Reinvesting in the Community for 80 Years

Washington Lions Club Was Founded in 1939

By Karen Cernich
Missourian Feature Writer

A disc golf course at Burger Park in Washington is one of the newest community projects funded by the Washington Lions Club. The first nine holes were installed over the summer, and the other nine are expected to be open by next spring, if not sooner.
The Washington Lions worked in partnership with the Washington Elks Club to provide the funding needed for the baskets and other equipment, which were installed by the Washington Parks Department.
The Lions donated just under $12,000 to the project, said Dan Haire, Lions president, who has never played disc golf, but he knows it’s popular, and the course is an asset for the community.
That has been the goal of the Washington Lions Club since it was founded in 1939.
“Our goal, when we receive money or raise money, is not to keep it, but to reinvest it back into the community,” said Haire. “We were looking for projects, and that (disc golf) was one that came out of our review committee.”
Another was to provide funding for the dog park to have additional fencing installed that will create separate areas for large and small dogs. The Lions donated $5,000 for that, said Haire, noting the hope is that it can be completed by the end of the year.

Projects Everywhere

“We Serve” is the motto of the Washington Lions Club, and looking around town, it shows.
It’s hard to imagine what the city would look like today without the Lions Club. It has sponsored so many projects to beautify and improve the community, it would be too lengthy to list them all here.
The most visible project is Lions Lake, the 11-acre lake built in the city park along Grand Avenue in 1955 at a cost of just $7,000. Several years ago, the Lions Club donated around $25,000 to stabilize the shore of the lake which was starting to erode.  The Club added a fountain at a cost of $11,000 in 1995, and last year purchased a larger fountain for $27,500. The new fountain has a 10-horsepower, three-phase motor, with six variable LED RGBL lights.
The money the Lions donate to support and improve Lions Lake benefits countless people every year. The lake has long been a jewel of the community, attracting people for fishing and kayaking, as well as walking or jogging along the path, having parties under the pavilions (many of which also were funded and built by the Lions), playing on the playground equipment or just taking in the scenery.
Along with Lions Lake, the Washington Lions Club has sponsored riverfront developments and construction of the riverfront flag plaza.
Dog Park 2019
One of the club’s first projects was to sponsor toll-free Missouri River bridge days, where the Lions Club paid the cost of the toll. According to the Feb. 22, 1940, issue of The Missourian, the Washington Lions paid the toll for people crossing the bridge to shop in Washington Thursday, Feb. 29, or Leap Day.
Another early Lions project was funding street signs around town. Today, all of the signs outside of the downtown historic district have a Lions Club emblem on them, and that is because the club helped fund the first signs.
The Washington Lions also have funded simple things like the large umbrellas that provide shade in the leisure pool section of the Washington city pool and landscaping around the caboose at Heritage Railroad Park along the riverfront, as well as big things like lighting on the old Missouri River bridge and the main stage facility at the Washington fairgrounds. The Washington Lions Club contributed $50,000 to the main stage building.
For 13 years, the Washington Lions Club has been a sponsor of the Book Buzz youth literacy program, which provides a set of three books a month to school libraries. Since 2006, the club has donated nearly $20,000 to the program. “The Lions Club donation to Book Buzz continues to be so helpful and much appreciated,” said Chris Stuckenschneider, Missourian book editor and Book Buzz coordinator. “The smaller schools in our area don’t have funds to purchase books for their libraries and new books each month are an incredible gift.
“In the summer, when school libraries are closed, the Lions’ donation to the Washington Public Library enables children to check out the Book Buzz Picks and submit reviews to The Missourian.”
If your child or grandchild plays on a team in Washington Little League football, thank the Lions Club for its contribution of $10,000.
SuperBowl 2019
If you attend sports games at Barklage Field, thank the Lions. The club donated $10,000 to the concession stand and scoreboard there.
The Washington Lions Club also has donated funds for downtown benches and trash containers, Project Graduation and annual scholarships to local students.
The club presents two academic scholarships each year — one for a student from St. Francis Borgia Regional High School and one from Washington High School.
Two years ago, the Washington Lions also began awarding scholarships to students wanting to earn a technical degree, working with students at Four Rivers Career Center and East Central College.
The club averages more than $45,000 in charitable donations to the community as a whole each year, said Haire.
“One thing I noticed when I first came to town was all the things that the Lions have done,” Haire remarked. “All the clubs here do so much really. What I find fascinating about Washington is that all the clubs have a great approach to their service to the community, and they work well with one another.”

Support Sight Projects, More

Screeming 2019
When the International Association of Lions Clubs was founded in 1917 by Melvin Jones in Chicago, Ill., the primary purpose of the group was to assist the visually and hearing impaired. The group took up “sight conservation” in 1925 when Helen Keller challenged Jones and other Lions to be “Knights for the Blind.”
Today’s Lions clubs don’t just help the blind, but all who are visually and hearing impaired. Here in Washington, the Lions Club donates between $3,000 and $5,000 a year for a vision program that funds vision tests, glasses and eye surgery for people in need.
It also offers glaucoma screenings for seniors and lazy eye screening tests for preschoolers.
Using a digital camera, the screener can tell if a person has any kind of problem with their eyes just by taking a picture.
Washington Lions Club members also maintain the recycling eyeglass collection bins around town where people can donate their old eyeglasses.
The glasses are tested for their prescription strength, labeled and taken to other countries where they are given out to people with similar prescriptions. Several Washington Lions Club members have gone to Mexico and Central America to participate in these events, said Haire.
The club also helps pay for glasses for local children whose families can’t afford them, Haire noted.
Other organizations the Wclub supports include Kids Sight, Leader Dog for the Blind, Lions Eye Foundation, Eye Mission Services Foundation, Saving Sight and Diabetes Awareness.

Pork Burber Sales are "Claim to Fame"

To raise the money it uses to donate to community projects, members of the Washington Lions Club hold various fundraisers throughout the year.
In the past, members have sold light bulbs and held mouse races. In 1941, the Lions even held a beauty pageant.
Today, the club raises money through candy sales, gun raffles, a poker tournament, Super Bowl barbecue and working at the Washington Town & Country Fair.
Lions members volunteer more than 2,000 hours at the Washington Fair, working the gates on Friday and Saturday, selling drinks in the mixed drink tent, and helping with beer and soda sales.
But the fundraiser many people most associate with the Washington Lions Club is pork burger sales.
“Pork burgers are our big claim to fame,” said Ron Williams, first vice president. “We sell them at all the events and festivals around town.”
The club has long been known for “putting the fun in fundraising,” because of the good time members have as they are working. And that will always be the case, said Williams.
“If you notice when we are out there grilling, there will be three of us grilling and four supervisors,” he said with a laugh. “We just enjoy the camaraderie and working together. Everybody seems to have a good time together.”
Lions Club International Foundation also provides grants and funding for projects around the world.

Weekly Meetings Held at Elks Hall

Dan Haire and Don Noland
Dan Haire and Don Noland
Worldwide, there are 46,000 Lions clubs in 200 countries with 1.4 million members.
In Washington, membership is around 190 men and women. Members meet Tuesdays at noon at the Washington Elks Hall, although the last Tuesday of the month, the meeting is held in the evening.
Jim Feltmann, who is in his 90s, is the club’s oldest member, and Barb Hillermann was the first woman member in Washington.
The group is mostly older, people age 50 and older, said Haire, but there are members who are in their 20s. The club also has several second and third generation members.
The goal is to attract younger people to join the club, said Haire. He knows the number of events and activities the Lions hold might be intimidating for people, but he reminds them that it isn’t necessary to work every one.
“Find an event you have a passion for, and work that event,” he said.
Lions International logo