Cliff Terry 2013-12-11 08:03:16
Club projects take the time and talents of many members. Yet some Lions are so dedicated to a duty that the community itself comes to know and appreciate their role. These Lions grow older and lose hair, stamina and loved ones yet answer the bell year after year. No. 1 Fundraiser The Grand Junction Lions Club in Colorado is one of world’s most successful clubs in raising funds through a single project, and Larry Jones (photo) is easily the club’s most successful fundraiser. Since 1983, he’s sold $135,000 in raffle tickets. (A member since 1975, he’s actually sold more, but records were not kept until 1983.) The next closest Lion has sold about $75,000 worth. Some Lions are reluctant to hit up friends, acquaintances and strangers. Not so Jones. “I do it every day. I’m in investments. So I have no qualms,” says Jones, 71, a registered investment adviser. “I just call and say, ‘It’s that time of year again, and you’ve been very generous in the past in buying our raffle tickets. You can win up to $35,000 worth of prizes. And I’d appreciate your support again his year. Quite frankly, we’ve got some really good projects going, and I want you to give more than you did last year.’” Raffle prizes include trips to Las Vegas and resorts like Aspen, Breckenridge and Glenwood Springs. But it’s the push, not the prize, that counts. “I always start at the top end,” says Jones. “I say, ‘I want you to buy a $100 book.’ They’ll say, ‘Oh, I can’t afford that. All right, I’ll buy a $50 book.’” Still, he sold $100 books to 35 people last year. “I refuse to sell $5 books,” he says. “I didn’t sell any $10s either. And I try to avoid $20s. My theory is, it takes just as much time to sell a $100 book as it does to sell four $25s.” The raffle is held in conjunction with a parade and a free carnival, held on a Saturday night in February. The club has raised more than $5 million from the raffle/carnival, which made possible the 26-mile Lions Club Riverfront Trail. The club’s latest project will be a $300,000 donation to the city to develop a new riverfront park. The 10,000- seat amphitheater and an area for kayaking and rafting will be named after the club. Jones enthusiastically passes along his skills to younger Lions. “We do have a lot of new, young, vibrant members, so it’s not an aging club. We made a concerted effort to get young people into the club. I’d say 30 percent of our club members are 40 or under. There’s a Rookie Breakfast before ticket sales begin, and they ask me to talk about how to sell tickets. I think it’s fairly effective. We had 20 new rookies this year, and one lady sold about $2,500.” Stage Star Now A Backstage Star The show must go on in New Bloomfield, Pennsylvania, and it must involve Norman Harrison (photo next page). The New Bloomfield Lions began the Lions Community Theater in 1971, and Harrison hasn’t missed one yet. “I’d done plays in high school and enjoyed them. I was too stupid to realize how much work the Lion project would be, and I produced and acted,” he says. “One year I even parked cars. We were lucky. We had a lady, Grace Swan, whose husband was a Lion and she was the drama coach at the high school. She said she’d love to direct, to work with adults. She got us off to a really great start. The first play was ‘Send Me No Flowers.’ I played the lead, who was a hypochondriac.” Harrison, 75, taught music for 13 years, ran a greenhouse with his wife for 26 years and carried the U.S. mail for another 25. He’s retired but works part-time in tax preparation and at car shows. “Everything I do is limited by whether or not I can get enough air. But you have to keep busy. It’s good for you when you have COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] to keep doing things,” says Harrison, a Lion since 1961. Harrison has acted in all but a few plays. “It was because there were no parts for old farts. Just two years ago I did the lead in ‘On Golden Pond,’” he says. He produced “The Wizard of Oz” last April. “I didn’t get tired of acting, but there aren’t many roles for a man who has to carry his oxygen around. It keeps banging into the furniture and other actors,” he says. The plays’ four performances draw around 2,000 to the school auditorium. “We think we do a wonderful job for a little town. We make between $7,000 and $10,000 every year. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but for us, it’s wonderful,” he says. The profits are used for the community library, pool and the blind. Why has the theater been so successful? “We’d like to think it’s because we’re professional,” he says. “Of course, we’re not—we’re amateurs. But we strive for the quality that appears to be professional.” The King of Pop (Corn) He served in the Air Force and worked in Venezuela, but now a lot of folks around town point him out as “the popcorn guy.” Gerald Leach (photo) chuckles. “Yes, I’ve been referred to as that. But I don’t get tired of it. It’s just three nights a year. Everybody’s having a good time, and we make a little money for the club.” For almost 50 years Leach has been in charge of the popcorn machine at the annual rodeo of the Duncan Noon Lions Club in Oklahoma, where he has been a member since 1964. “I really don’t remember how I got started,” Leach says modestly. “That’s just what I began doing. Everybody had their job, something to do. We kind of spread stuff around.” Now 83 and retired, he attended high school in Granite, Oklahoma, and Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford. He served four years in the Air Force in the finance division and began working for Halliburton as an accountant including a stint in Venezuela. The rodeo in June is the club’s biggest fundraiser. The $15,000 or so in profits fund eyeglasses and scholarships. People come for the horses, the cowboys and cowgirls, and, of course, the popcorn. Leach uses a packaged brand with the oil and salt premixed with it. “It’s kind of a one-man operation,” he says. “We also have a young ladies social club here in Duncan that carries the popcorn and drinks to the stands.” Years ago he used a massive popcorn machine. “What we do now is get a smaller one from a rental agency in town. The old machine is kind of an antique now. It would probably take several thousand dollars to get it up to where it looks good and works good. But the new one is probably more efficient,” he says. Ironically, Leach doesn’t get to see much of the rodeo himself. “I probably haven’t seen 30 minutes of a rodeo all put together,” he says. ‘It’s a pretty busy job, once I get going. I’m not much of a rodeo person anyway.” Neither Rain, Sleet, Snow nor Age and Arthritis The small town of Powder Springs, Georgia, has 15 eyeglass collection boxes. Each has the name and phone number of Melvin Couey (photo) on the back. When the boxes are full, he gets a call. He’s received countless calls in the last decade and a half. A member of the West Cobb Lions Club in Marietta since 1965, Couey has collected 40,200 eyeglasses, from bifocals to horn rims to tortoise shells. “I have a box at the town’s water department and at a center for senior citizens. Then I have boxes in city hall, Kroger grocery store and one in Wal-Mart. I have one in the office of the doctor who checks my eyes. Oh, I also have one at a funeral home.” Couey laughs. “People are dying every day to get in there!” Couey can joke about aging and dying. He’s 90. Neither his age nor his terrible arthritis stop him from making his rounds. So why work so hard for people you’ll never ever meet? “Well, friend,” he replies patiently, “somebody has got to help people. And I enjoy helping people. If I can help you in any way, I’ll do it. My wife, Lois, and I both help people. She’s a big deal in this collection. She helps me count them and everything like that.” Couey delivers the glasses to Lester Dean, the club secretary, who takes them to the Georgia Lions Lighthouse. Couey has been retired for more than 20 years. He was a plumber for the Cobb County schools and a welder for Lockheed. Recognition came later in life for him. Three years ago the Atlanta Journal-Constitution saluted him as a “Holiday Hero.” The newspaper honors those who “often at their own expense and without fanfare, do what they can to help others.” “Some of my friends put me up for that,” says Couey sheepishly. “I didn’t know a thing in the world about it until an Atlanta Journal reporter came to the house and talked to me and took some pictures. It was quite an honor. I’ve got two or three copies of it here.” Kitchen Royalty Jim Meservy (photo opposite page) is not a cook by trade. He owned gas stations. But he’s the secret weapon in the fundraising wars for the Tracy Breakfast Lions Club in California. Armed with a spatula or spoon, he can barbecue, bake or simmer with the best of them. He’s donned a white apron for Lions for more than 30 years. He flips flapjacks for the club’s half dozen pancake breakfasts every year, boils Dungeness crabs for its crab dinner and cooks hundreds of pounds of tri-tip seasoned beef for its high school scholarship dinner. He learned to cook by trial and error at home. Maybe it’s in his genes. His sister owns a restaurant in Idaho. He started cooking for others with the Elks. “I started cooking for them for quite a few years, then I started cooking for the Lions club, “ says Meservy, still an Elk. “It kind of went from there. I also help one of the guys at the Rotary on their Shrimp Feed every year.” An equal opportunity volunteer, he also cooks tri-tips on Friday nights for the Tracy High School football team. Besides the tri-tips, Meservy is heralded for his pasta. “I make my own sauce. It’s sort of evolved over 30 years,” he says. “I keep all the recipes in my head. I don’t write them down.” Meservy estimates his Lions club makes about $14,000 or $15,000 on the two dinners. “We save a lot of money because we don’t have to bring in caterers. Most of our Lions projects go to local charities and activities like Little League football,” says Meservy, who still works part time for Enterprise Car Rental. Why is he so in demand as a cook? “I don’t really know why—except that no one else will do it, I guess,” he says modestly. When he cooks, he typically starts as 8 a.m. and finishes at 10 at night. Whew. “Oh, yeah, I get tired,” he admits. “I’m getting kind of old. I’m going to try to get rid of it. But there’s no one to pass it on to. I turned 83 in September. But you know, if I’m not active, I’d die, I guess.”
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
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