Love Lights benefit sparkles at Freedom Park Nov. 17

Pilot Club of Charlotte celebrates its 75th year

11/02/2012 12:00 AM

11/01/2012 2:07 PM

Edith Pearson, 98, is living proof there is no age requirement for giving back.

As the last surviving charter member of the service organization Pilot Club of Charlotte, Pearson has lovingly helped countless people in need during her 75 years as an active member.

“I’ll be 99 on my next birthday, but I continue to enjoy attending meetings and keeping in touch with the other members,” says Pearson, a resident of MerryWood Senior Living Community.

Founded in 1921 in Macon, Ga., Pilot International is a volunteer service organization of 25,000 youth and adult volunteers from Japan, Canada, Singapore, the Bahamas and the United States. The name was inspired from the concept of a riverboat pilot who would steer a true course through troubled or calm waters.

Members are male and female professional and business leaders who share the desire to help those in need and make the world a better place.

The Charlotte chapter consists of 22 women, and as the dedicated group celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, treasurer Peggy Jessup, 73, notes their power.

“The Pilot Club of Charlotte has a history of community service to those in our community who are often the lonely and/or forgotten,” she said. “We believe that although we’re small in number we can make a difference in the lives of those we serve.”

Since 1991, the focus of Pilot International has been to help those affected by brain-related disorders. For the past 34 years, one of the main projects of the Charlotte chapter has been Love Lights: a visually stunning display of luminarias to remember those affected by Alzheimer’s.

Pilot members spend months collecting donations made in honor or memory of loved ones, then set up thousands of luminarias to light the lake at Freedom Park. Last year the fundraiser netted more than $13,000.

The public is invited to view this season’s peaceful site 5-8 p.m. Nov. 17.

All funds from Love Lights benefit Alzheimer’s disease research through the Pilot International Foundation, which has awarded $75,000 to the Bryan Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the Duke University School of Medicine. This grant was made possible with the donations collected through Charlotte Love Lights.

Jessup views Love Lights as much a gift to the city as it is a fundraiser for her club.

“The headline in the newspaper our first year described it as ‘Silent Night’ and that vision has remained with me in as much as the quietness of this tranquil time offers those who come to view the lights an opportunity for remembrances and reflections,” she said. “As we strive for a cure, we like to think that it will be one of our dollars that will be the spark leading to an end to this devastating disease.”

Jessup said she believes that, although there are numerous service organizations that people can dedicate their time to, her group is special.

“We like to think that our Pilot club offers a rewarding opportunity for service in an environment where friendships do bind us together with a sense of common purpose that is invaluable.”

In that spirit, Pearson will continue to receive support from her sisters in service and give support to causes close to her heart. And Jessup said no testimony of the merits of a Pilot membership can surpass Pearson’s.

“She epitomizes the words from our Code that, ‘whatever a person touches should be ennobled by that touch.’ Edith reminds us that we can and do make a difference in this world, with hearts, minds and hands dedicated to service.”

“In Pilot Club,” Pearson said, “you develop lasting friendships. I enjoy attending meetings and keeping in touch with members. I continue to give Love Lights in memory of family and friends.”

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