By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
He said he stays from start to finish. Then he laughs.
That phrase has double meaning for Jim Stansbury.
The Hays man, just a few months from celebrating his 80th birthday, dove in alongside fellow Lions members in their mid-20s at Tuesday's annual pancake feed at the National Guard Armory in Hays.
The local club was hosting its 35th annual feed, a yearly fundraiser for numerous local community projects. But work for Stansbury, in his 34th year of serving as treasurer for the Hays Lions Club, begins long before the feed and continues afterward as well.
Even on the day of the feed -- which features morning and evening serving times -- Stansbury is one of the first workers to show up.
On Tuesday, Stansbury and Dee Bodine, chairwoman of the pancake feed, were at the armory at 4:30 a.m. to meet the milk truck.
The first session was scheduled from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. After approximately a two-hour break in the afternoon, Stansbury returned to the armory at 3:15 p.m. and got home at 9 p.m.
The feed ended at 7, "but we have to clean up, take down banners, all that," Stansbury said.
Stansbury and Aris Johnson, who also has attended all 35 pancake feeds since 1979, vividly remember the first few years of the feed.
"We used several grills back there in the kitchen," said the 91-year-old Johnson, a Lions Club member for more than 65 years. "We had so many things plugged in, we'd blow breakers," he said, and the Lions would have to wait a few minutes to turn their grills back on after resetting the breakers.
"There's still stories going around about those (small) grills," Bodine said.
"It's always been a lot of fun," Stansbury said.
In the early 1990s, the Lions learned about Jim Kuper, "The Pancake Man," from Council Bluffs, Iowa, who travels to several states helping with such fundraisers.
With his massive homemade grill, Kuper can fry 92 pancakes at a time.
That number opened some eyes. So the Lions contacted Kuper, and he has been coming to Hays for the Lions Club Feed, as well as other fundraisers, since.
In addition to filling a lot of stomachs, Kuper also entertains those in attendance, flipping pancakes to people waiting in line and to those already eating at their table.
"Everybody has fun," Bodine said, " ... and they're doing good for the community."
That kind of enthusiasm has caught on, and two of the youngest members -- 20-something roommates Matt Eckhart and Matt Cross -- were in the serving line helping. Both were convinced to join the Lions Club by member Warren Shaffer, a retired Fort Hays State University professor.
"It's a good way to help the community out," Eckhart said. "A good way to help people."
The Lions fed 1,254 people Tuesday, down approximately 50 from a year ago. The project was a success nonetheless, Stansbury said.
"It's a fundraiser," he said. "We made some money, and that's the main thing."
"I'll take that number," she said. "This is the fundraiser where most everybody in the club helps out in some way or another -- even if they can only be here a couple of hours."
"It's a lot of work, but I love it. Now, we're ready to schedule the next one."