Servants like Rucker Ginn are the soul of Covington. They've spent their whole lives building a community, working in town, building a family there and serving in their churches and community service organizations.
The Kiwanis Club of Covington is one of Covington's largest collections of community leaders and servants, and because of all that Kiwanis has done since its foundation in 1927, it received the 2011 Shining Light award. Ginn is the longest serving current member at 63 years and was given the honor of throwing the switch to light the Historic Courthouse at this year's ceremony.
"The three things most important to him were the dealership, Kiwanis and his church," said Ginn's son Marshall. "He has a servant's spirit, and he helped everyone he could. People would come to the house to ask for things and he never turned them down. He always lent a helping hand."
Kiwanis' approximately 72 members have devoted more than 1,153 years to the service organization, whose mission is "serving the children of the world." Members run the gamut of professions, including accountants, bankers, business owners, city and county employees, doctors, educators, judges, lawyers, ministers, nonprofit leaders and politicians.
Kiwanis provides annual scholarships to Newton County High School students and students selected to attend the University of Georgia's Mock Trial Law Academy. They donated $12,000 to scholarships and other causes in 2010.
The group also performed more than 3,000 hours of community service last year and supports the local Miracle League field project, the Salvation Army's bell ringer and Angel Tree programs, Boy Scout Troop 222, the Great American Cleaup, the Georgia Sheriffs' Youth Homes, Rivers Alive cleanup, Twilights at Chimney Park and the annual Christmas parade, as well as sponsoring Key Clubs at the county's three high schools and the Circle K club at Oxford College.
"The people in Kiwanis are what make it special," said Ginn. "Everyone I know has been really good to me."
One of Ginn's favorite activities was Kiwanis' interclub meetings, where he and other local members would go across their district and the state to meet, fellowship and share ideas with other Kiwanis clubs. Ginn has served as both local president and as a Lt. Governor for the Georgia Kiwanis organization.
Up until he suffered a stroke earlier this year, the 85-year-old Ginn could still be frequently seen at Ginn Motor Company, offering courtesy rides to customers having work done on their cars. He's also a frequent volunteer at First Baptist Church and could often be found at the hospital donating his type O-positive blood, which can be received by all other blood types.
When asked how it felt to be selected to flip the switch at this year's courthouse lighting, Ginn said it was "one of the best things ever."
While Rucker has been in Kiwanis most of his life, local lawyer Shannon Sneed, the club's secretary, said Kiwanis has helped him become more invested and connected.
"Kiwanis is important because it's a vehicle that allows you to get more involved in your community, meet more people and help the community much more than you can as an individual," Sneed said. "I did not grow up here did not know all these people and could not have met these people without being in Kiwanis."
Club President Royce Baker said the club was a great way to be more involved and to socialize with more people, but also noted how the core's mission is vital to him.
"I wanted to join because I wanted to be part of a service organization that gave back to the community, in particular kids. Being a parent myself, something I've found, a calling or a soft spot, is being able to give back to kids," Baker said.
To learn more about joining Kiwanis, contact any local member, email the club at Kiwanis@sneedlaw.net or call any of the officers, including President Royce Baker at (770) 329-6432, Treasurer Adam Richardson at (770) 356-2462or Sneed at (770) 788-0011.
Editor's Note: Gabriel Khouli is a member of the Kiwanis Club of Covington.