Pamela Mohr 2014-10-17 11:32:30
Pooling Together for the Community Known as the “Gateway to the Rocky Mountain Front,” Choteau, Montana, sits at the base of some of the most gorgeous natural landscape in the United States. Abundant in natural beauty, Choteau, however, is not abundant in population with only around 1,700 residents. The Choteau Lions Club was chartered in 1927, and in 1934 Lions helped build a community swimming pool along with the Civil Works Administration (CWA). At that time, Lions raised $2,000, approximately half of the final cost. The pool lasted for 79 swim seasons, coaxed along by steady repairs and maintenance performed by Lions. It became clear to Lions 10 years ago that continuous pool patching wasn’t going to be an option much longer. They started a vigorous fundraising campaign but realized in 2012 that it was time to throw in the [swim] towel. The old pool was finally demolished to make room for a new, smaller one with fun features like spouting water jets. Nearly $1 million and more than 8,400 hours of labor by Lions and other volunteers paid off when the new pool opened last year. It wasn’t easy, says Lion Jack Conatser, mayor of Choteau, who points out that many Lions serve their community in various official capacities. “In most rural communities, volunteers are the lifeblood of the town. Choteau isn’t an exception, nor are the Lions,” he says. “Using jackhammers, a wrecking ball, pouring concrete, doing all the carpentry work—we literally did it all,” he points out. There were lots of laughs, too, as the new pool started taking shape. “We had wheelbarrow relay races against some of the high school football players, and we held our own,” he says proudly. It seems that Choteau Lions can even defy gravity. “We installed all the plumbing. Water can run uphill with a Lion blowing on the end of a hose,” he jokes. As a mechanical contractor who knows many of the craftsmen in town, Conatser installed all of the gas piping and boilers. “In a small town, helping contractors finish jobs when they need help and going on your way without thinking about it or worrying about getting paid is almost an everyday thing. So when we went looking for help, we started with the people we had helped over the years. Good memories are invaluable.” Family members pitched in. Conatser’s son Tim did electrical work. Mandy Wick, whose husband is a Lion, helped pour concrete. Lions raised $300,000 by selling bricks and plaques with donors’ names. They held dinners with special themes like wild game dinners. They sponsored auctions and casino nights. Lions made personal calls to potential donors. About the only fundraiser Lions didn’t sponsor was a bake sale. “We would have eaten the stuff instead of selling it,” Conatser admits. “Our knees are still healing from all the begging we did to get material donated. Literally, we built it with blood, sweat and tears— and two ER visits.” –Pamela Mohr Up, Up and Away in Pennsylvania Weatherly Lions in Pennsylvania believe the sky’s the limit— literally—when it comes to community service. They sponsor a weekly class during the summer to introduce residents to the science of model rocketry. Paula Hoffman credits another member of the club, Terry Younker, with its popularity. “He’s very patient with the young people, yet they have no trouble complying with the limits he sets for them. It must be his military background!” she says. Younker, who spent 36 combined years in the Navy and the Army, chuckles at that suggestion. He says it’s just rocket science. Class members are so intrigued that he doesn’t have to remind anyone to pay attention during the two-hour classes. “They just can’t wait to get them into the air. It’s the same with the parents. Each person gets a rocket, but one rule is that first-timers only get a small rocket. A lot of them come every year, so the repeats get bigger rockets since they’ve done it before. Small rockets can go as far as 500 feet after that initial launch. There’s a four-second delay after they’re about halfway up. Then the fuel ignites and they shoot higher,” Younker says. Since everything that goes up must come down, so, too, do the rockets with the aid of a built-in parachute. Parents usually stay for the class, too, which helps Younker and other club members. “It’s hard to watch the kids when they’re using Xacto knives to cut and spray painting their rockets. We’ve had some pretty creative rockets.” That includes an 8-foot rocket with an American flag design. “Some of the moms wanted to send one off decorated with sequins,” he adds. Younker, who doesn’t usually comment on designs, gave a bit of advice. “I talked them out of it because those sequins would have added too much weight.” No one has been injured during the classes but some egos have been slightly bruised by rocket mishaps. “This year every rocket survived but last year we had a few close calls,” says Hoffman. Two rockets landed in a tree and couldn’t be reached and a third went missing. A homeowner found it in his yard and made a little boy happy by giving it back to Lions to return it to him. Lion Christine Embrick, a borough employee, was able to convince workers in a bucket truck to pick the other two lost rockets out of the treetops. “It was hard watching one little boy trying so hard not to cry when he thought he lost his rocket,” says Hoffman. “He was so happy when Christine gave it back.” Santa’s Elves are Actually Leos Leos in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, don their elf caps a little early each holiday season. While most students their age are thinking about Halloween in October, Leos are planning ahead to help the Neighborhood Santa Program keep kids warm in the winter. They display posters throughout local schools to collect cold-weather gear for families in need. The items are not only practical “decorations” for the trees displayed in each school’s lobby but also serve as visible reminders to bring donations. Leos collected 124 hats, gloves and scarves to the program last year. Craig Merkey, the Leo adviser and a member of the sponsoring Baron Stiegel Lions Club, says, “In the beginning of each December, Leos gather all the items off the trees, count them and bag the hats, gloves and scarves to be delivered to the Neighborhood Santa Program.” Lions also support the 6-year-old program. Originally begun as an outreach program of the Ephrata police department, the Neighborhood Santa Program is now a joint effort of businesses and community and civic groups overseen by two residents. The Ephrata Area Social Services Agency identifies families who may need assistance for inclusion in the holiday project. Excess clothing donations are given to the agency, which distributes pieces as needed throughout the winter. The families enjoy a Breakfast with Santa to receive their gifts. Children are given not only practical items to keep them warm but also an abundance of toys. “You see the smiles on the kids’ faces and you just feel warm inside. You realize one act can change lives,” says Leo Kat Sandell. Flour and Fruit Lead to Cash in Canada The fruitcake, that occasionally maligned and misunderstood candied fruit holiday treat, seems to divide people into “love it” or “hate it” groups. North Battleford Bonaventure Lions in Saskatchewan, Canada, obviously fall into the “love it” category. They should. In the past 30 years Lions have been making and selling them, their fruitcakes have raised some serious cash for the club. And that’s nothing to laugh about. Selling fruitcakes has enabled Lions to build a skateboard park, buy bedding plants for three nursing homes and give $20,000 to build a community athletic and arts center. “After churning out more than 600 cakes every year, we hit the malls and a craft market to sell our product,” says June Newsham. “We have a lot of repeat customers and we also get busy phoning for sales. We’re usually sold out in a month.” The actual baking is much shorter than prep time, Newsham says—only about two hours since they use a commercial bakery once owned by a Lion. The current owner supports the club’s efforts by allowing them use of the facility. “Our preparation starts two days earlier with the assembling of all the ingredients—150 pounds of flour and over 325 pounds of mixed fruit and almonds and 73 dozen eggs,” she explains. The finished product weighs nearly 2 pounds and sells for $10 each.
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
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