Sims donates $2,000 to club that helped him many years ago

Posted 11/11/17

By ED HOWELL

Daily Mountain Eagle

A former state Key Club official from Jasper came back home on Key Club Week for a program — and pledged $2,000 that the Kiwanis Club of Jasper had given him …

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Sims donates $2,000 to club that helped him many years ago

Posted

By ED HOWELL

Daily Mountain Eagle

A former state Key Club official from Jasper came back home on Key Club Week for a program — and pledged $2,000 that the Kiwanis Club of Jasper had given him decades ago to help him fulfill his duties as the state Key Club district governor in the 1980s.

The surprise pledge was made by Birmingham attorney J. Scott Sims during a special presentation at Monday’s Kiwanis Club of Jasper meeting that was designed to draw attention to the Key Club, a student organization that Kiwanians International sponsors at schools across the nation.

It is said to be the oldest and largest service program for high school students, encouraging leadership through serving others.

The local high school has the oldest Key Club chapter for a high school still in existence, Sims said.

Elizabeth Drummond, the current Key Club president at Jasper High School, along with vice president Kaiden Kennedy, spoke briefly to the Kiwanians, as did Key Club Division 3 Lt. Gov. Taylor Horton of Lynn High School.

Drummond said the local club raised funds during Halloween for UNICEF and in the next month the club will also be involved with the Salvation Army bell ringing campaign. Kennedy said the club is also becoming involved with Adopt-a-Grand-Friend program, where students visit and assist elderly people who are home-bound or living in a nursing home who has no family to visit them. She noted Kiwanians got the club members interested in the program.

“I think this is an incredible program that you have started and we are working on getting more people and more students involved on that,” Kennedy said, noting the person she was assigned to did not have any visitors for many years. “For me to be able to visit her once a week, that was the highlight of her week. It really made a difference.” 

Drummond said calendars will be sold for $15 as a club fundraiser, with ads also available in the calendars, which will have club members in it. The club is also working with the school’s Hope Closet, which provide needed items for students such as hygiene items. Key Club members will also help the Kiwanis Club with its annual pancake fundraiser.

Horton thanked the club for financially supporting her in going to a San Antonio, Texas, Key Club event, where she discovered how important Key Club is across the world and nation. She said a number of speaking and leadership workshops were held at the event.

She said the district project this year is to raise $60,000 for Children’s of Alabama, formerly known as Children’s Hospital, in Birmingham. Each division must raise $3,000 for the goal, and Division 3 has already raised $2,320 to date. A T-shirt sale at her school helped raise much of those funds, and she asked others to share their stories with the hospital.

“It’s amazing to see how many people are truly are impacted by Children’s Hospital and how many people depend on them” to deal with Type 1 diabetes and cystic fibrosis, just among citizens in Lynn.

Sims, 51, who graduated from Walker High School (now Jasper High) in 1984, was a Key Club president at Walker and district governor of Key Club in 1983-84. His son, William, a Homewood High School student, became district governor in 2016-17, and is now the international president of Key Club. Sims also has remained active in the Homewood-Mountain Brook Kiwanis Club (serving as a president and receiving the Kiwanian of the Year Award) and as a Key Club advisor.

Sims, who is with the Sirote and Permutt law firm, specializing in banking and finance and real estate work, discussed at length about how much Key Club meant to him, noting he was from a low income family growing up. As a younger student, he noticed Key Club photos in the Walker High school annuals and how important the club appeared.

As his eighth-grade year was coming to a close at Jasper Middle School, he applied at age 14 to enter into the Key Club and that he was shocked to be one of seven picked to join as he started Walker High School.

“I was not popular. I was not cool,” he said, saying he was insecure, in part due to his family’s dire financial situation. “Our utilities were turned off frequently.” 

The club gave him confidence to succeed, noting the club had many service projects, all of which he was involved in. “Once I was involved in it, I just fell in love with it because of the service,” he said, noting he even “devoured” the club magazines.

At the end of his freshman year, he was elected as the Jasper chapter’s first vice president, which was unusual for a freshman.

Attending a Key Club convention, he watched Will Sellers (now a justice on the Alabama Supreme Court) give his farewell message as Key Club district governor. The experience meant so much to Sellers that he wept when he gave his address, and Sims decided in three years he wanted to be governor, which happened. Moreover, in his sophomore year, the president Walker’s club resigned, elevating Sims early to be president, which he served in for 2.5 years.

“It was a whole new world for me,” he said because of his background. “I had only been out of town in my life for a couple of days.” He traveled across the state and over state lines to conferences and conventions. “It was just eye-opening,” he said.

As he developed as a leader, he served as president of a number of other organizations at school, including student council, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Math Club and the Science Club. He was also voted most likely to succeed.

“A transformation had occurred where I had turned into a servant and as a leader,” he said. “All of that because Kiwanis created an opportunity through Key Club and certain Kiwanians went above and beyond in investing in me,” preparing him when he went to the University of Alabama later. There, Sims served as campaign manager for John Merrill, the current secretary of state, when Merrill was elected to be president of the SGA. (Merrill will serve as speaker at Monday’s Kiwanis Club meeting.) 

Sims credited Kiwanians voting to give him $2,000 to handle his expenses while he was Key Club governor, as he had worried with his family finances how he would be able to travel. “I was excited but I had forgotten to anticipate how I was possibly going to pay for what was going to be required of me. They gave you a small stipend but we didn’t have cell phones (in the early 1980s) so there was tremendous long distance charges and mailing charges and filling your car up with gas to drive everywhere and traveling expenses.” 

He was asked to come to a Kiwanis Board meeting where the club voted to give him $2,000 for his expenses while governor. “I didn’t know it was coming. I didn’t expect it,” he said. “But the release of pressure that day I well remember, and I thank you for it.” Also, Jack Allen at First National Bank gave him the use of his assistant and his photocopy machine for newsletters and other paperwork.

Sims said he has benefitted personally and professionally since, even proposing to his wife years later at a state Key Club anniversary convention with 1,000 people attending. The high school students in the audience erupted and gave them a 15-minute ovation. He noted his son’s involvement as the international president and his daughter becoming a lieutenant governor. “I’ve got a 13 year old who is just waiting for his turn,” he said.

At the end of his speech, he said he wanted to make a pledge to the club.

“It’s been a long time coming. I should have done it years ago,” he said. “You gave me a gift. You didn’t expect anything in return. I want to give the $2,000 back to the club. I hope you can use it however you want to use it. It is my gift to you.

“But my preference would be that you try to find somebody who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity, send them to some of these things and watch it change their lives,” he said. “I hope that some more of your students at the high school, that it would do for them what it did for me.” 

Jess Drummond, president of the Kiwanis Club of Jasper, said at the end of the meeting, “Thank you so much for that. That was unexpected but I can assure our club we can definitely use that to help mold the future of our youth.”