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Still Kickin' After 75 Years

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Story by Gay Lyons with Submitted Photography

Funded in 1947 as a women’s service club, the Akima Club of Knoxville provides volunteer hours and financial support to numerous Knoxville agencies. Members earn “points” for their community service; the financial support comes from Akima Cabaret, a light-hearted, entertaining show held every other year. The cast, made up of Akima members and spouses, practices for several weeks prior to the show in preparation for a professional quality, high spirited performance filled with song and dance numbers poking good-natured fun at familiar figures. Regardless of the theme, you can count on some tap dancing and an appearance by the famous Akima kickline.

Cabaret fun equals serious revenue–even during a pandemic. In 2021, Akima awarded grants totaling $83,039–the highest amount ever–to 42 nonprofit agencies ranging from Cancer Support Community of East Tennessee to the Knoxville Symphony to Girls, Inc. to James White’s Fort. Since 1993, the club has awarded $1,397,834 to local agencies through a grant application process.

The stated vision of the organization–”Women, bound by friendship, serving together to enrich our community”--comes to life through its members’ words and actions. Talk to an Akima member, and the words you hear most often are “service,” “community” and “friendship.”

Quite a few daughters have followed their mothers into Akima. One of them, Sandy Stevens Woodland, a member since 1975, followed her mother, Jeanne Stevens, into Akima. “My mother was one of the founders,” she said. “I’ve always known Akima. Always been a part of Akima.”

Members are all ages, 20-year olds to 80-year olds. There is no age limit. There are currently 117 active members. Membership is through invitation by an active member. The longest active member is Emma Bea Stallings, a member for 52 years. Active members are required to earn points through community service; ultimately, members can choose to convert to sustainer level. Woodland, who is now a sustaining member, explained, “As a sustainer, you don’t have to maintain points, but you still support the club. I can’t host a new member, but I can recommend. There are sustainer representatives on the board.” At the September 2021 club meeting, as part of the club’s yearlong 75th birthday celebration, sustaining members Caroline Cowan, Rebecca Cazana and Linda Workman shared their experiences in a room filled with many new members.

Patricia Lee, 2021-2022 president and a member for 10 years, said a friend invited her to a meeting. “I was impressed with the women and the service they did,” she said. “The women I’ve met have been so passionate about what they do, the friendships made and the difference we make in the community.”

Traci Rhea, 2022 Cabaret chair, said she likes that Akima does not fund operating costs. “Our grant money goes directly to clients’ needs.” “We help nonprofi ts no one has ever heard of,” added Amanda Armstrong, a member since 2018. “We don’t just support the big ones.”

Pam Owens, a member for 34 years, said she joined because she wanted to get involved in the community. “I love all the good that we do, not just raising money, but the service hours, the things nonprofi ts can do that they couldn’t do without our help.”

“I have learned so much about the nonprofits in the community,” she continued. “I’ve loved every second. My friends are here. I’m still an active member, not sustaining.”

“Membership in Akima is a great way to impact the community and learn about the community,” said Armstrong. “I love that we are all very different, but we have a common purpose.” 

Caberet 2022
The Roaring 20's 
When Decades Collide

What happens when decades overlap a hundred years apart? The Roaring 20’s! A hedonistic and debaucherous way of life seems to be a recurring theme once a pandemic is over, whether it is the Spanish Flu pandemic of the early 1920’s or the COVID pandemic of the 2020’s. “The Roaring 20’s - When Decades Collide” is a fastpaced show set in two different speakeasies…one in 1922 and one in 2022… fi lled with music and dance from both time periods.

Three performances at The Mill and Mine, 227 W. Depot Street

Show, dinner and dancing ($175)

Matinee ($50)

Show, dinner and dancing ($175)


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