HGTV stars align to save Pancake Day in Laurel

Vicki Hermansen | Nov 30, 2021

Every service club wishes it had hometown fans like the Kiwanis Club of Laurel does. The Mississippi club recently received a shout-out from neighbor Erin Napier, who with her husband Ben is featured in the HGTV show “Home Town,” set in Laurel.  

Napier encouraged her Instagram followers to help the Kiwanis Club of Laurel staff its annual pancake breakfast, set for Saturday, December 4. A victim of the pandemic last year, this year’s feast was in danger of being reduced to one location instead of the traditional two, due to lack of volunteers.  

Laurel Erin Napier

Billy Taylor, immediate past president of the Kiwanis Club of Laurel, said the post was successful and Laurel residents rallied to the challenge.  

“We had originally decided to have just one location this year, but due to the efforts of our Laurel TV stars, Ben and Erin Napier of the HGTV Home Town show in enlisting volunteers to help us, we will have pancake day at both locations as in years past,” Taylor said.  

Like a lot of civic clubs, the Kiwanis Club of Laurel has experienced a lack of involvement in the community and the pandemic did not help, noted Albert Brown, club president-elect. “We’re hoping to reach out this year and maybe pick up some new members from our community.”  

Laurel MS pancake dayTaylor said about 40 people volunteered to help staff the location at the YWCO — a longtime location for Pancake Day. In 2019, that spot served 1,700 people; the main location at First Baptist Church served 2,200 people that year.  

“That’s a lot of pancakes,” Taylor said. In 2019, the club’s main fundraiser brought in more than US$23,000, which was used for scholarships for high school students and math flashcards for third graders in Laurel. The club also uses the proceeds to fulfill its pledge to the Eliminate Project.  

“Due to lower membership numbers from Covid and the fact that our sponsored Key Clubs are just getting back into action after Covid, it was going to be tough to staff two locations,” Taylor said.

The club has 49 members and has been in service since 1921. Pancake Day began in the 1950s  

Scott Cooley, club vice president, said, “We think with having Ben and Erin willing and able to support us, and with their status in the community and nationwide, having their support means we’ll have a successful Pancake Day.”

Rhonda Gilbert, club secretary, is hopeful that the new crop of volunteers will see the value the club brings to the community and think about becoming members.  

“We had so many circumstances working against us,” Gilbert said of this year’s event. For example, the local Sertoma club sponsors a Christmas parade and the time was changed from afternoon to evening. Pancakes are served in the morning, and members worried that people wouldn’t come downtown just for pancakes.  

“Plus, we didn’t know how people would feel about crowds,” she noted. “The big difference is that we are going to be able to do it without any questions.”

While Cooley notes the help of social media for sharing events like Pancake Day, he thinks it’s the one-on-one contact that draws members to events and the club.  

“It’s very important to get out and still have that one-on-one contact with your friends and neighbors,” he said.


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