Heartfelt Giving a Lions Legacy One hundred dollars can buy a lot of things. You can buy a mid-priced e-reader, seven or eight pizzas, a good cologne, a few dozen roses (depending on the time of year) or download 100 songs from the Internet. Children in LaFarge, a small town in southwestern Wisconsin along the Kickapoo River, choose to help others as part of the LaFarge Lions Club’s “Giving Back from the Heart” campaign— appropriately held around each Valentine’s Day. “We give a $100 donation to each of the 14 classes at LaFarge public school to get their perspective on giving,” Steve Brandl says of the 44-member club’s four-year-old project. The results are surprising, he adds. “The kids do a great job of opening our eyes to things we have never considered.” Funds support a variety of charitable acts, says Lion Joan Kent, who last year visited a kindergarten class during a resident’s presentation about building wells in Africa. The children were shown photos of the village, and they touched drums, baskets and brooms used by the villagers. The class voted to give their $100 donation to build a well in a rural area in Africa. The possibilities were obvious to kindergarteners like Theo Parr. He told classmates, “I’m making a connection with the kids in that village who don’t have clean water, because I live in a village like they do.” Other classes chose to give to the LaFarge Booster Club, Ronald McDonald House, fire department, Pets for Vets, a humane society, Heifer International and the American Cancer Society. Students also agreed to donate a gas card to a family traveling for medical care and toward a 4-year-old’s needed surgery. Kent says the junior class voted to give their donation to a food pantry. “A lot of people in school use it,” explains student Olivia Herken of her hometown of 750. Students may have been inspired to donate by Lions, but others were also inspired by their conscious decision to improve lives. Math teacher Jared Plaza is one of them. “I honestly believe they will be more active in the community later because of the thought that goes into making the decision of where to give their $100,” he told Lions. “We have a really small school and community, so this is like helping out family because you know everyone and how it will affect them.” Guardian Lions Larry Bartelson says that Minnesota’s notoriously brutal winter weather with temperatures often plunging nearly 20 degrees below zero didn’t really affect him or the children Rushford Lions were helping cross the street to get to and from school. A yearlong construction project on Highway 43, a two-lane heavily traveled route through Rushford, population 1,730, made crossing the street in front of Rushford-Peterson School difficult, so Lions volunteered to supplement crossing guards, some of whom were teachers pulling double duty. “It was well below freezing one morning, and a young boy who was riding his bike stopped to walk it across the road. I asked him if he was cold, and he just said, ‘Nah, I’m from Minnesota. I’m tough!’” So are Lions. Bartelson knows how to face the elements. “He puts on about 10 layers of clothes and socks,” says his wife, Ann, with a laugh. Each morning and after-school crossing shift is about 45-minutes during daylight hours. Several members of the club are on duty for one week each month until the project is expected to conclude just before summer break. “It’s not crazy dangerous, but the crossing areas are blocked off and not easily accessible. There’s a lot of construction equipment blocking the views. Sidewalks are non-existent. It’s just pretty much torn up and a big mess. All the drivers are pretty careful, but having safety patrols with high visibility vests and flags helps everyone be a little more cautious,” Bartelson says. Most Lion crossing guards are either retired or semi-retired. “We have the time,” he explains. Lions also volunteered on Halloween in Rushford’s downtown, where it’s a tradition for businesses to give candy to trick or treaters. Since the road construction stretches a mile, it also affects Rushford’s small business district. The kids, kindergarten age through 12th grade, are friendly and grateful to crossing guards, says Bartelson. “We exchange ‘good mornings’ and a little small talk. And they always remember to thank us.” Honoring the Service of Others Mohawk Valley Lions in Oregon had already been negotiating to acquire a triangular half-acre of land for a park when the unthinkable happened. Lion Lee Downing, 75, a local rancher, was killed by a falling tree on his property in 2009. Lions continued with their park plan, and named it in honor of Downing, a popular charter member and moving force behind the park’s creation. The 17-member club cleared the land with help from family and friends in the community. They now maintain it themselves with some assistance from a high school community service class. A peaceful site bordering the Mohawk River, the park site is ideal for a memorial to veterans. “We viewed other memorials in small communities throughout the Northwest and came up with our own vision for a veterans’ memorial,” says Jesse Harris. Fifteen granite monuments are arranged in a 20-footwide semi-circle around the 30-foot-tall flag pole. The flag measures 6 feet by 12 feet. The memorial was unveiled two years ago with the names of 509 local men and women, living and deceased, who served in the armed forces. The club includes the names of veterans who served in long-ago battles, some of which date back to the Civil War, at its own cost. Lions did the majority of work themselves constructing the memorial. Tradition Continues in Lion’s Name When California Lion Rocky Lombardi, a long-time member of the Millbrae Lions Club and a past District 4-C4 governor, spoke about the need to support vision care for those in need, people listened. He hosted annual wine and hors d’oeuvre parties to raise money for the Lions Eye Foundation of California-Nevada (LEF). Those events netted between $15,000 to $30,000 to continue providing free eye exams, surgeries and medications to those in need. “He was a contractor, and he’d clean out his warehouse in South San Francisco and erect a huge tent in the parking area in front,” recalls Foster City Lion Fred Sommer. When his health deteriorated, the parties ended. Still, Lombardi served as an LEF adviser and adviser emeritus until his death last year. Lions decided to continue Lombardi’s legendary fundraiser by sponsoring a memorial wine tasting in his name. More than 250 people attended to sample products from six amateur wine makers—including those previously made by Lombardi and some from Steve Picchi, 2013-14 district governor. Sommer wasn’t one of the winemakers, he admits. “I’ve never made wine, but I do enjoy it very much,” he says. So do a lot of other people. Tickets sold for $35 in advance or $45 at the door, and several clubs gave generous donations. Sixteen Lions clubs donated and served food, and the event raised $25,500 for LEF. Lions intend to start a new tradition of their own by hosting other wine tasting fundraisers in the name of the man— and gracious, generous Lion—who started it all.
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
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