By Toni Stauffer
On Oct. 18, the Smiths Station Ruritan Club celebrated its homecoming under the direction of president Tom Kubik. Ruritan Vice President and former Smiths Station mayor LaFaye Dellinger spoke about the history of the Ruritan Club.
Smiths Station Mayor F.L. “Bubba” Copeland who spoke about the importance of the Ruritan Club and the future of Smiths Station.
The Ruritan Club is a service club located in small towns and rural areas in the U.S. and aims to achieve “Fellowship, Goodwill and Community Service.” While there is a national organization (Ruritan National), local clubs are autonomous. The first Ruritan Club was chartered May 21, 1928, in Holland, Va. and has since grown to be “America’s Leading Community Service Organization,” with 30,000+ members and more than 1,200 clubs. The Smiths Station Ruritan Club was first chartered August 28, 1952 and does important work for the citizens of Smiths Station and Lee County.
“We usually have a speaker every month and we do projects for the community,” said Kubik. The Rurtians hold a lot of fundraisers, such as spaghetti dinners, fish frys and this year the Club held its 18th annual bass tournament held at Lake Martin on Oct. 27.
“With the funds that we raise, we support the local Girl Scout troops, the Boy Scouts, have given $4,000 in scholarships for Lee County students, and we support a veteran’s home with 13 veterans,” said Kubrik.
The Ruritans were instrumental in helping to incorporate the city of Smiths Station (June 22, 2001). “The history of Smiths Station and how the Ruritan ties into that is seamless. It almost appears as if the Ruritan is an extension of the city of Smiths Station,” said Mayor Copeland.
The Ruritan Club moved to its current location at 2000 Lee Road on Oct. 18, 1998 after Mr. I.L. Davis and other members took the old prefab computer lab from Auburn University and added on the kitchen, bathrooms and porch.
“This is probably one of the biggest contributions that Ruritan has made to the community,” said Kubik. “The building is used pro bono by the Juvenile Conference Committee, Girl Scouts, and others. It’s used by the community to rent for functions at a nominal fee. We’ll have over 200 days of usage this year.”
“The Ruritan Building is just as important in our city as City Hall,” said Mayor Copeland. “It’s a place where we can gather. I look in the future for the county, the city and the Ruritan to work together to create a bigger building and make it a community center.”
In order to become a member, one only has to show up, show interest, and be willing to work for the community. There is a monthly membership fee of $10, part of which goes to National.
“Every dollar we raise during the fundraisers stays here in the community,” said Rubik. “There’s no administrative fees for anything we do—it’s all volunteer work.”
According to the website, members are encouraged to pay by the quarter ($30), semi-annually ($60), or annually ($120) directly to the treasurer.
The Club’s board meeting is the first Thursday of every month and the general meeting occurs the second Thursday of every month, though the last one had to be cancelled because of Hurricane Michael. For more information, visit www.smithsstationruritan.com or call Tom Kubik at (706) 587-3654. For rental information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Community working together to grow
At the Ruritan homecoming Smiths Station mayor F.L. “Bubba” Copeland segued into talking about how the administration of Smiths Station “has worked tirelessly to make almost all of Smiths Station seamless, so that it appears as a cooperative government from the Fire Department to the Waterworks.” He said that the city has worked out a deal with the Waterworks department so that they can get a percentage back from any sewage they run.
“That speaks volumes,” said Copeland. “Now the Waterworks is determined to help with our growth.” Copeland said that Smiths Station is really growing. “We are booming. We have over 225 new houses going up right now as we speak and that’s new buildings. We have a national brand coming with Love’s truck stop.”
Copeland hinted at another deal in the works with another national brand, but wouldn’t divulge any details, except to say that it would be located by the Love’s facility.
“I get phone calls day in and day out,” said Copeland, “of different people wanting to come to our city, different developers. We are one of the top 10 fastest growing cities in the state, and it makes Lee County the second fastest growing county in the state.”
Copeland said none of the new growth could have been done without the groundwork laid by his predecessors. He talked about a recent, unexpected compliment the city received. Copeland had taken two Panther News Network anchors from Smiths Station High School to an event and on the return trip he asked them what they thought of Smiths Station.
“Teenagers are the litmus test for where you’re at—they have no filter, they will tell you exactly what they think of you, and they will tell you very quickly,” said Copeland. The teenagers told him that when they used to go on vacation and people asked where they were from, they would answer Columbus, Auburn, or Phenix City. Now they tell people they are from Smiths Station, because they are proud of their city, a city he said he has dubbed Mayberry 2018.
Copeland thanked the Ruritan Club for their efforts, which he said do not go unnoticed. He also apologized for the small increase in the tax bill, but that it will help the city do a serious sewage initiative needed for continued growth. He said the city should be able to run at least 100 miles of pipe in the next four years from the tax. Copeland added that also because of the tax, Smiths Station is within just two weeks of having their own city engineer, so they won’t have to go to rely on permission from the County, which he said has been a very slow process.
“I remind people every day that we’re just 17 years old and we’re competing with cities over a hundred years old,” said Copeland.
He said that the city just broke ground for a baseball field at the city park—a 1.5 million facility, and that they just now were able to purchase their very first city vehicle.
“We have a presence,” said Copeland,” and I cannot wait for the Veteran’s Day Parade for us to ride through in the Smiths Station city vehicle. I’m so excited about that.”
In other Smiths Station news, the Historical Committee of Smiths Station, made of nine Smiths Station residents. The Committee is requesting that if Smiths Station residents have any old photos, annuals, or anything regarding Smiths Station history that they be brought into City Hall, so that they can be copied or photographed for archival purposes. The Smiths Station Museum should be opening in December.
“That should be a great place for students to learn about our history,” said Copeland.