SYLACAUGA, Ala. – Monday evening, the Sylacauga Kiwanis Club held its annual Christmas Dinner at the B.B. Comer Memorial Library. Former Auburn quarterback, former major leaguer, and SEC Network analyst Gabe Gross was the keynote speaker.

Library Director Dr. Shirley Spears welcomed the audience and thanked the Kiwanis Club for its support of the library and the community.

“The Kiwanis Club has been celebrating Christmas with us for a pretty good while,” said Spears. “These guys are special in that they’ve been involved with the community for a really long time and some of them have been around for a long time. They have really, steadfastly, stayed devoted to their mission. They talk about serving the children around the world and trying to find the ways do that.”

She then turned the program over to Kiwanis Club President Mark Haynes who extended his welcome to all in attendance. After an invocation by Kiwanis member and Pastor James Haskins of First Methodist Church, attendees enjoyed a meal prepared by Hickory Street Cafe.

Following the dinner, awards presented to the past president, perfect attendees, and to the Kiwanian of the Year, Danny Johnson, founder of Marble City Pharmacy.

During the Fall, Kiwanis presented $1,000 to the Nichols-Lawson Middle School Band to help purchase new instruments. Band Director Samuel Childs displayed a baritone saxophone bought with the donation.

“The Kiwanis Club helped make it possible for the NLMS band to purchase some instruments that will permanently stay at NLMS,” said Childs. The instruments were shared between the middle school and Sylacauga High School. “I’m very appreciative of their generous donation.”

A presentation of money given to several community organizations was made by R.D. Morris. Care House, B.B. Comer Memorial Library, Boys’ Club/Care House Christmas Project, Alabama Childhood Food Solutions, RIF, S.A.F.E., Sylacauga City Schools Foundation, Isabel Anderson Comer Museum, scholarships, and Nichols-Lawson Middle School all received donations from the Kiwanis Club during the 2015-2016 year. During the presentation, a $2,000 check was presented to Dr. Spears and the Library.

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After the presentations, Rob Hendrickson introduced Gross. The former athlete played quarterback at Auburn University from 1998-1999. During his college career, he also played baseball from 1999-2001 before being drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays. He spent six years playing Major League Baseball for Toronto, Milwaukee Brewers, Tampa Bay Rays, and the Oakland Athletics. Today, he is an analyst on the SEC Network.

Gross addressed the Kiwanis Club and its special guests with Bible in-hand focusing on his relationship with God. He captivated the room by sharing his story accepting Christ at age nine and making a promise to read the Bible every day, even if that meant he fell asleep doing so (which he admitted to after long games).

“I know my faith and my life were affected beyond measure when I started reading God’s word everyday. That was a challenge I hope to provide to everyone here tonight,” said Gross.

He said making a shift in his career since he retired has provided more time with his family, something he values deeply.

“Just being here tonight and witnessing the generosity of the Kiwanis Club and what they do every year here in Sylacauga was really inspiring to me,” said Gross. “As far as my message is concerned is that it just centered around two of the biggest things that have been a part of my life, all my life: that’s athletics and my faith.”

Michael Brannon for SylacaugaNews.com | © 2016, SylacaugaNews.com/Marble City Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Michael Brannon is a former news and sports anchor from Mobile, Ala. and serves as Director of Business Development, Manager of Digital Projects and Strategy, and Managing Editor of SylacaugaNews.com.