When it began in 1925, the Variety Club primarily was a civic and social club for film-industry personalities. Since then, the group – whose mission is to enhance the lives of children – has branched throughout the United States and into our neighborhood.

The club includes members of all backgrounds, career paths and, more recently, has broadened to include members representing every generation. A perfect example of the club’s growth is its newest addition, the Young Variety Club of North Texas, pioneered by several neighborhood teenagers.

Jennifer Gibbs, now a senior at Woodrow Wilson High School, helped organize the group in March 1995. Gibbs says she became interested in the group when she and a friend helped her mother Pam Gibbs, a 10-year Variety Club member who is now president, at several Variety Club fund-raisers and events.

Impressed by Jennifer’s enthusiasm for the group’s cause, Variety Club members asked her to invite some of her friends and begin the Young Variety Club. Jennifer gathered friends from school and her soccer team, intentionally starting the group with 11 members.

“We wanted to keep the tradition alive, since the very first Variety Club started with 11 members back in 1925,” says Jennifer, who is now the club’s president.

Since it’s founding, the Young Variety Club has grown from 11 to 52 members and has completed more than 965 hours of community service. Unlike the original Variety Club of North Texas, which works with disabled children, the Young Variety Club works to benefit children who are “away from their families,” Jennifer says.

Most of their volunteer work is done at Jonathan’s Place and Buckner Children’s Home, both located in the East Dallas area.

Every other weekend, Young Variety Club members visit Jonathan’s Place, a group foster home for children of families suffering from drug abuse. Lisa Kay Cunningham, a volunteer coordinator for Jonathan’s place, says it’s refreshing to see young people helping out, especially since society often paints negative images of teenagers.

“The kids at Jonathan’s Place think they are the greatest people in the world,” she says. In addition to volunteer work, the Young Variety Club members help their adult counterparts with mail-outs and are included in all events. They also sponsor an annual Christmas party at the AMC Theater across from NorthPark Mall, which benefits 1,200 disadvantaged children. Most recently, club members took about 200 children from Buckner Children’s Home Bowling.

Among the neighborhood Young Variety Club members are Jennifer, the president; Vice President Alison Sherman, a senior at Bryan Adams High School; First Vice President Adam Anderly, a junior at Bishop Lynch High School; Recording Secretary Rebecca Jackson, a senior at the Talented and Gifted Magnet High School; Corresponding Secretary Megan Head, a senior at Woodrow; Treasurer Katie Offutt, a senior at Woodrow; photographer Eric Anderly, a senior at Dallas Academy; and member Amy King, a junior at Lakehill Preparatory School.

The Young Variety Club is open to North Texas residents ages 11-24. The group requires a $25 membership fee, and in return, provides members with a Young Variety Club T-shirt.

“We’re open to any help and ideas from the community,” Jennifer says.

For information, call 381-4384.

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