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High-gloss horsepower meets helping hands

By Joseph Palmersheim - Sun Newspapers
Published: Wednesday, March 11, 2009 10:56 PM CDT

Being active in the community is fuel for the soul for members of the Southern Cruzers Car Club.

The Cruzers, a south metro car club with nearly 180 members, recently won the 2009 Eagle One "Golden Rule Award" for the Midwest region. The award honors car clubs that are involved in their communities. This is the second time the group has clinched the award, having previously won the honor in 2006. No other Midwest car club has won the award twice.

In addition to doing "mini-shows" at independent and assisted living facilities across the area, the Cruzers have donated nearly $40,000 to various scholarship funds since they started their Summer Spectacular car show in 2005.

Dave Kempkes of Lakeville is responsible for the group's newsletter. After hearing about the Eagle One award, he started compiling materials in early September, and developed a 52-page book entry for the contest.

"Eagle One was very impressed with one of the sayings I put in there, which they said rounded out their philosophy of why they give the award away. That saying is 'Character is doing good things for other people even when no one else is watching.' I based the entire presentation around that."

Club President Jim Reed of Burnsville said the prize's $500 cash award was being donated to the Community Action Council's Robert B. Lewis House in Eagan, a shelter for women and children. During a typical year, the amount of money raised through the group's Summer Spectacular car show varies depending on the weather. But, Reed said, raising money is only part of what the club's community service is about.

"We visit a lot of nursing homes with the cars, and go to a lot of churches when they are having youth activities," Reed said. "We'll show up with cars to promote their programs at no charge. It's a big draw - everyone comes out. Typically, what we'll do is allow the spectators, like in a home, to have a ballot where they pick their favorite cars. They remember [the old cars] from when they were young, and things they used to do."

Reed estimated that nearly 95 percent of the club membership has at least one special car. There isn't any sort of style or vintage that the club prefers - there are cars in the club from the 1920s all the way up to the models from last year. Some are heavily modified, and some have been restored to pristine showroom condition using original parts.

Reed owns a lime gold 1967 Ford Mustang coupe and a 1957 Pontiac Star Chief two-door hardtop. Kempkes drives a 1967 Dodge Polara and his wife drives a 1968 Volkswagen Beetle. Despite the varying makes of the wheels they cruise on, club members have one big thing in common: All of them love cars.

"It offers people a sense of enjoying the cars and one another, and being able to relate through the old cars and pride of ownership," Reed said. "It's about knowing that the people you are with think along the same lines and enjoy the same things, and we enjoy sharing what we have with people who like them."

"I was attracted to this club because of the things they do," Kempkes said. "This club wants to involve themselves, and they push to involve themselves in community events. [This isn't] just about having fun with the cars - it's also about making a difference in the lives of other people."

For more information about the Southern Cruzers, go to www.southerncruzers.com

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