Kiwanis Club Launches Mill Mountain Star Sponsorship Program

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Sam Lionberger III and local Roanoke dignitaries mark the occasion of the Mill Mountain Star's first sponsorship.

The Kiwanis Club of Roanoke had a brainstorm for its annual Pancake and Auction Day fundraiser in May – it would auction off the Mill Mountain Star. Actually, just the sponsorship rights for a year, with proceeds going to support Kiwanis community programs. Lionberger Construction had the winning bid and this morning a plaque noting their sponsorship was unveiled at the base of the Star.

Sam Lionberger III is the company CEO: “to have the Lionberger name associated with the Star is very special to us. With our history in the Roanoke Valley and certainly the iconic thing that that the Star has become, we’re very excited to partnering with Kiwanis and the City [of Roanoke].” Lionberger said they won the bidding “cheap” at $1250; he hopes to see a higher amount when the Mill Mountain Star sponsorship is auctioned off again by Kiwanis next year. “My grandfather [the company founder] would be very proud. It’s neat.”

Mike McEvoy, President of the Roanoke Kiwanis Club, on the new wrinkle introduced at this year’s Pancake and Auction Day in May: “We added it to the list, its obviously an honorary thing, you don’t get to actually own the Star but you get to have your name on the plaque for a year. We’re hoping to make it an annual tradition.” The money raised by the Star sponsorship – $1250 this first year – and from other auction items ultimately goes back to local non-profits supported by the Kiwanis Club of Roanoke, and to college scholarships they award every spring to high school seniors.

Next month the Kiwanis Club returns to live in-person weekly meetings at Charter Hall in the City Market building, although McEvoy says they plan to continue in a hybrid model, also using Zoom or YouTube live broadcasts to reach members and non-members who can’t make it in person. The club is also lining up speakers who may appeal to a younger audience, hoping to broaden its membership demographics and get more people involved with the community projects it undertakes.

Having their name on a plaque now at the base of the Mill Mountain Star – along with the sponsor for that year (Lionberger Construction in this case) can’t hurt. “It engages the community,” Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea Sr. said after the plaque dedication ceremony. “We are very pleased with the Kiwanians and what they are doing. We want to do other things in the community [like this]. That’s what it’s all about – engaging the community.”

– Gene Marrano