Karlstad Lions are sending a clear message to drivers in Minnesota. Club Sends a Safety Message Karlstad Lions in northern Minnesota wanted to drive home a message last year. That message was “Don’t Text and Drive.” A heavily-damaged car and a large sign deliver the warning. The exhibit sits along Highway 59, a well-traveled road through a rural area that ends at the Canadian border. Besides cars, trucks and farm equipment on the highway, many deer and other wildlife cross the road. “This problem is usually blamed on teenagers, but adults are guilty of texting and driving as well,” says Lion Elaine Ruud. “We just want to remind people to pay attention when they’re driving.” The car was donated by a dealership, and Lion Danny Johnson created the sign, which cost the 39-member club only $200 in materials. “The local newspaper did a big feature story on our project, and so many people have come up to thank us,” Ruud says. “People have even been posting pictures of the sign on their Facebook pages. It’s just been a great campaign for us and the community.” New Club Tested By a Tornado The Big Sandy Area Lions Club in Texas was chartered only five months when disaster struck the area. Cutting a swath more than 1.8 miles wide, a tornado touched down four times in populated areas in April. One of the worst hit locations was Holly Lake Ranch, a wooded community that is home to many retirees as well as young families. The community is gated and secure, but the tornado brought danger in ways residents didn’t expect: downed trees on homes and roadways and live electrical wires. No one was hurt or killed, but the devastation was immense. Rickey Caughron, vice president of the Big Sandy Area Lions Club, cuts a fallen tree limb while Lion Texanna Green picks up debris. The only service experience Big Sandy Lions had to date as Lions was helping the volunteer fire department raise funds to buy equipment and working at a spring festival. They’d been planning a highway cleanup when the tornado struck. President Gerri Thompson and Texanna Green loaded up their vehicles with goods and immediately hit the road. Green used her chainsaw to clear property. The Lions passed out cold bottles of water and snacks to victims and service workers, charged cell phones, removed debris and gave rides to those who lost their vehicles. The club was so new that there weren’t any funds in the treasury yet. “We just bought the stuff on our own. People were literally running out of their homes with the live wires crackling and popping,” she recalls. Thompson, an insurance agent, was swamped. “People were in shock. There I was, helping them file claims with my competitors and telling them what they could expect. We listened and hugged them and told them it would all be OK.” Members of the Tyler Lions Club purchased $50 Walmart gift cards to distribute to residents for medications and food. “Anything we did was by acting purely on instinct. These people needed help right away,” Thompson emphasizes. “And I think we made a lot of friends by doing what we did. Isn’t that what Lions are supposed to do? We may all be new Lions, but we tried to serve others the best we could. And we’ve already had some people tell us they want to join the club because we helped them so much.” Garden Helps Partnerships Bloom Wendy Van Orman knows Liberty Lake in Washington well. She should. She’s served as the city’s mayor, as a councilwoman and as a Lion since her club was chartered in 2010. A few years ago, she helped establish Nature’s Place at Meadowwood Arboretum. A homeowners association agreed to her request to donate drainage property, and the arboretum was built on nearly three acres with raised beds for community gardens, trees and walking trails with outdoor art and exercise equipment. Liberty Lake Lions not only helped fund the arboretum’s creation but last year also provided the latest addition— a sensory garden. “Plantings were picked especially for the sense of smell along with sight and touch, using different species such as lamb’s ear, balloon flower, sword fern, lavender, thyme and rosemary,” explains Lion Arlene Lindstrand. Van Orman and Lion Kathleen Burzynski worked with city staff on the garden. Children enjoy playing in the sensory garden. The sense of hearing is engaged by a brightly-colored xylophone put together by Van Orman’s husband, Darren, and Glen Dart, husband of Lion Rose Mary. “The pipes on the xylophone were from a recycling place and were powder- coated before being put together,” says Van Orman. “Our club purchased everything for the plantings, pipes for talking flowers, the xylophone, a rock with our club name on it and even trees.” Additional plantings, an archway and a bench will be installed this year. Another sense—taste—will be indulged as grapes ripen on the vines that Lions intend to plant. They envision elementary school students someday learning about plants and gardening there on field trips. Lions initially donated $25,000 to the city to help fund the arboretum’s landscaping. Those funds were raised from the club’s annual bed races. The sensory garden cost another $6,500. With only 11 members, Lions partnered with the nearby Spokane Valley Lions Club and its 26 members to raise money from their third bed race. The clubs’ partnership worked so well that Liberty Lake Lions plan to help Spokane Valley Lions build a sensory garden in their own community. Camp Is a Home for Some Kids Without One Lions who chaperone a group of 9- to 11-year-olds at the camp in the foothills of Mt. Potosi, 47 miles northwest of Las Vegas, have plenty of fun themselves at Camp Lotza Fun. “These kids just amaze me,” says Bob Knipes, the Las Vegas Summerlin Lion who helped establish the camp. Some of the 29 children, chosen by their schools based on financial need, are homeless. Summerlin Lions spearheaded the project four years ago with the Las Vegas Breakfasters and Las Americas Lions clubs. Another Lions camp in Elko had maxed out on the number of annual applicants; a new camp was needed to accommodate more disadvantaged youth. All clubs in District 46 now support it. Camp Lotza Fun means that Lions and campers don’t have to make the 9-hour drive to Elko. “We feel like we reach more children by having two camps. We don’t want anybody to be turned away,” Knipes explains. It costs $2,500 to lease a camp from the Boy Scouts and another $5,000 to pay expenses for the week. Archery is one of the most popular activities at camp. Photo by Lisa Schaffer “We’ve had some real moving moments here,” he says. “We had a dog named Roo visit the kids. The dog was missing a leg and kind of hopped along. She went over and sat in one little girl’s lap. The girl was missing an arm, and that dog just snuggled up to her.” Lions later had the child fit with a prosthetic arm and paid for it. The camp is staffed by 35 Lions and other volunteers. Campers gaze at the moon during astronomy classes given by volunteers from the University of Las Vegas. Children learn archery and swim in an Olympicsized pool. They learn how to properly fold an American flag when it’s taken in for the night. They eat hamburgers and enjoy Taco Tuesday. “It’s hard to say goodbye,” Knipes says. “So many of these kids don’t even have homes to go back to. One little girl came here wearing a pair of her father’s big old pants. Two Lions took her into town and bought her a bunch of clothes before she left. My wife wanted to adopt her. So did everybody else. We just try to do what we can for them.”
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