“You don’t ask them if they want tickets, ask them how many tickets they want.”

Those words of wisdom came from someone who has decades of experience. Harold Lockwood has been selling tickets to the annual Brownwood Kiwanis Pancake supper since its inception. He lost count of how many he’s sold years ago — but it is probably safe to put the number in the five, if not six, figures. And he shared his secret with fellow club members at a recent meeting.

With all the turmoil we read about in the national economy, there’s something comforting about things we know, can trust and rely on. The annual pancake supper is one of those things — an event that brings the community together to share something familiar that people young and old can enjoy — pancakes covered with butter and syrup. That comfort level is one reason why Lockwood says club members can assume that it’s not a question of “if” someone will buy tickets, but a question of “how many.”

Another reason the annual Pan-cake Supper is so popular, and important, is because the money raised through ticket sales each year helps support a growing number of youth programs in our area. The re-chartering of a Brownwood Cub Scout pack, the creation of a Big Brothers-Big Sisters program, the ongoing growth of existing programs inside and outside our schools, are clear indicators that interest in the young people in our area remains at a high level. And that’s important because our kids today need our nurturing attention more than ever.

In her book “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters,” Dr. Megan Meeker talks about how children’s healthy sense of modesty can be destroyed when they are shocked repeatedly. As a society, we are doing a terrible job of letting kids be kids, she says. There are far different pressures on young girls are in today’s society, compared to those faced in the world in which her parents grew up. Meeker points out that if a father fails to serve as a role-model and set constructive boundaries, influences like Cosmopolitan magazine, Paris Hilton and music videos will fill those roles- and do it poorly. Boys can fall victim to similar unhealthy influences, which are growing more pervasive all the time. That’s why having positive influences like the Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Club and youth sports programs are so important. They expose children to positive role models, reinforce the importance of making good choices and as much as anything, keeping them focused on something good rather than bad.

By supporting those programs, all geared toward providing that type of environment for Brownwood area children, the Kiwanis Club is fulfilling the service element of its mission. And everyone who buys a ticket from Lockwood, or one of the many other club members, helps fulfill that mission as well.

One final reason to pick up is that it will give everyone a chance to celebrate and/or vent about the choices made earlier that day at the ballot box. With its traditional Election Day date on the calendar, the Pancake Supper gives folks a chance to visit with each other, like we used to across the backyard fence. We don’t do that much anymore, visit with our neighbors, and that’s our loss. With all the demands on our time, many of us struggle with finding a balance between work and family commitments, meaning time spent socializing with friends and neighbors often falls by the wayside. Regardless of political persuasion, church membership or neighborhood, everyone inside the Coliseum that night has at least one thing in common about which they can visit.

The Brownwood Kiwanis Pancake Supper, which is expected to raise over $11,000 this year, will help support Boy Scout Troop 22, Brown County Boys and Girls Club, Brown County Youth Fair, Brownwood Explorer Post, Brownwood Freshman Baseball, CASA in the Heart of Texas, Cherry Pie Auction, Circle K Club, Family Services Center, Friends of Lake Brownwood State Park, Heart of Texas Girl Scouts, Infant and Toddlers Head Start, Project Graduation, Rainbow Room at Child Protective Services, The Ark and Toys for Kids.

Bill Crist is associate publisher and general manager of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Wednesday. He may be reached by e-mail at bill.crist@brownwoodbulletin.com.