TUPELO – The Tupelo Elvis Presley Fan Club hasn’t given away any Cadillacs, but they might as well have.
In honor of Elvis’ generosity, the group has been raising money for good causes – scholarships, the new aquatic center, the statue in Fairpark – since it re-formed in 2006.
“Elvis dreamed about what he could become, and we dream about how we can make Tupelo better,” said the fan club’s president, Sara Palmer.
Barbara Mallory formed the fan club in 1956 as a teen.
“We grew apart (over the years), married and had families, and I was always an Elvis fan,” she said.
The city formed it again in 2006 for the 50th anniversary of Elvis’ homecoming concert at the fairgrounds, and shortly after returned it to Mallory – along with $2,000 and hundreds of international members eager to be a part of Elvis’ hometown fan club.
With all of these members and the money, the group needed some direction. Giving back to the community seemed to be the best way to honor their favorite musician.
“We want to do something to keep his memory alive in a way he’d appreciate,” said member Diane Whitt. “He loved kids.”
With a blessing from Elvis Presley Enterprises, the group paved forward and promised to donate money to help children in any way possible.
Taking care of business
The first few years of the club, members sold T-shirts and buttons at festivals.
The group’s first major fundraiser was a cookbook, which included advertisements.
The $22 book was so successful, it’s in its second printing. That led to the club’s music scholarship, which is given to students each spring.
The main scholarship is $5,000, with two $500 alternate awards given.
Next came the group’s main fundraiser: Elvis car tags.
The fan club receives $24 from the $31 car tag cost, and therefore provides the most fundraising dollars to the club.
Using money raised by the tags, the fan club has donated to Regional Rehabilitation, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and March of Dimes, as well as to the Elvis Presley Birthplace’s “Child Enrichment Program,” which will teach children about Elvis.
The club also as promised a total of $130,000 paid over 10 years to Tupelo’s new aquatic center.
“We’ll be able to name a small teaching pool,” Palmer said. The fan club also will create a display at the center.
Now or never
The many fans who’ve taken their picture with the Elvis statue in Fairpark can thank the Tupelo Elvis Presley Fan Club for that, too – especially Mallory.
“I was there (in 1956), and I wanted him to be there forever,” Mallory said.
The club worked with the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau to create the statue that’s currently in the park.
CVB paid $50,000 for the statue, and the Tupelo Elvis Fan Club pledged to raise $25,000 – but actually raised $31,000.
The money was raised by selling the personalized bricks that surround the statue.
“We connected with other fan clubs and let them know they were available,” said the group’s secretary, Daphene Hendricks.
Fans from all over the world – Las Vegas, California, Australia, England, Switzerland, New York, Belgium, Portugal, Canada, Germany and France – purchased bricks.
“And we’re all proud owners of bricks,” Palmer said.
The first phase of brick sales paid for the statue, and because they’re in such demand, the club is offering a second phase of brick sales.
The club also is ensuring its work will be continued by future generations.
“We want to get our children and grandchildren involved in this,” Palmer said, and so the fan club formed the Little Hound Dogs, a club for children under 18. The group volunteers at the Tupelo-Lee Humane Society and participates in the Tupelo Elvis Festival.
The Tupelo Elvis Presley Fan Club members said they hope their work honors Elvis and his famous generosity.
“It’s like they say: If you’re an Elvis fan, no explanation is needed,” said the club’s vice president, Connie Tullos. “If you’re not an Elvis fan, no explanation is possible.”
THE TUPELO ELVIS PRESLEY FAN CLUB MEETS the first Tuesday of each month at the Ice House. Dues are $20 a year and are due on Jan. 8. Visit tupeloelvisfanclub.com for more information.