by Syl Marking
The 40th anniversary of the North Branch Lions combined with the 25th anniversary of the Lioness Club brought more than 90 area club members and guests to Main Street Church on Saturday for an evening of memories and celebration.
“Our whole goal is to help people who are a little less fortunate than ourselves,” said keynote speaker Brian Sheehan, a past Lions International director from Bird Island, Minn. “It’s all about helping others and living up to our motto, ‘We Serve.’”
Today, Lions Club International has 1.35 million members in 208 countries and territories across the world, Sheehan noted, but the new growth is coming in foreign countries.
“We need to be open to change because what worked 40 years ago may not work today,” he continued. “We need to learn to think out of the box and keep asking and seeking quality members and then listen to our members. Instead of saying ‘have a good day,’ say ‘make a great day.’ You need to have a positive attitude. One important benefit of being a Lion or Lioness is to learn how to be a leader.”
Don Hartzell, the founding president of the North Branch Lions and a Lions Hall of Fame honoree, related how it all started with a door-to-door campaign to recruit Lions Club members. They got 40 members and were sponsored by the Pine City Lion Club. Unfortunately, most of them dropped out in a short time, and he is the only active member involved today. They struggled, learned from their mistakes, persisted and now enjoy a successful club.
“It’s rewarding because you help a wide variety of people for a wide variety of causes,” Hartzell said.
The North Branch Lioness Club started 25 years ago with 18 members and was sponsored by the Stacy Lioness Club, according to Lioness Gloria Mechels, current secretary, who substituted for Donna Keacher, president of the Stacy club at the time, who was unable to attend the celebration.
“We like to be independent of the Lions, but we like our association with the Lions,” Mechels said. “There are different things we both do, but it all has to do with serving our community.”
One of the program highlights was the induction of two new Lions members as Melvin Jones Fellows — the most prestigious honor in International Lionism. They are Don Nelson and Alex Bates. Jerrold Moen, who was unable to be present, is also a new honoree.
Melvin Jones, a Chicago businessman, was the founder of Lions International in 1917. Today, Lions members provide roughly 200 million hours of service per year.
Catherine Eaton and John Perrin were inducted into the Lions Club, as well.
The evening was capped off with an inspiring and comical piano and singing presentation by locally-based entertainer Dave Eichholz, who usually performs with a partner as the Dueling Pianos. He sang many old standards, often with audience participation, plus requests from the floor and even got several Lions and other locals to come to the mike and sing, some surprisingly good.