Lions Find Secret Formula for Success Lions in La Vale, Maryland, know how to grill up some tasty chicken. They should. After serving up hundreds of thousands of chickens, possibly even numbering a million after four decades, they’ve become the ultimate “go-to” grill masters. Mary Hostetler, a member of the club’s “Lionettes” auxiliary, points out, “Anyone can barbecue chicken, but only the La Vale Lions use a secret formula recipe in spray form that makes the chicken unique and special.” If the secret is, indeed, in the sauce, then Lions have a lock on this hometown specialty. Hostetler says that Lions originally grilled chickens in borrowed tents on the grounds of the local fire department. They eventually purchased property and built the Lions Den. They erected three giant, charcoal-fueled barbecue pits behind the structure; a fourth one was built two years ago to keep up with demand. They sell the chickens only during three long weekends a year. A half-chicken and a roll costs $6, and sides like baked beans and soda go for $1 each. The 88-member club has gone from 2,000 half-chickens to 40,000. Hostetler explains, “Lions light the pits around 5:30 on a Friday morning and keep them going from Friday morning until Sunday afternoon—or until all the chickens are sold. Each pit holds 15 racks. Customers stop by on their way to work to purchase their chicken lunch and we make deliveries to some schools and businesses. It’s quite an operation.” During the three days of each barbecue, Lionettes work the kitchen, baking beans and stuffing rolls into bags that will eventually hold the chicken. Volunteers from a local college have helped both in the kitchen and in the front sales room. Firefighters from the La Vale Volunteer Fire Department help load and unload chicken in the pit area and also work the sales windows. Help comes from another surprising source. Hostetler reveals: “Inmates from a local Federal correctional facility who are ready for parole or release help with much of the heavy lifting.” Lion Edwin Glass says the barbecue does more than raise money. “Volunteers, including potential members, are invited to participate in the barbecues to get to know us, and a lot of members have joined as a result. We’re a well-oiled machine.” Lions have to be. “The logistical aspect is tremendous,” Glass points out. The chicken is such a hit that one chicken-craving soldier returning home from a Middle East tour of duty was disappointed he’d missed the spring barbecue sale by a week. Most La Vale Lions were at a District 22 convention, but Hostetler says when the few who were home discovered the soldier’s craving, they cooked up a batch especially for him. Recycling Cash Back into Community Homosassa, Florida, Lions have found a good way to raise money and help the environment. Recycling old items into “new” finds at indoor yard sales several times a year nets the 77-member club an average of $200 to $250 each event. Dealers pay a fee for sales tables and Lions sell donated items, snacks and beverages. In addition to yard sales, the club averages $18,000 a year by recycling newspapers, says Lion Sue Marchetti. Lions have placed 20 recycling bins throughout the community. Profits from recycling newspapers, clothing and household goods are poured back into the community. Funds are used to buy back-to-school supplies and clothing for children in need. “We had 22 children and spent $100 each for school clothes and shoes. When shopping was done, we had to get them each a backpack filled with school supplies.” Marchetti points out that Lions went over budget, but the children, aged 4 to 11, were thrilled. “What a fantastic experience!” she says. The club also does screenings. “Our club has trained screeners for both vision and glucose,” she explains. “We hold glucose screenings at area events as well as at our yard sales to make people aware of any potential diabetes problems. In addition, we partner with the county school system to offer free vision screenings for preschool and special needs students.” Lions purchased a PediaVision scanner on which members are trained to screen children. “It takes all day to do the testing, but it’s well worth it,” Marchetti says enthusiastically.
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