebrating their 100th anniversary at their July convention in Atlanta.

Ladies interested in serving others through the Pilot Club of Jacksonville are encouraged to contact Carol Wallbaum at 217-243-7277 or Vickie Austin at 217-361-9423 about joining. Annual dues are $110.

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