She does not fly planes, but Cynthia Spearman is a Pilot.
Pilots International is a service organization founded in 1921 in Macon that now boasts more than 400,000 members in more than 400 clubs throughout the United States, Singapore, The Bahamas, Japan and Canada. Originally a women’s organization, today Pilots International welcomes men and through its Anchor Club, youth to further charitable, educational and research programs in communities throughout the world.
“The Pilots Club [was founded] by a group of business women who wanted to form an organization because men’s organizations wouldn’t allow women,” Spearman said. “They formed the organization with help from men’s clubs and looked around for a symbol. The riverboat pilot was a very popular image at the time.”
Because a riverboat pilot steered true course through calm or troubled waters, she said, the image was appropriate for the organization, whose motto is “True Course Ever.”
“We wanted an organization that would be in service to our communities,” she said. When it was first form, after World War I, “they were rebuilding after the war.”
Today, Pilot Clubs take on projects that serve the community, including an award-winning brain-safety education program for elementary-aged students. It’s one of the projects the Covington chapter has taken under their wing, Spearman said.
In April, Spearman became governor of the Georgia District of Pilot International in April, the first governor from the Covington chapter. She will represent Georgia at the Pilots International 94th Annual Convention and Leadership Conference, July 4 through 10 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
“I’ve been asked to do this several times before and I’ve said ‘no’,” she said. When she retired from Live Oak Hill Elementary School as a special education teacher last year, “I decided to move up.”
Spearman said to become the governor of a district, “you’ve had to serve as president of your club. I’ve been lieutenant governor three-and-a-half times. Last year, they asked me to go on up in the line, so I was the governor-elect.”
“It’s very challenging,” she said. “I never thought about doing it. I’m pleased I can do it at this time in my life. I’m very pleased to be able to represent Covington. My members are very supportive. They’re a fabulous group!”
As the governor of the Georgia District of Pilots International, Spearman oversees 58 clubs located throughout the state. Each governor creates a swap pin to hand out. Spearman designed hers, which includes an image of a hummingbird, to symbolize her theme: soaring into service.
Becoming a Pilot
Spearman first became a member of the organization in 1988.
“A friend invited me to go,” she said. “Back then, you had to be invited. At the time, I wasn’t involved in any other organizations outside of church.
Born in West Virginia, Spearman’s family lived in a variety of places, but settled in Georgia by the time she attended high school. She met her husband, George, while attending Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville. The couple has one daughter, Michelle, who is married and living in Clearman, Oklahoma.
“I say I belong to the Pilot Club,” she said. “We don’t fly airplanes. We do good service all over the state. I would like to see more people know what we’re about and understand what we’re doing. It’s important to give back to your community.”
Spearman says the friendships she’s built with other members of the organization have been as rewarding as the satisfaction she’s gotten because the club does “such good things for our communities all over the state, no matter how big or small the clubs are.”
Earning service hours
The Covington Pilots Club has been very active, Spearman said. Projects have included putting on a BrainMinder™ puppet show for elementary-aged students on brain safety. The international organization provides resources to the local clubs, including information on brain-related illnesses such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s disease.
Proud of the Covington club, she said the local members also visit Pruitt Health, formerly Covington Manor, to play Bingo with residents, hold an annual soup and sandwich dinner at Walkers Bend senior high rise, and partner in education with Livingston Elementary School, including hosting an annual teacher appreciation. Last year, she said, at the end of the school year, third-, fourth- and fifth-graders most improved in reading received bike helmets from the club.
Last year, it received and matched a grant from Pilots International to install the musical fence at Chimney Park.
“One of our members is a psychologist with the juvenile court step program,” she said. “Through her work with some of the young women in a program that is a ‘step in the right direction,’ the girls come and help with the projects we’re doing, including the Santa’s breakfast, which is one of the fundraisers for the club.”
During the breakfast, the Covington club runs a Secret Santa Shop, where children, sans parents, are allowed to shop for gifts. The club also donates to the local food pantry, and volunteers to usher at Newton County Arts Association concerts.
Club members earn service hours for the time they donate to the community. Those hours are combined with other member’s hours and the tally is submitted to the state club. During the district convention, held this year in April in downtown Atlanta, an awards luncheon is held and clubs are recognized for their projects, fundraisers and volunteer work.
“We build friendships with our club members while working together,” she said. “A lot of clubs have gotten to the point where they will join together, like the Elberton and Hartwell clubs, to hold a fundraiser. I’d like to see more clubs join together to raise money.”
The Covington Pilots Club meets at 7 p.m. on the first and third Thursday of every month except July at First Presbyterian Church, 1169 Clark Street Southwest. Member is open and those interested can attend a meeting or contact the Covington club president Anne Cargile at 404-279-0605.