SPECIAL DAY - Lacombe Lions are inviting the community to come down to Cranna Lake this Saturday for a celebration to mark the 100th anniversary of Lions International, 79 years of the local Lions Club and the dedication of the fountain. Mark Weber/Lacombe Express

Lacombe Lions Club mark 79 years of service to the local community

Lions Club International is celebrating 100 years of world-wide service

It’s a milestone year for the Lacombe Lions Club as members are hosting a 100th birthday celebration of the organization, and an official dedication for the fountain at Cranna Lake on July 15th.

This year also marks 79 years of service for the Lacombe Lions as well.

Excitement about the event is building as up to 600 people are expected to attend the barbecue. “The barbecue is from 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. and the fountain dedication is at 1 p.m.”, said Pat Dahl, a local Lions member.

The fountain was installed last year, and altogether, it’s been about a three-year project, she said, adding she’s been a Lions member for about 15 years between the Alix and the Lacombe Lions Clubs.

She said seeing the fountain installed was a big milestone for the Club, and the City was certainly helpful in bringing the project to fruition.

“The City was awesome – they jumped onboard and helped out with servicing and financially.”

Dave Schurman, who has been a Lions member for more than 30 years, echoed those thoughts and added that several dignitaries will also be onhand to help mark the occasion. Some Edmonton Lions members will also be at the event to help out with the barbecue and other aspects of the celebration.

As to the project, both Dahl and Schurman said that local Lion Larry Medd has also really been the driving force behind the project from the get-go.

Locally, according to information provided by the Lacombe Lions, the history of the Lacombe Lions reaches back to 1938 – on May 31st, 1938, 22 individuals in the Lacombe community joined together to form the Lacombe Lions Club.

Members contributed countless hours and donations to various individuals and projects in and around Lacombe starting in 1938 with construction of new tennis courts, sweaters for two hockey teams, milk distribution to school children and improvements to a children’s playground.

After the war years, the Lions made donations to the original Memorial Centre, bleachers for the sports park, high school scholarships, food hampers for the needy and the school Safety Patrol program run by the RCMP.

During those years, the Lions also supported families and youth through such events as swimming instructions, pancake breakfasts, golf tournaments and Halloween parties for children. They assisted with the purchase of furnishings for a nursing home, held a light bulb campaign and supplied instruments for the school band as well.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the original Greyhound bus was purchased for $25,000 by the Lions and was driven for about 20 years before a ‘new’ bus was purchased for $107,000 and was paid off in one year.

Schurman said thanks were in order to the many outstanding volunteers over the years who acted as drivers and mechanics – the bus was a much appreciated means of transportation for many Lacombe citizens.

“Many seniors, hockey players, band members, football players and other town residents, who enjoyed a night at the races or the theater, were users of the Lions’ bus.”

The Lions Community Band was also established in 1968 – to this day the group has provided countless hours of entertainment to many. The band continues to perform all over Alberta and has provided visibility for the Lacombe community and the Lacombe Lions Club.

In the 1980s, the Lions were a major contributor to the new day care centre, assisted an area child who needed extensive surgery in the U.S., sponsored prizes to the 4-H Club which continues until this day as well as continuing with the high school scholarships, according to the Club.

Through many of these projects and support to the community, the Lacombe Lioness Club has also played a major role in many endeavours. The Lioness Club was formed in 1982 with 19 members and continued until the Lioness members joined the Lions in 1991.

The 1990s continued to be busy and active with blood donor clinics, Citizen of the Year Awards and repairs to the bleachers in time to help host the 1994 Alberta Senior Games.

For the last 17 years, the Lacombe Lions Club has continued to support minor sports organizations, seniors in nursing homes, Victim Services, STARS Air Ambulance and Camp He Ho Ha for people with disabilities.

In 2012 Lions provided $10,000 to the Lacombe Hospital for their Pain Management program – the only program of its kind outside of Calgary and Edmonton. Since 2006, more than 50,000 pair of used eye glasses have been collected by the club, sorted and delivered to Calgary for shipment to many developing nations.

The Club continues to hold dinner meetings on the first non-statutory Monday each month at the lower level of the Lacombe Legion and invites any Lacombe women and men to come to a meeting and consider joining.

As to the international club, it was Melvin Jones, a 38-year-old Chicago business leader, who told members of his local business club they should reach beyond business issues and address the betterment of their communities and the world. Jones’ group, the Business Circle of Chicago, agreed.

After contacting similar groups around the United States, an organizational meeting was held on June 7th, 1917, in Chicago.

In 1920, Lions Clubs become international by chartering a club in Windsor, Ontario. In 1944, the world’s first eye bank is created in New York City. Today, most eye banks are Lions-sponsored. In 1954, after an international contest among Lions, an official motto was chosen – ‘We Serve’.

More recently, in 2003 through SightFirst, Lions and The Carter Center record their 50 millionth river blindness treatment.

Meanwhile, as to what drew her to the Lions and continues to inspire her to serve, Dahl said it’s all about lending a helping hand.

“I like to help people, and that’s what Lions is about – helping and serving,” explained Dahl about her continued commitment to the organization. “You’re with like-minded people – we’re all there for the same purpose.”