Twenty years ago, North Myrtle Beach Pilot Club member Joyce Thomas started the club’s fashion show to raise money to purchase beach wheelchairs for residents and visitors.
The club buys the wheelchairs for the city, which currently has 16 wheelchairs for beachgoers. Dorina Ponessi, the current Pilot Club president, says “every year we do something for them; some years it might be parts for the beach wheelchairs.” There is no charge for use of the wheelchairs, although the city has a fee for delivery of wheelchairs as some users request. “They’re always out. In the summer, you have to reserve them.”
The 20th annual Luncheon and Fashion Show, “Spring Is in the Air,” is Feb. 18 at the Dunes Golf and Country Club. “This is our big fundraiser,” says Ponessi, serving her second time as club president. She was the 2014-15 district governor for Pilot International, which was founded in 1920.
In addition to providing beach wheelchairs, the North Myrtle Beach Pilot Club maintains the 8th Avenue North wheelchair accessible ramp to the beach as part of the Keep North Myrtle Beach Beautiful program. The club supports the Alzheimer’s Association’s walkathon and has partnered with Coastal Adaptive Sports in a variety of projects assisting people with physical disabilities. The club’s “Brain Minders for Life” project teaches young children about wearing seat belts, bicycle helmets and playing in safe areas. The club has also partnered with Project Lifesaver and donated bracelets for local residents.
Since its beginning in Macon, Ga., “the main focus of Pilot International is to assist those with brain-related disorders.” The name comes from steamboat pilots, and the national motto of Pilot International is “true course ever.” The theme since 2013 has been “Do more, care more, be more.”
Some of the 23 members of the North Myrtle Beach Pilot Club assist middle school students who have mental and behavioral challenges. Ponessi says there is also a Pilot initiative to work with caregivers.
Pilot International clubs were for women, but men have also have been members for several years. Joseph Cunningham of Columbia was district governor following Ponessi. The district covers South Carolina and has 20 clubs, including ones in Aynor and Conway in Horry County. The North Myrtle Beach Pilot Club, chartered in March 1995, was an offshoot of a Myrtle Beach club which dissolved several years ago.
Pilot International has clubs in most of the United States and in the Bahamas, Canada, Japan, Singapore and South Africa. Ponessi and her husband Paul came to the area 19 years ago from New Windsor, N.Y., in the Hudson Valley. Dorina Ponessi has been a member of North Myrtle Beach Pilot Club for 11 years.
The fashion luncheon drew 230 last year. “There were a lot of other things going on,” Ponessi says. She and other members are seeking gifts or checks for the silent auction that is a feature of the event.
Fundraiser & membership information
The North Myrtle Beach Pilot Club is open to men and women. For information about the club and Pilot International contact club president Dorina Ponessi.
Phone | 843-399-7920
Email | firstname.lastname@example.org
Proceeds from the club’s annual Luncheon and Fashion Show support a variety of charities. Fashions are by Foxy Lady, Myrtle Beach. Tickets are $30.
What | “Spring Is In The Air”
When | 11 a.m., Feb. 18
Where | Dunes Golf and Country Club
Tickets contact | Phyllis Nykiel 843-280-3679