‘Something Wonderful’ Comes From Flood Devastation On June 13, 2008, the swollen Cedar River swept through Palo, Iowa, destroying almost the entire town. Less than a year later, on May 30, 2009, 46 of Palo’s citizens were sworn in as charter members of the new Palo Lions Club. “Lions believe in helping their communities,” says Emily Packingham, the club’s first president. Speaking to Lions from across the state who attended the charter night celebration, she explained how important they were to not only Palo Lions but to the town: “Your support showed us we aren’t alone.” Palo’s 430 houses were in the path of the rushing Cedar River last summer and within hours of the flood’s crest, all but 23 of them were under water. Businesses were also affected. Dan and Megan Diehm saw their Cedar River Garden Center destroyed when five feet of water rushed into their retail center to overturn shelving and merchandise and ruin their nursery stock despite sandbagging efforts. Both are now Palo Lions. Otter Creek Lion Dave Henecke lives four miles from Palo but has a decades-old connection to the community. His great grandfather was the surveyor who plotted the town and as a child, he spent summers with a cousin there. Even though he lived on high ground, he was one of the first to come to Palo’s aid. Contacting District Governor John Taylor, he requested a $10,000 LCIF emergency disaster grant. “And within a week, I had the money and started disbursing gift cards,” he recalls. Henecke first went to the city’s temporary headquarters, a metal shed in the middle of a farm field. He told the exhausted mayor pro tem and the staff of four that Lions had funds to give them. “Two of the ladies burst into tears,” he says. Going door to door in Palo, he gave residents $200 gift cards so they could purchase medicine, food, clothing and blankets. Henecke took pictures of the flooded houses to supply proof of need for the LCIF grant. As he handed out the gift cards, homeowners peppered him with questions. “People asked me, ‘How could Lions get here so fast?’” He explained who the Lions are and how they help people in need. At a town meeting, more than 40 people signed up to become Lions. Sponsored by the Otter Creek Lions Club, Palo now has its own Lions club to serve the community and Henecke has a new role as Guiding Lion. Dave Stouffer, a 2006-08 international director and a resident of Washington, Iowa, witnessed the Palo Lions Club charter celebration. Held as an open house barbecue fundraiser, Lions didn’t waste time since they’re already planning to help the town rebuild its community center on higher ground. “This proves that something wonderful can come out of something really awful,” Stouffer told the crowd. “Let’s start building! That’s what we do.” —By Rachel Nicola Brick by Brick, Lions Build a Basketball Court The father of Lion Albert Chatigny Jr. Held such a special place of honor in Beaumont, California, that a new community center has been named after him. The senior Chatigny was a U. S. Air Force lieutenant bomber pilot during World War II who returned home to raise 11 children and run a small business in Beaumont. “His positive influence on his children and with all the local kids inspired one child to nickname him ‘Pop’ Chatigny,” says Lion Tim Smith. The Beaumont Lions Club donated and erected a flagpole that stands tall at the entrance of the recreation center and bears a plaque dedicated to the memory of Beaumont Lions who have died. The club also donated basketball posts and purchased the concrete for an outside full basketball court to benefit local youths and adults. Beaumont Lions sold personalized engraved bricks that were set in concrete around the new basketball court’s perimeter. The bricks sold for $50 apiece or four for $160 and helped offset the cost of the project. The new Albert A. Chatigny Sr. Community Center will provide child care and offer senior activities, youth and adult community recreation and serve as the city’s emergency command center after a natural disaster.
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