photo from Herald & Review

AWANA to celebrate 50 years at Riverside

By Bob Fallstrom


Helen Hall is pleased when people tell her, "I remember you from AWANA."    Sunday will mark the 50th anniversary of AWANA at Riverside Baptist Church.  Helen Hall has been there from the start.

The capital letters stand for "Approved Workman Are Not Ashamed." from 2 Timothy 2:15.

More than 50 children ages 3 to 12 meet at 6:30pm each Wednesday at the church on West Mound Road.


There are four groups: "Cubbies" for ages 3-4,sparks" for kindergartners and first and second graders, "Truth and Training" for grades three to six, and "JV" for seventh and eighth graders. 

Activities include playing games, memorizing passages from a handbook, singing and a Bible message. Awards go to children who progress through the handbook.  Games include basketball, dodgeball and whiffleball.  There's a scholarship camp near Metamora for sixth graders who complete the work in two handbooks.  And there is statewide competition.  "It is fun.  It gives me time to hang out with friends," said Hannah Gifford, an eighth grader at Warrensburg-Latham Middle School.  She has been an AWANA member since the age of 4.  "I like the handbook times and the memorizing," she said.  "When you need God, the words will be there."

Heather Costerisan of Mount Zion, home-schooled, gives this testimonial: "I love it." A longtime AWANA member and now with the JV group, she adds: "I've completed 10 handbooks."

Bruno Tondello Jr. of Oreana, the AWANA president, points out: "AWANA's heartbeat is the gospel message.  We want to save the children for the Lord."  This is Tondello's 17th year working with AWANA and third year as president. 

Tondello is assisted by directors of the groups: Sheila Long, Donna Meyers, Nancy Estep, Lori Harrier and Rodney Harrier.  In addition, Tondello helps out with the third through sixth graders and there are 31 individual leaders.

Helen Hall is one of the helpers, mainly with young children.  "I came to the church as secretary in 1954." she said.  "We started AWANA in 1955 when Jim Christensen was the youth pastor.  We used to bus children to AWANA, 200 a week.  That proved to be too many," She retired after 43 years in the Riverside Baptist office.  "AWANA has been great, wonderful for the kids and for the church, " she said.  "A lot of kids have accepted the Lord."

AWANA is an international ministry with nearly 12,000 churches participating in 110 countries.  "We were one of the earliest clubs,"  Tondello said. Jack Eggar, the national AWANA president, will speak Sunday, along with AWANA missionary Rick Darling during the Christian education hour at the church.  Eggar will also speak during the Sunday morning service.  "AWANA is the most awesome tool for building families and churches I have ever seen," Eggar said.     
The AWANA celebration schedule:

  • All day - AWANA artifacts and historical photos displayed in the church foyer.
  • 9:20 to 9:30 am - Mr. Sparky and Cubbie Bear greet everyone at the main door.
  • 9:30 am - Welcome and introductions by Don Estep.  Early history of the AWANA Club by Jack Eggar.  Everybody sings the AWANA theme song.  History overview of AWANA Club at Riverside Baptist by Rick Darling, a former Riverside Baptist AWANA member.
  • 10:45 am - Worship service.  During the offering, AWNA Club members and leaders will sing AWANA choruses.  Afterwards, the leaders will remain on the platform for a prayer of dedication for the AWANA Club, led by the Rev. John Norris.
  • After the worship service, a potluck dinner will be held in the gym, and former AWANA award winners will be recognized.  < Previous Page>