It started out like any other work day, but then Mark Kowalczyk, president of the DuPont, Pennsylvania, Lions Club changed the game plan. The owner of a landscaping company, Kowalczyk, 44, told his two employees the day before Veterans Day on Nov. 11 that they wouldn’t be going to their regularly scheduled jobs that day. Something “more important” had to be done. “My decision to do this was very spontaneous,” he says. “I read that Pittston needed help with their cemetery and decided within a couple of minutes to help. My crew was not really surprised— they know me by now—but I couldn’t have accomplished this without them because the cemetery is 42 acres.” Volunteers worked all day to clear the high grass and overgrown vegetation that made flags placed on the graves of veterans so hard to spot. “The veterans buried there gave everything for us,” he explained to The Times Leader. “The least we could do is to give them a day. I just thought something should be done to get the cemetery ready for Veterans Day.” With uncles and grandfathers who served in the military, Kowalczyk says he believes strongly in honoring those who have served their country. “The DuPont Lions work side by side with several veterans organizations already,” he points out. “Our goal, like theirs, is to make our community stronger by working together.” Special Campers Make Special Memories Collecting and rolling a million pennies may test the patience of some, but Canadian Lions are up to it. It’s all part of the ongoing “Million Penny Challenge” to support the Max Simms Memorial Camp in Newfoundland. The camp, named after a past district governor who was a diabetic and double amputee, opened in 1981 and has since served several thousand campers with special needs. Last year, Lions, Lionesses and Leos in Districts N-3 and N-4 contributed more than $123,000 to the camp’s operation. Lions do much more than save pennies to help send adults and children to this unique destination located on the banks of the scenic Exploits River, says Twillingate Lion Leonard Small. “We donate items such as picnic tables, game and craft supplies, barbecues, a lawn mower, a wheelchair-accessible pontoon boat, life jackets, an outboard motor and wheelchairs,” he says. “We work hard to improve the camp in very creative Lions ways. That includes doing everything from cutting brush to widening the camp’s road to conducting dart tournaments and serving roast beef dinners as fundraisers.” An LCIF matching grant of $14,000 was used to upgrade and refurbish the swimming pool, one of the most popular places for campers to congregate. “The physical layout of the camp, the facilities and the organized activities are all designed around the needs of the physically and mentally challenged. There’s even a set of wheelchair-accessible swings,” points out Small. “Each summer activities are built around a theme, such as ‘Christmas in July’ or ‘Luck of the Irish.’” Lions hear many words of thanks as they volunteer at the camp, performing chores or helping with activities. Small recalls one repeat camper’s happiness at once again being able to attend: “I love this place. It makes me feel like a real person.” And that’s just one reason Lions keep rolling those pennies, he says, because “this is where campers can build memories and friendships that last a lifetime.” Lions Lay Wreaths to Honor Veterans Lions Hook a Winner with 65-Year Tradition Dixon Lions in California have been serving residents since 1954 when the club was chartered. Actively involved in helping the community, they’ve gone one step further with their efforts to honor deceased veterans at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery in Dixon. Joining with Wreaths Across America, they collected funds to place 500 wreaths on gravesites prior to the holidays. The wreath-laying project is an extension of one that began at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia in 1991. According to Lion Scott Smith, the project was “relatively obscure until 2005 when a photo of the stones adorned with wreaths and covered in snow circulated on the Internet.” Nine-year-old Gage Hancock-Stevens may not be able to see, but he can certainly fish. He caught a 12.5-pound silver salmon and took home a prize for his trophy catch in a derby sponsored by Everett Central Lions in Washington. The other big winner of the day was Ross Winde, a 94-year-old blind fisherman who reeled in a salmon the same size. And in between the youngest and oldest participants, another 39 blind and visually impaired people spent several hours on 31 boats captained by generous members of two local fishing clubs. The 90-year-old Everett Central Lions Club has sponsored the fishing derby since 1944 and, points out Art Ruben, members consider themselves lucky that so many people pitch in to help out. “This year, with the downturn in local business, we were fortunate to have the two major fishing clubs not only provide the boats and captains, but also give money for some of the prizes.” The derby has always had strong support in Everett, a community of more than 100,000 located about 25 miles north of Seattle. For the past five years, Lions have also been assisted by a local Boy Scout troop whose members earn community service badges for volunteering. “One of the first things we do is coordinate with local merchants to provide prizes and fishing licenses. We make sure that all the fishermen and women have rides to and from the event,” says Ruben. The day starts at 5:30 a.m. with hot cocoa and coffee. Lions also provide snacks and juice on the ship. When boats return around 11 a.m. Lions serve hot lunches. Scouts and other volunteers help weigh the fish and pack the catch in ice. “Then the fun begins,” says Ruben. “Everyone—including the captains—wins something.” Prizes include rods and reels, camping chairs, coolers and other sport-related items. “We fish in rain or sun,” points out Ken Beecher, who with wife, Linda, has organized the event for the past decade. “This year all but four boats reached their catch limit. The local skippers are very skilled, with great boats set up specifically for salmon fishing in the Pacific Northwest.” Many of the participants came from Seattle’s Lighthouse for the Blind. “For many, it’s the highlight of their year and ranks right up there with Christmas,” says Ruben. “The boat captains get a kick out of doing something really special. And the Lions will do it over and over again—maybe for another 65 years.”
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://digital.lionmagazine.org/article/Ideas+That+Roar/342866/33670/article.html.